Archive for November, 2007

13 million gallons of Alaskan fish oil

November 29, 2007

silver salmon, noaa

13 million gallons of Alaska’s fish oil is lost every year.

The solution is a portable fish rendering plant.

The Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) recently sent out a request-for-application offering a $160,000 grant to create a mobile fish oil processing unit. Since the Energy Authority is managing this, a requirement is that some of the oil be used to displace diesel (as biodiesel, blends or svo).

Unfortunately, they didn’t get any applications. James Jensen, the Grant Manager, is currently soliciting feedback on how the RFA could be made more appealing, and then the AEA plans to reissue it.

Here’s some quotes from the RFA:

Every year Alaska’s fishing industry dumps fish waste which “contains an estimated 13 million gallons of unrecovered fish oil.” Much of this is discharged into the ocean.

“A major hurdle hindering further oil recovery from Alaska-generated fish processing wastes is that the waste is generated at numerous geographically dispersed sites over relatively short periods of time in following harvesting practices of wild stocks.”

“The intent of this project is to provide grant funding and technical/business support toward the development, construction and demonstrated operation of a mobile fish oil recovery module.”

“It is expected that at some processing sites, the fish oil product will be retained and utilized by the host facility and/or community to displace the use of conventional diesel engine or boiler fuels.”

It’s amazing that we’re dumping this resource. Alaskans are in a unique situation to capture and use the many renewable energy resources that we are blessed with. Kudos to AEA for throwing some money in the mix to get the ball rolling.

Veg On!

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Biodiesel and Vegoil Taxes in Alaska

November 21, 2007

SVO/WVO/vegoil and/or biodiesel users in Alaska legally must pay $0.08 per gallon state taxes and $0.244 per gallon federal taxes.

The user must submit their Alaska Motor Fuel Tax on a monthly basis. Yeah, the tax office would really prefer it wasn’t so often, but it’s written into law. Seems like they would lose money processing a whole bunch of $5 checks every month! Some states exempt the first 2500 gallons, and the feds only require quarterly taxes, so lobby your Alaska legislators if you want to improve the law!

Summary:
Using fuel in a combustion engine in Alaska is taxed, it doesn’t matter what the fuel is. Taking something that is not a fuel and turning it into a fuel, such as filtering vegoil or making biodiesel is fuel considered manufacturing/refining. As long as you are not selling or distributing the fuel you are a fuel “user” and not a “fuel distributor,” therefore you are NOT required to pay a $5000 bond and license as a distributor in Alaska.

How do I pay the tax?
For the $0.244 per gallon quarterly federal taxes see the National Vegoil Board’s Legal Page.

For state taxes, fill out Form 04-530, the Alaska Motor Fuel Tax Return for diesel. I talked with Jamie Taylor at the Alaska Motor Fuel Tax office, and this is basically what she told me:

  1. Where it asks for company information, fill in your personal information. Leave the qualified dealer number blank, since you’re a “user” not a “dealer”. [UPDATE: the Alaska Department of Revenue sent me a Qualified Dealer number, for filing purposes.] You can get your Federal EIN online in a few minutes, you need it to send in the federal tax too. I applied as a sole proprietor for banking purposes under manufacturing: biodiesel. Make sure to say yes to excise tax (form 720) as that’s what you’ll send in for your federal tax.
  2. On page 2, under Section II, Receipts, (1) In-State Refinery Production: list the number of gallons of fuel you produced that month (biodiesel made or vegoil filtered).
  3. II(2-4) leave blank, so just copy II(1)to II(5).
  4. Section III, Disbursements, (1a) Gallons Used: List the number of gallons used that month (i.e. gallons biodiesel or vegoil put in your vehicle).
  5. III(1b-1c) leave blank, so just copy III(1a) to III(1d).
  6. Assuming you’re only using SVO/biodiesel as on-road fuel, skip III(2-12) and copy III(1d) to III(13).
  7. Copy info from the back to the appropriate places on the front, write a check to the “State of Alaska,” SIGN the bottom and send it in before the end of the next month!

