Archive for September, 2009

DVD Review: BioLyle’s Biodiesel Workshop

September 12, 2009

biolylebiodieselworkshopHooray! BioLyle has come out with a 4+ hour 2-DVD set of his popular Seattle biodiesel classes.  This is a fabulous resource for those out there who can’t attend a class in person, or for folks who want a review of the start-to-finish biodiesel process.  For the new or intermediate brewer, Biolyle’s Biodiesel Workshop DVDs make an excellent complement to the biodiesel community website and B100 Supply’s Home Brew Biodiesel book.

As a biodiesel educator, I was impressed with Lyle’s techniques and methods. Though not identical, they are very similar to the ones I teach.  He starts out with half an hour of lecture about the benefits of biodiesel and the basic chemistry.  Next comes a titration lesson and lab session, with his students trying their hands at chemistry.  Lyle works in a demonstration of the appleseed processor, and then runs through a whole slew of tips, tricks and advanced methods: oil collection, quality testing, drywashing, byproduct disposal and even methanol recovery!  Yep, methanol recovery – the way to make your biodiesel cheaper and your glycerin cleaner.

The second DVD is divided into two parts: operating a home-built appleseed processor and running the BioPro reactor.  I am a big fan of the water-heater based appleseed processor, and after seeing Lyle’s setup I’m excited to add a few improvements to my own system.  He doesn’t tell you how to build it, but points you to B100Supply’s Home Brew Biodiesel book and the detailed plans at Utah Biodiesel Supply.  It’s definitely a demonstration: I got a little confused as to where all his hoses went, but I’m pretty clear on how he moves oil around his shop.

The last hour is dedicated to the BioPro reactor and Lyle’s biodiesel coop.  The BioPro is not cheap system, but it’s the only store-bought biodiesel processor that I can recommend.  Lyle’s is the first detailed video demonstration of the BioPro I’ve seen.  It’s excellent and should definitely be included with every BioPro sold!  Lyle shows us not only how easy it is to run the system, but shares a number of tips to keep things running smoothly an efficiently.  To top things off, Lyle covers the inner workings of his Dirty Hands biodiesel cooperative – a great way to bring a BioPro to your neighborhood!

Although Lyle’s DVD has fancy menus and packaging, I was a little surprised by the low-budget recording.  But, the content is great and the chapter layout is stellar – you can easily jump around to parts that you may have missed or want to review.

As a bonus, Lyle includes a pint-sized 14 page guide to brewing biodiesel, and although you may need reading glasses for it, the information is excellent.

Overall a highly recommended DIY biodiesel set.  Get it for an introductory price of $39.95 at or

Veg On!


Algae Biodiesel in Alaska?

September 5, 2009

Bernie Karl Chena GreenhouseThe Alaska Journal of Commerce did a piece on Bernie Karl (of Chena Hot Springs fame), where he talks about developing algae biodiesel in Fairbanks.

Bernie may be crazy, but he’s crazy brillant. His Chena Hot Springs resort developed low-temperature geothermal when some said it couldn’t be done.

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

One summer day, as visitors relaxed in a pool of hot water, a moose strolled up to take a drink from a nearby lake filled with algae. That lake is also a part of Karl’s grand plan.

“This pool is growing a special type of algae that only grows in Alaska,” said Karl. “It grows because of the amount of daylight and carbon dioxide emitted by other plants and animals, so it multiplies many times faster than other algaes.”

Karl explained one could start by taking 30 acres pools with this type of algae. Cover them with greenhouses. Then pump in the carbon dioxide created from landfill trash (filtering out the bad gasses) into special furnaces that would heat the water and the greenhouses.

The algae would be energized to grow, while absorbing high concentrations of carbon dioxide.

Then, once the pools fill up, the algae can be harvested for its lipid oil. That oil, in turn, could be distilled into a bio-fuel.

“This algae has 44 percent oil by volume, we refine the oil and make jet fuel,” said Karl.

Veg On!