Home Energy Production-Fuel
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You may want to read as a prerequisite Green? my blog post on the green building trend and green living.
Fuel around the home comes in 3 types of course.
Of the Solid fuels we have..
- Cord Wood
- Wood Chips or Saw Dust
- Wood Pellets
- Coke (A coal product)
- Carbide (For lamps only)
- Bio-Brickets (Made from weeds, yard waste, rice hulls, trash etc.)
The above almost needs no explanation. However I must ask my readers, where in or around Arkansas can one get Coal or Coke? We have several charcoal plants in Arkansas. We do have some coal mines on the western side of Arkansas. A friend of mine bought 3 50 gallon drums of coal from a mine in Oklahoma, but I never learned its location or contact info. As a trucker I picked up a load of insulation once at a coke plant in Alabama. From what I understand about coke, it is coal that has been cooked so that it is more condensed. It burns much hotter than coal. It is used in the foundry business. I have not yet looked to see if maybe it can be ordered by the 50 or 100lb bags from any source on the net. Also EPA has outlawed some forms of coal from being burned unless it is burned cleanly. The burning of coal and wood produces some useful byproducts. The ash from burned coal (fly ash) can be mixed with lime and then be used like cement. The white powdery ash from burnt wood can be used to make lye soap. Lye soap is a very alkaline soap, which means its a great degreaser.
Bio-Brickets and Pellets are made from common plant materials, trash, wood etc. This can be made at home by compressing in molds this material with some binder added such as paper pulp. The guy on a forum that told us of this drives his car over his press to compress the brickets. These brickets and pellets could be gasified in a wood gasifier.
I don’t know much about fuel oils or lamp oils. I have used carbide in caving. It looks like small light weight rocks. You add water to it and the rocks produce acetylene gas and heat. I hear that its harder to get carbide today than it was a few years back.
Of the Liquid Fuels we have..
- Kerosene (Aviation or Jet Fuel)
- Alcohol (PGA from liquor stores)
- Ethanol (corn whiskey)
- Wood Alcohol (made from wood gas)
- Fuel Oil for lamps or heating.
Diesel, Gasoline, Kerosene, Alcohol, Fuel and Lamp oils must be purchased.
How do you produce your own Bio-diesel? First you find some oil or fat, such as veggie oil or animal lard. Then you somehow chemically combine some kind of alcohol with it. First you must from what I hear combine the alcohol with lye. On one of my other articles I stated that lye is sodium hydroxide(commercial) or potassium hydroxide(drippings from flowing water through pot ash). Mix the treated alcohol with the oil. Some of it will settle to the bottom, pour off the top and add some kind of acid back to it to get the PH back to normal. There will be more sedimentation and you again pour off the top. After this you rinse the fuel with water. Yes, you heard me right, rinse it with water. This is where you mix it with water, and water removes some of the non fuel particles. You pour the fuel off the top of the water. Wikipedia has decent article about this, but doesn’t layout any recipe’s. I’d say a first home attempt at this might be to simply save all used cooking oils, filter them, then make some ethanol and with a stove top still. Find a cheap used diesel engine for testing, such as a really old well used tractor. Mix the ethanol and oil and give it a try. I suppose that if you do not want to go to the trouble of making your own alcohol you could buy some PGA like Everclear from the liquor store and give that a try.
Ethanol however is an easy one. I make my gas dot com Or just look on the web for the many types of stills that people have posted. Also Fox Fire book shows how old timers distilled moonshine. Though note that local laws may prohibit the production due to it being illegal to drink it. Its more highly illegal to transport it. I at one time heard that it was legal for any farmer to produce up to 300 gallons a year for use in his farm tractor. I have no idea if this is true or not. To mix ethanol with gasoline completely the ethanol needs to be 190 Proof or better. So it will have to be triple distilled as the first batch is only about 100 proof. Home made ethanol can be used in Coleman stoves and probably kerosene lamps. You can make your own ethanol at home for around 50 cents to $1 per gallon using the electric still at I make my gas dot com. That still cost just under $250. There are other expenses than the still. When making ethanol one ferments sugars from fruits and grains. Starches can also be fermented if you use enzymes such as Alpha-amylase (spit) and Glucoamylase (stomach enzymes). Breads, bread doe, rice, potatoes, other grains, other starchy veggies can be turned into ethanol.
I’ll talk about Wood alcohol in the next section under Wood gas.
Of the gas (non liquid) fuels we have..
- Natural Gas (Methane from gas wells)
- Hydrogen (Taken from the electrolysis of water)
- Acetylene (For cutting and welding metals only)
- Wood Gas (made by cooking wood)
Propane, Natural Gas (natural gas is the more economical choice), Acetylene must be purchased.
