In my last few posts I have been writing about the alternatives to fossil fuels mainly gasoline and diesel. We spend around $70 billion a year on buying fossil fuels from other countries. It is easy to say we need to find a way to stop that money drain. Even if we find a way to end our dependence on oil, it will take years to get everything in place and up and running. It is likely that I will not live long enough to see this happen.
I have talked about wind power and CNG (compressed natural gas); today we can talk about bio-diesel. There are several uses for bio fuels.
1.Vehicles for people
Bio-diesel use and production are increasing rapidly. Fueling stations make bio-diesel readily available to consumers across Europe, and increasingly in the USA and Canada. A growing number of transport fleets use it as an additive in their fuel. Bio-diesel is often more expensive to purchase than petroleum diesel. I think the price will even out as traditional diesel prices rise.
Europe has been expanding its infrastructure and the US and Canada are behind in this regard but the US is starting to make up ground. I first heard about bio-diesel fuel when some guy was on a news program and talked about using the fryer grease from McDonalds in his diesel VW. He said the environmental impact was better than standard diesel and his car exhaust smelled like French Fries. I can’t verify the smell part but nearly every article I read mentions the better environmental impact.
Blends of bio-diesel and conventional hydrocarbon-based diesel are products most commonly distributed for use in the retail diesel fuel marketplace. Much of the world uses a system known as the “B” factor to state the amount of bio-diesel in any fuel mix: fuel containing 20% bio-diesel is labeled B20, while pure bio-diesel is referred to as B100. It is common to see B99, since 1% petrol-diesel is sufficiently toxic to retard mold. Blends of 20 percent bio-diesel with 80 percent petroleum diesel (B20) can generally be used in unmodified diesel engines. Bio-diesel can also be used in its pure form (B100), but may require certain engine modifications to avoid maintenance and performance problems. Blending B100 with petrol-diesel may be accomplished by:
- Mixing in tanks at manufacturing point prior to delivery to tanker truck
- Splash mixing in the tanker truck (adding specific percentages of Bio-diesel and Petrol Diesel)
- In-line mixing, two components arrive at tanker truck simultaneously.
According to Wikipedia, bio-diesel is pretty old technology. Wiki says, “On 8/31/1937, G. Chavanne of the University of Brussels (Belgium) was granted a patent for a ‘Procedure for the transformation of vegetable oils for their uses as fuels’ (fr. ‘Procédé de Transformation d’Huiles Végétales en Vue de Leur Utilisation comme Carburants’) Belgian Patent 422,877. This patent described the alcoholysis (often referred to as transesterification) of vegetable oils using ethanol (and mentions methanol) in order to separate the fatty acids from the glycerol by replacing the glycerol with short linear alcohols. This appears to be the first account of the production of what is known as ‘bio-diesel today.”
One of the major problems with using bio-diesel made with vegetable oil is that during cold weather the oil tends to gel. (Bio-diesel produced from tallow tends to gel at around +16 °C (61 °F) ) Heaters need to be installed to keep the oils up higher than the gel point. That changes with what the ratio of oil to diesel is. In my part of the world, it is easier to configure your vehicle when it is generally warm all the time. In Wisconsin it may be altogether a different set of issues. On the plus side, the engine is lubed better with bio-diesel than traditional diesel.
Bio-diesel for aircraft has been sketchy at best. Virgin Airlines did run a jet aircraft from London to Amsterdam in Feb of this year. So far as I know it, no American airline has run any experiments with bio fuel.
A railroad train in Eastern Washington will be running on a 25% bio-diesel 75% petrol-diesel blend during summer of 2008, purchasing fuel from a bio-diesel producer seated along the railroad tracks. The train will be powered by bio-diesel made in part from Washington-grown canola. I think this makes the most sense since the load per mile is the greater than over the road long haul truckers.
“Bio-diesel can also be used as a heating fuel in domestic and commercial boilers, sometimes known as bio-heat. Older furnaces may contain rubber parts that would be affected by bio-diesel’s solvent properties, but can otherwise burn bio-diesel without any conversion required. Care must be taken at first, however, given that varnishes left behind by petrol-diesel will be released and can clog pipes- fuel filtering and prompt filter replacement is required. Another approach is to start using bio-diesel as blend, and decreasing the petroleum proportion over time can allow the varnishes to come off more gradually and be less likely to clog. Thanks to its strong solvent properties, however, the furnace is cleaned out and generally becomes more efficient.”
Well, this is just a brief outline of some of the uses for yet another one of the Alternatives to our dependence on foreign oil.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the info I stole writing this article.
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Yo soy un demócrata amarillo del perro.
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