Excerpts from The Law:
15 AAC 40.300 Fuel Subject to tax; Incidence of tax.
(a)(2) the use of motor fuel in the state. [you pay tax when you use motor fuel]

15 AAC 40.400 Tax Return Filing Requirements.
(a) Each person subject to AS 43.40.010(c) [that’s vegoil/biodiesel users] shall file the tax return, under penalty of unsworn falsification, on a form [submit on the diesel form] or in a format prescribed by the department…

Sec 43.40.010 Tax on transfers or consumption of motor fuel and expenditure of proceeds.
(a) There is levied a tax of eight cents a gallon on all motor fuel sold or otherwise transferred within the state..
(c) …Every user [that includes vegoil/biodiesel users] shall likewise remit the tax accrued on motor fuel actually used by the user during each month..

Sec 43.40.100 Definition.
(2) “motor fuel” means fuel used in an engine for the propulsion of a motor vehicle or aircraft, and fuel used in and on watercraft for any purpose, or in a stationary engine, machine, or mechanical contrivance that is run by an internal combustion motor… [domestic use, such as heating fuel is exempt from the tax under 15 AAC 40.310 (4)]
(4) “user” means person consuming or using motor fuel who either:
(A) purchases the fuel out of the state and ships it into the state for personal use in the state;
(B) manufactures fuel in the state; or [turning vegetable oil into filtered vegoil or biodiesel is considered fuel manufacturing]
(C) purchases or receives fuel in the state that is not taxed at the time of purchase or receipt or is taxed at a rate that is less than the rate prescribed by AS 43.40.010 [since the vegetable oil is NOT fuel when we receive it we do not fall under this section]

Veg On!

The Edge of Veg, A Book Review

November 16, 2007

edge of veg“The Edge of Veg: an Introduction to Running Diesel Engines on Vegetable Oil by Stephan Helbig” is a very worthwhile, if somewhat awkward, read.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5: 4.5 for the content and 2.5 for the writing.

“The Edge of Veg” is a great companion to Ray Holan’s “Sliding Home: A Complete Guide to Driving Your Diesel on Straight Vegetable Oil.”

While “Sliding Home” provide a fabulous do-it-yourself approach to converting your diesel to vegoil, “The Edge of Veg” explains what’s happening inside your engine.

In “The Edge of Veg” Helbig takes a look at different injection systems, analyzes how they work and how vegoil passes through them. It also takes a hard look at prechambers, whirlchambers and direct-injection engines and discusses how the vegoil ignites in each and tells how to optimize your vehicle for vegoil.

“The Edge of Veg,” however, suffers from run-on sentences, difficult phrasing and numerous spelling and grammatical errors. I’m assuming that it’s because the German author is writing in English – as a second language.

Overall, it’s a worthwhile read to understand the ignition properties of vegoil and how it interacts with the standard diesel injection and combustion systems.

“The Edge of Veg” is distributed in North America by the National Vegoil Board. It’s free with a full membership. Otherwise it’s only available from Amazon.de in Germany, but with the dismal euro to dollar exchange rate and with overseas shipping, not to mention trying to order in German, wouldn’t you rather just join the Vegoil Board?

Bringing Biodiesel to Alaska: The Seattle Model

November 8, 2007

We’re looking for an Alaska gas station willing to import and sell biodiesel.

In the summer of 2006 the Oil and Water Project kids drove from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego on biodiesel and vegoil. While they were here Seattle Biodiesel a.k.a. Imperium Renewables shipped them a couple of 275 gallon totes of ASTM-quality biodiesel.

Later that summer Todd Ellis from Imperium Renewables met with Anchorage Mayor Begich’s Waste Cooking Oil Task Force and spoke about the possibilities of importing ASTM biodiesel to Alaska. He mentioned Propel Biofuels as a company that might be able to speed the process along.