The book I mentioned above “Producing your own power” covers methane production. It has some good general information and drawings. It doesn’t have detailed drawings or plans for methane digester equipment. Search the web, I’m sure you will find some and there are some video’s on youtube for this. Methane is produced during the part of digestions that is absent of oxygen. So when you first load a digester, the first stage of the digestion is the oxygen loving bacterial action. This produces CO2. Same thing that is in your soft drinks. Same thing that is produced from fermentation for wine, beer and other alcohols. As the oxygen is being consumed nutrients for the oxygen hating bacteria are being made and left behind in the mix. Those types of bacteria get started and produce the methane and hydrogen sulfide. This is what you smell when you drive by a paper mill, cattle feed lot, and its what is added to natural gas which has no smell. Its also what you smell when you pass gas or defecate. The gas you get from the digestion is a mix of methane, co2 and hydrogen sulfide. The co2 would cause a flame to be a bit yellow and sooty. The co2 can be filtered to produce a hotter more pure methane flame would be blue in color. Methane will work in a diesel engine by mixing it with 5% or so diesel as it is fed in.
FEMA has produced a FEMA Wood Gasifier PDF that can be found on the web. It shows us how to turn wood chips into a gas. This gas can be used in any gasoline or propane powered engine. This will work in a diesel engine by mixing it with 5% or so diesel as it is fed in. 20 to 30 lbs of wood or similar material will be equivalent in energy to 1 gallon of gasoline. If powering an automobile roughly 1 to 1.5 lbs of wood per mile would be required. The material has to be shredded, chipped, pelletized, bricked or cubed to be used in a wood gasifier. What kind of gasses are in wood gas? Wood gas contains hydrogen, carbon monoxide (which is combustible), tars and possibly some methane.
I have heard that if this gas is passed through an automotive catalytic converter it is turned into what is called wood alcohol(methanol). I’ve also heard that if you cool the gas by piping it through a copper tube coil, which is within a barrel of cool water that it will condense into wood alcohol yet with tars and other impurities which must be filtered. Tars need to be filtered or engines must be cleaned routinely. This can then be stored like gasoline and run in any gasoline powered engine except 2 stroke engines. It doesn’t mix with oil well. However could it be chemically combined with lye and then oils to make bio-diesel.
For hydrogen production you might look on youtube for some demonstrations. Its pretty simple to get hydrogen from water. However it does consume electricity. Hydrogen gas only liquefies at a very high pressure(1000’s of psi). This means it takes high pressure to store much of it. Storing of hydrogen is similar to the storing of methane or natural gas. Whereas propane liquefies at pressures of around 350 psi. Hydrogen flames are colorless and can not be seen. This makes hydrogen dangerous to use. Hydrogen causes metals to become brittle and crack. It also dissolves metals. And because it is the smallest atom, it leaks through just about anything. These problems mean that hydrogen is best used as it is produced. For example it can be used as it is produced in cutting and welding of metals. The water needs to have a bit of salt added to it in order for electrolysis to make the most efficient use of the electricity. When you make hydrogen the hydrogen and oxygen can be separated or it can be left in a mixed (hydrogen-oxygen) state until burned. When burned the exhaust produced is H2O, yes water only. The main engines of the space shuttle use hydrogen. If you notice under the engines you see no flame, just a slight blueish color.
The storage of solid and liquid fuels is a pretty simple matter. But the storage of gas is a whole other ball game. I have heard of one good solution where you store gas in tractor tire inner tubes. You might stack these tubes 6 high so that they stand about 10 feet high. When you want gas back out of them you simply throw up a piece of plywood and then some concrete blocks on top. The weight will pressurize the gas and push it back out of into your gas lines. One inner tube holds about 8 cubic feet of gas. 6 would hold about 50 cubic feet of gas. 4 stacks then would hold about 200 cubic feet of gas. If you could use an air compressor to say put this in a propane tank and for simplicity I’ll use rectangular dimensions. Lets say the tank is 3 feet by 3 feet by 10 feet long. This is about 90 cubic feet. Lets make it 100 cubic feet to keep it simple. Using a standard air compressor you can put gas in this tank up to 150 PSI. Gas is produced at 14.6 PSI which is atmospheric pressure at sea level. So divide 150 PSI by 14.6 and then multiply that by 100 cubic feet. That would be about 10 times 100 or 1000 cubic feet of gas. I have read that 127 cubic feet of methane is approximately equivalent to 1 gallon of gasoline in energy. This is equal to about 7 gallons of gasoline. At any rate, it is enough gas to do something with. As a ballpark estimate about one pound of barnyard manure will produce about 1 cubic foot of methane. You would need 1000 lbs of manure in this example or half a ton to fill this tank. 1 cubic yard of manure is about 1 ton of manure. So you can see for yourself the possibilities.
|Producing your own Power-Has info about wood as fuel and methane production from manures.|