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Old 11-07-2012, 09:42 AM
 
5,392 posts, read 5,642,038 times
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Can I produce my own biofuels for my own personal use on my own property? I know nothing about this so take it easy.

How much space do I need, and how big is the equipment? Ethanol is alcohol, and people have been producing alcohol by themselves without much modern technology since before Sumeria.

Or is this simply not feasible because the material cost and time I need would be too much? Would it be possible for say a middle class person without using a large portion of his budget to create enough of his own biofuel to power his car which he drives for at most maybe 3hrs a day on a bad day?
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Old 11-07-2012, 11:53 AM
 
Location: Reno (Cold Springs) NV
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Grit magazine had an article on converting waste into gas; I think it was in one of their magazines within the last year.
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Old 11-07-2012, 03:01 PM
 
Location: Interior AK
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Yes, you can produce your own bio-fuels at home, and the equipment normally takes less space than a garden shed or garage. Simple set-ups usually only cost a couple hundred dollars. You can either grow, collect or scavenge (or buy $$$) your feedstock depending on which method you use. You can make ethanol (of differing efficiency/proof) from any starchy material (corn, straw, potatoes); bio-diesel from any oil-bearing seeds or lard; methanol from waste wood; and bio-gas from anaerobic digestion of waste. The first three are liquid fuels, the last is gaseous fuel unless you compress it.

Ethanol is the only one that is really weird because we can also consume it, so there are more rules.

Two good Ethanol articles:
HowStuffWorks "Can I make my own ethanol?"
Make your own Fuel

Be aware that you will need a Small-Scale Alcohol Fuel Plant permit from BATFE/TTB to legally make ethanol fuel at home. The application (TTB F 5110.74) and permit is currently free. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has permit applications and guide materials online.

Quote:
Alcohol Fuel Plant-Small: A small AFP is one that will produce, process and store, and use or distribute distilled spirits to be used exclusively for fuel use. A small AFP is one that will produce and receive a combination of 10,000 or less proof gallons of spirits in a calendar year.
Simplified, ethanol & methanol replace gasoline, bio-diesel replaces diesel, bio-gas (methane) replaces propane... i.e. you can normally use that bio-fuel in engines or appliances designed for the fossil-fuel with minimal modifications.

Last edited by MissingAll4Seasons; 11-08-2012 at 03:11 PM..
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Old 11-07-2012, 08:04 PM
 
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If I wanted to grow my own feedstock to just power my vehicle for like I said 3hrs at the most on a bad day, how much land would it be, and how much would it cost in seeds? On most days I would be traveling that much. I only want it for myself, and maybe some relatives. Or if I bought the feedstock, what is cheaper, that or petroleum? Thank you for all your help
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Old 11-07-2012, 09:26 PM
 
Location: Interior AK
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Well, let's say you're traveling 50mph, that's 150 miles in 3 hours; if your vehicle gets 30mpg, you'd need 5 gallons.

The average production is 18.5 gallons of 180 proof ethanol (90%) from 350 lbs of grain (I'm using wheat for this example, but most grains are close enough). If you bought the wheat from a grain elevator or feed store, the average is $15 a bushel, and a bushel is 60 lb. So you'd need 6 bushels @ $15 per batch, which is $90 and breaks down to just under $5 a gallon.

If you grew your own wheat, the average is 100 bushels an acre. So that's 6000 lbs of grain/350 which is roughly 17 batches, for a total production of 314 gallons an acre (not including any fuel you use to grow it). For best results, seeding wheat is 2 bushels an acre. So that's $30 in seed for 314 gallons, or about a $0.10 a gallon (not including any fuel, water, amendments, pesticides or time/labor invested).

So, an acre would give you 300 gallons and you need 5 gallons a day, which means you'd need to grow/harvest at least 6 acres if you're driving 150 miles a day with a 30 mpg vehicle. But if you're just putting around your homestead and local area, you probably won't need that much even if you had a gas guzzling pickup avg 10 mpg. Under those circumstances, you'd be driving no more than 10 miles a day, or roughly a gallon's worth, so an acre or two of wheat would more than do ya!

For example, we budget 2.5 gallons a day for our truck/atv/equipment/generator... so we target for 900 gallons a year, or 3 acres of wheat. However, wheat doesn't grow that well here (and corn not at all), but potatoes grow wonderfully. The average yield for potatoes in my area is 10,000 lbs/acre. The average production rate is 1 gallon ethanol per 100 lbs of potatoes. We can easily produce all our fuel (about 1000 gallons) from just one acre planted out to taters. So, while potatoes have a lower ethanol yield per lb than grain does, the per acre yield of potatoes is much higher than the per acre yield of grain, which means that the overall ethanol yield per acre is higher with potatoes. (The distilling byproducts don't get wasted either, spent mash makes good animal feed and excellent compost).