During 2007 Imperium once again shipped totes to Alaska. This time, Luke Lohmuller at Camp Denali organized a shipment of 7 totes as a part of their dedication to renewable energy.

This isn’t too different from what was happening in Seattle only a few years ago.

In the early 2000s you could get biodiesel in Seattle at Dr. Dan’s Alternative Fuelwerks, a private alternative-fuel filling station. Then, home-based enthusiasts like TurboFroggy started buying totes of biodiesel and selling biodiesel to the public out of their garages.

I bought my first commercial ASTM biodiesel at the Chevron near the University of Washington. They had a tote loaded onto a pickup truck with a little red fill-rite pump connected to it. You had to go into the convenience store and get an employee to come out and pump it from the plastic tote into your vehicle. Very low overhead. They wanted the names and numbers of everyone who bought it, and penciled everything into a little book.

This approach worked and as demand climbed biodiesel distribution moved from garages and the back of pickup trucks to “real” gas pumps like the B20 available at the Deming Quick Stop outside of Bellingham.

Only after importing on a small scale did retail stations start popping up, and only after demand grew did local production move from backyard brewers to commercial plants.

I’ve run into a number of enthusiatic entreprenuers who want to build a biodiesel plant in Alaska. With 500,000 gallons of waste cooking oil that is largely exported to the far east, and over 10 million gallons of unrendered fish oil (that is cast as carcasses back to the ocean), it seems that there is a good feedstock base to build on.

Ben May from Alaska Biofuels wrote an excellent Biodiesel Feasibility Study for the Alaska Public Interest Research Group. According to May, the plant hasn’t been built because of a lack customer contracts.

It seems that no one wants to commit to buying biodiesel on a large scale without trying it first.

Either someone needs deep pockets to float a small production plant for a few years until demand takes off, or following the Seattle model, we need to import biodiesel and build demand.

Biodiesel is just over three dollars a gallon and diesel is at a similar price. Let’s say it costs about $3 a gallon (a conservative estimate – $2 may be more realistic) to ship biodiesel to Alaska. Six dollars a gallon isn’t going to convince many people. But, assuming $3 for diesel $6 for biodiesel, B20 blends could be sold for $3.60. Is that cost comparative enough for those with political and/or environmental reasons to spend a little more? With the number of requests for biodiesel that we get, I think it is.

What we need is a filling station, or even a garage owner, to step up and make it happen.

Veg On!

Which Diesel Should I Get for a SVO (WVO, VegOil) Conversion?

November 6, 2007

First of all, ANY diesel will run biodiesel. You DON’T need to convert a vehicle for biodiesel. Well, maybe replace a few rubber hoses and seals, but not immediately on putting biodiesel in your tank. Biodiesel is NOT Straight Vegetable Oil.

You can convert any diesel to run on heated, filtered Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO, WVO, VegOil). But, some vehicles are cheap and easy to convert and some are tricky and expensive to convert.

It’s all in how robust the injection pump is.

Common, easier to convert Diesel Cars
1968-1985 Mercedes 200D, 220D, 240D, 300D(SD,TD,SDL)
1977-1992 VW Rabbit(Golf, Pickup), Jetta, Dasher(Quantum), Vanagon 1.5l/1.6l/1.6l Turbodiesel*
1996-1999.5 VW Golf, Jetta, Passat, New Beetle 1.9 TDI (3rd gen)
2002-2003 VW Golf, Jetta, Passat, New Beetle 1.9 TDI (4th gen)

Common, easier to convert Diesel Trucks
1983-1994 Ford 6.9/7.3 IDI (especially the 1994 turbodiesel)
1989-1993 Dodge Cummins 5.9 1st gen 12 valve – rotary VE injection pump
1994-1998.5 Dodge Cummins 5.9 2nd gen 12valve – inline p7100 injection pump**

