Archive for October, 2007

Biodiesel available in all 50, no wait, 49 states!

October 30, 2007

The National Biodiesel Board on their Guide to Buying Biodiesel claims that “high quality biodiesel is available in all 50 states.”

Hmmmm.. I think the key word is “available.” I’ve been promoting biodiesel in Alaska for years, and although there a a number of homebrewers, pilot/demonstration projects and enthusiastic entrepreneurs, I have yet to find biodiesel for sale in Alaska.

I mean no producers, no distributors, and no retailers. It’s make it yourself or ship it up from Seattle.

I wrote an email to the Biodiesel Board and left a voice message, they have yet to get back to me. Maybe I should have written it more nicely. Here’s what I wrote:

I see on your website and numerous government and biodiesel brochures that biodiesel is “available is all 50 states.”

Is there something I’m missing or is this like saying “biodiesel is available in Antarctica” because you can ship it there.

I’ve been working for years trying to bring biodiesel to Alaska, and unless I want to buy a tote or a container in Seattle and ship it up, which effectively doubles the price, biodiesel is NOT available in Alaska.

The Alaska Energy Authority’s test of fish oil biodiesel is not available to the public (and is starting to degrade) and the Alaska Biodiesel Alliance’s test of cold weather blends in Juneau is not available to the public either. There is a little co-op in Fairbanks, but they are brewing their own in a hot water heater and it has not undergone the ASTM testing yet. The Delta Canola oil pilot project is working with the Fairbanks co-op to make biodiesel, but as far as I know it hasn’t happened yet.

Please, set me straight and let me know where I can send people who ask where they can get biodiesel up here.

Thanks.

More details on what IS going on with Alaska biodiesel in future blogs..

Veg on!

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Vegoil Soup – an Alphabet of Acronyms.

October 27, 2007

Yep, Vegetable Oil (Vegoil or VO) as fuel. Heated, in a two-tank conversion. I like to call it Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO or Straight Veg).

You could convert it into biodiesel, but we’ll save that for another discussion.

Of course, what we’re really using up here in the chilly last frontier is Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) from restaurant deep fryers. Some folks assume that SVO means unused oil and WVO is used oil, but I think of SVO as a catch-all phase, which includes Virgin Vegetable Oil (VVO) and WVO.

WVO is really Used Cooking Oil (UCO), and a few people don’t like using the word “waste”. Then there’s sustainable agriculture, like the canola-to-biodiesel pilot project in Delta, so you could just say Pure Plant Oils (PPO).

Now I’ve also run some Salmon Oil, and the state is funding Pollack Oil biodiesel research, so you could use the catch all moniker of Renewable Oils (RO). Heck, Recovered Renewable Oils (RRO) is even better, since mostly what we’re using is Waste (Recovered) Oils, and my WVO always has a bit of chicken wing fats and other waxy goodies floating in it.

Some people like to blend their old fryer oils with kerosene, regular unleaded gas (RUG), or even used motor oil (UMO) instead of adding heat to the vegoil, so you could add a “M” in front of any of these to create a “Modified” Oil, like MWVO. I don’t have a problem with putting a gallon of diesel in a tank full of vegoil to help it flow in the middle of an Alaska winter, but I would never believe that I could safely run my vehicle on unheated “modified” vegoil. Chemically transesterified biodiesel, yes, but not a diesel “secret” blend.

I think I’ll stick with calling it Vegoil or SVO, even if it is mostly WVO with a little fish oil and a tiny bit of VVO and lard thrown in the mix.

More used:
VO – Vegetable Oil (Vegoil)
SVO – Straight Vegetable Oil (Straight Veg)
WVO – Waste Vegetable Oil

Moderately Used:
UCO – Used Cooking Oil
PPO – Pure Plant Oil (or just PO – Plant Oil)
RUG – Regular Unleaded Gas
MWVO – Modified Waste Vegetable Oil

Rarely Used:
RO – Renewable Oil
RRO – Recovered Renewable Oil
VVO – Virgin Vegetable Oil
UMO – Used Motor Oil

Fine more vegoil acronyms at the National Vegoil Board.

Veg on!

The Alaska Biodiesel and SVO Network

October 26, 2007

Ah yes, Vegetable Oil (VO or “vegoil”) as a fuel. In Germany it’s accepted and available at the pump. In the grand old US of A, biodiesel is making inroads, but it’s not available commercially in Alaska. Here it’s Do-It-Yourself (DIY) biodiesel. Of course, it gels something fierce in the wintertime, and since winter lasts the majority of the year, many DIY folks have turned to heated Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) as a environmental, political and economic solution.

Just a note, biodiesel is oil that has been chemically converted to run in any diesel without modification. Straight Vegetable Oil systems can run plain old vegetable oil, but require a diesel vehicle to be converted so it has a fully heated fuel system.

Interestingly, you can take a good idea and implement it poorly. The devastation of Indonesian rainforest for palm oil biodiesel is a travesty. Alaska, however, imports, deep fries, and then exports 500,000 gallons of cooking oil yearly! Not to mention 13 million gallons of fish oil that is thrown into the sea as waste carcasses each year.

The studies have been done. For just under half a million dollars, we could have a local biodiesel producer. Unfortunately, since there’s no biodiesel up here, there’s no market for biodiesel. Quite a catch-22. To make matters worse, although commercial biodiesel is available in Seattle for around $3 a gallon, we have to add another $3 shipping to get it up here. Yes, a few folks have done that, but developing a market with $6 a gallon fuel in Anchorage isn’t going to cut it.

So, it’s up to the renewable energy pioneers to bring sustainable fuel to the oil-rich last frontier.

Started as a Sierra Club Smart Energy Solution project (alaska.sierraclub.org), the Alaska Biodiesel and SVO Network (www.alaskabiodiesel.org) is just that, a loose informational network. Now folks looking into vegoil as fuel, either commercially or as backyard brewers, can connect with other folks who are doing the same thing. Hopefully we’ll avoid reinventing the wheel.

We’ve participated in local government projects to capture and use waste cooking oil, offering local restaurants a free alternative to used cooking oil disposal. We’ve created a positive relationship with the local grease collection company, who now helps provide vegoil to needy drivers. We’ve led numerous seminars on Do-It-Yourself (DIY) techniques for vegoil vehicles, and brought out converted vehicles at local festivals. In addition, we provide free consulting for folks interested in vegoil as fuel. For DIY folks we point the way to parts suppliers and to the less mechanically inclined we connect them with professional installers of SVO systems. Perhaps most importantly, however, the network helps provide a thriving community for Alaskan biodiesel and vegoil enthusiasts.

Veg on!