As long as you have the land, your soil is in decent condition, you don't need to irrigate, and you don't use a heavy tractor to grow with (an acre is fairly manageable by hand) it would definitely be cheaper to grow your own wheat than to buy it or gasoline. Assuming, of course, wheat grows well enough in your location -- if not, check out other high carb grains or fruits that do grow well.

NOTE: If you're producing ethanol fuel for personal use, you don't need to denature it (make it poisonous for drinking). BUT if you're letting anyone else use it, whether you give or sell it to them, you MUST denature it by adding 5-6% gasoline by volume... that drives the cost up.
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Old 11-08-2012, 03:57 AM
 
Location: Minnysoda
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I wouldn't do ethanol myself. Look hard at Biodiesel. It's a completly different process that requires lots LESS input energy as the feedstock does the work in the estherification process

Biodiesel production - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Biodiesel esterification
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Old 11-08-2012, 06:10 AM
 
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, originally from SF Bay Area
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I know several people that bought equipment for about $400 and were making their own biodiesel in their garages for several years. They were able to get free used cooking oil from local restaurants. Unfortunately they are now unable to do so, because the commercial production has enabled the restaurants to charge for their used oil, so their savings was greatly reduced, and not worth the trouble any more. Now they have to buy it and the cost is more than gas at $4.92 so their converted old diesel Mercedes or VW rabbits are sitting while they drive a gas vehicle again.
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Old 11-08-2012, 03:34 PM
Status: "King of the World" (set 13 days ago)
 
Location: Itinerant
5,188 posts, read 3,745,742 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by my54ford View Post
I wouldn't do ethanol myself. Look hard at Biodiesel. It's a completly different process that requires lots LESS input energy as the feedstock does the work in the estherification process

Biodiesel production - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Biodiesel esterification
I think on the simplistic level this is correct, however if you look deeper then they probably wind up as about a wash.

To make ethanol, you need a feedstock say grain, you crack the grain throw it into a barrel and let yeast do its work. You then need to distill which is what takes energy.

To make biodiesel you need a feedstock say peanuts, you need to expel the oil which is what takes the energy, you then process with Methanol and Sodium (or Potassium) Hydroxide (and Sulfuric acid for acid/base two stage) to esterify. You can post process to recover some methanol, from both the biodiesel and the glycerine but that requires a still which also takes energy.

Now if you have a source of veggie oil for free or cheap (i.e. used cooking oil) then you can offset or eliminate the personal energy cost of expelling the oil. However that energy was still used in the production of the oil. You also need a source of Methanol (you can process this from wood using wood gas distillation) or you can buy it, and a source of Sodium (or Potassium) Hydroxide which can be obtained from wood ash or bought, and for the acid/base process a source of Sulfuric acid.

If you're looking at total energy spent producing both ethanol and biodiesel, although I've never done the calcs, I would be surprised to find out that from raw materials to finished product that biodiesel requires less energy than ethanol, or vice versa.

So ultimately it comes down to gallons per acre, and for that I couldn't tell you, you'd need someone who has knowledge of agriculture and yields per acre of oil for specific oil bearing plants, and carbohydrates from high carb plants, for biodiesel and ethanol respectively. However from a process perspective ethanol has the advantage, since it only needs carbo's, yeast, water, a still and a source of heat. For a full and effective Biodiesel set up you need at least veg oil, Methanol, Sodium Hydroxide, a still, a source of heat, and replacement chemicals (either naturally produced or bought).
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Old 11-12-2012, 10:53 PM
 
Location: Nebraska
4,222 posts, read 6,991,337 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NJ Brazen_3133 View Post
Can I produce my own biofuels for my own personal use on my own property? I know nothing about this so take it easy.

How much space do I need, and how big is the equipment? Ethanol is alcohol, and people have been producing alcohol by themselves without much modern technology since before Sumeria.

Or is this simply not feasible because the material cost and time I need would be too much? Would it be possible for say a middle class person without using a large portion of his budget to create enough of his own biofuel to power his car which he drives for at most maybe 3hrs a day on a bad day?
This may be the ULTIMATE biofuel.
Urine-powered generator unveiled at international exhibition | The Sideshow - Yahoo! News I could come up with three or four liters of fuel a day. With a six pack of Heinekin as a catalyst I might be able to double production.
GL2
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Old 11-13-2012, 07:38 AM
 
Location: Londonderry, NH
41,505 posts, read 49,547,847 times
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I suggest growing and processing oil seeds, or nuts, for vegetable oils and then combusting them in an old type slow speed Diesel engine as part of a electric and heat recovery co-generation set up. Excess oil could be converted to bio fuel using local ethanol derived from starch and sugar crops.

Exact system design would depend on energy required and available crop production. The goal would be to produce either just enough to eliminate the need for connection to outside energy sources or to do this and produce enough oil, heat or electricity to sell the surplus to pay for the system.
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