Other Common Diesels to Convert
1994.5-1997 Ford Powerstroke 1st generation – stock filter issues
1999-2003 Ford Powerstroke 2nd generation – fuel routing issues
1999.5-2001 VW TDI diesels – early 4th gen known for haphazard quality

Common, but more involved and less robust systems***
1982-2000 Chevy/GMC 6.2/6.5 – injection pumps prone to failure
1998.5-2002 Dodge Cummins 5.9 24 valve – VP44 injection pump prone to failure

Many of the newer high-pressure and common-rail diesels are also possible to convert, but are beyond the scope of this quick overview.

Of course, there are the less common diesels by Toyota, Nissan, Isuzu, International, Peugeot, etc. which can also be converted.

* We really like the 1985-1992 VW 1.6l turbodiesels with the Bosch rotary VE pump, although the older Mercedes are built like tanks. (note: not every model is available every year listed)
**The 1994-early 1998 Dodge has the highly recommended Bosch inline P7100 injection pump.
***Alaska VegOil Systems does not convert the senstive GMC 6.2/6.5 or the VP44, although we will help with consultations and can point folks to GMC/Dodge specialists.

Please, folks, make sure your vehicle is running well before you sink some money into converting it. There are too many expensive stories about people who buy a beater for SVO.

In the last two blogs we’ve tried to answer some of the repeat questions people ask of us. Next up we’ll continue our journey through the Alaska biofuels scene.

Veg On!

P.S. More info on the Which TRUCK Should I Get for a SVO (WVO,Vegoil) Conversion? page.

Why PlantDrive? Or, Which SVO Kit is Best?

November 5, 2007

Wow, here’s where you open the can’o’worms.

In the good ol’ US of A you have 4 major SVO (WVO, VegOil) kits to choose from. All of these kits have been used successfully in Alaska, as well as kits by smaller manufacturers and homemade custom kits.

Which is best? IMHO there is NO PERFECT WAY to convert your vehicle. There are, however, several different good ways to convert.

My personal order of preference is:

1. PlantDrive (aka Neoteric Biofuels)
2. Frybrid
3. Golden Fuel Systems (aka Greasel)
4. GreaseCar

Why PlantDrive? Well, honestly, when I converted my first vehicle Frybrid didn’t exist so I went with PlantDrive (then known as Neoteric Biofuels). I’m happy with the results and am comfortable with the system.

PlantDrive kits consist of a box of major components sourced from Big-Rig cold-weather parts. They retrofit Semi-truck/Tractor trailer cold-weather equipment to SVO use on passenger vehicles. This stuff is not going to break, it’s top of the line.

It is a great a la carte approach where you can pick and choose the parts you need. On the other hand it is expensive and the “kit” you get doesn’t include everything (it lacks fuel lines/tank/little connectors), but you do get the *nice* VegTherm heater invented by Ed Beggs.

Why Frybrid? Chris Goodwin at Frybrid is very well respected for his research and development. He’s taken the opposite approach as PlantDrive and has created a high-quality line of SVO-specific parts mostly made from scratch.

His kits include everything, tank, pickup, lines, filter, valves, and computer control. Frybrid also has amazing installation manual and a great VegOil forum. His use of aluminum lines and hydraforce valves have become the defacto standard for many folks.

These are great if you need it all, and are willing to solidly mount your stuff (I prefer flexible HOH lines with my Plantdrive kit so I can remove my tank for filling or move the lines around to work on the engine, but those HIH lines look *much* prettier and most likely heat more effectively.)

Frybrid has also been plagued with customer service and shipping problems for years, which also drops them down on the list.

Why Golden Fuel Systems? Well, Charlie Anderson has roots in Alaska, and he has created some nice tanks and lines, and uses some solid filters. They have evoled significantly throughout the years, and the new stuff looks pretty good. His systems have run on new vehicles in cold northern Alaska winters.

I, however, have a philosophical disagreement with their system. Golden Fuel says that the engine is the heat exchanger and the purpose of the SVO system is to get the oil to flow to the engine. Frybrid and others maintain that the oil MUST BE HOT before injection to prevent damage to the engine. I subscribe to the latter view. I know of a Golden Fuel System conversion in Alaska where the owner has added a PlantDrive VegTherm and HotPlate to boost the temperatures and additional 20-30 degrees F. I am fine with a Golden Fuel kit as the base. but would add extra heat before the heat exchanger.

Why Greasecar? Well, to quote Justin Soares from GreaseWorks: “Grease Car may have been the first on the scene, but they’ve also been the slowest to keep up with the learning curve.”

Personally I am not as familiar with the Greasecar system, it only has 3 heat exchangers (tank, lines, filter) like the Golden system, as opposed to the 4 used by Frybrid (tank, lines, filter, heat exchanger) or the 5 on my (non-stock) PlantDrive system (tank, lines, filter, heat exchanger, VegTherm 12v heater). They use copper in the fuel tank, and have in-tank fittings that make me nervous about fuel/coolant contamination. I know of 2 GreaseCar conversions in Alaska, both of which have had mediocre reviews by the owners.

Like I said, there’s no perfect way. If you have an old beater to drive into the ground, spend as little as possible, and don’t worry about engine damage. If you’ve got a spare tank lying around, pick and choose from a PlantDrive system. Like clean installs and need everything, try Frybrid.  Or heck, build off a Golden Fuel System and add a flat-plate heat exchanger and a vegtherm.

Veg On!

Biodiesel Needs Cows – Alaska Grown Fuel

November 2, 2007

Canola FlowerA hundred miles upriver from Fairbanks, springing from the abandoned fields of the Delta Barley Project, is the site for the Delta Junction Biodiesel Pilot Plant. Hans Geier, an Alaska Cooperative Extension agent, has been farming in Delta for over a decade. Currently he is growing Canola, along with his son, for fuel. They received a $20,000 grant to create a Canola to fuel project in rural Alaska.

Delta Junction was a part of the 1970s-1980s massive state-funded project to develop agriculture in Alaska. Farmers were given government loans to buy land and equipment for Barley farming. It failed, the loans were called in and the state acquired many of the farms through defaults. Geier purchased his first quarter-section of abandoned fields in 1994 for $9,000. Then he learned how expensive it is to farm in Alaska. His farm grew throughout the 1990s, and he is now working with a 4-year rotation of Canola followed by barley, and then 2 years of nitrogen-fixing sweet clover.

There is a common misconception that the Canola grown in Alaska is not marketable because is has a green hue to the oil, instead of a crisp golden color. Geier says he has solved that problem by early planting of a Polish variety instead of the more popular Argentine varieties.

Another myth, Geier says, is that there are no Alaska registered pesticides for Canola. Also known as rapeseed, Canola is a four foot tall type of mustard that grows so fast and weedy, that on good soil it will out compete everything but lamb’s quarters.

The Canola grown in Alaska has over 50% oil. The 50 acres Geier is currently farming will provide him with 8.9 tons of oil, over 2000 gallons. What is needed is a market not only for the oil, but for the meal leftover from the pressing. Geier says “Biodiesel needs cows.” Canola meal can be used as a fed supplement for dairy cows. But, with the impending closure of Matanuska Maid, the future of the dairy industry in Alaska is troubled.

This project is still in the early stages. Their Chinese-built seed press arrived this year, but the 7.7 horsepower diesel engine wasn’t enough to press the seeds. A 12 horsepower engine is being shipped up, along with a 10kW diesel generator to power the 240v heater in the press.

Canola can be grown well in Alaska, the first oil should be pressed this fall. Next will be to test the oil and develop truly Alaska Grown fuel.

Source: personal interview, Hans Geier November 1, 2007