Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

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Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by thorian » Thu Jun 12, 2008 10:30 am

US disclaimer Dont Build a fuel still unless you file ATF application 5110.74 for a permit to manufacture Fuel Alcohol or else you will have a nice visit by the folks at the ATF kicking in your barn door.

I have 300 apple trees. Those apple trees produce a lot of cull fruit that is not suitable for food use and the 3 hogs I have can only eat so many of them at 1 time. So I have been looking into a use for those culls and have kicked around the idea of Ethanol for a while.

What I have planned

Crusher
New 1/2 HP garbage disposal Mounted in to a Stainless steel sink to grind the apples into pomace

Press
Use a 20 ton shop press that uses a "rack and Cheese" method

Fermentation
Buy some of the 55 gallon barrels from hoods that are not food safe to ferment the sugars into hard cider. (first denatured process)

Still
I am thinking about using a Fractioning column still but as yet I cannot find plans that don't involve welding (I cant weld)

Some of the pre built batch stills I have seen use 2 1500w tank heaters to heat the "wash" and bring it up to the 180* boiling point of ethyl-alcohol.

After distillation
Add 2 gallons of gasoline to every 8 gallons of ethanol to denature the alcohol per ATF regulations for fuel alcohol.

The prospective yeld is about 20 gallons of fuel alcohol for each 200 gallons of "wash" from journey to forever. (I would have to distill 200 gallons a week for my current fuel requirements)

I plan on running this through my shit box ford escort with no conversion. Supposedly the only damage I can do to it is cause leaks in the fuel lines due to a deterioration of o rings. However STL has been running E10 since the 1990's and I have never herd of any negative effects to the engines. If I need to my brother has an Apexi Fuel computer that he is willing to lend me to adjust the fuel air mixture to keep the engine running properly.

To ensure that the car is going to run on a E85 or higher mixture of ethanol I am going to run the car on 2 gallons of e85 to 8 gallons of regular gasoline then slowly up the percentage of e85 untill It is running on straight e85.


I submit this proposal now to the peanut gallery for comment as I am sure there are others out there with more info then I

Oh and if you know of a good place for still plans please post them. I don't mind buying the plans if I can get 180-190 proof fuel alcohol. The water content is what I believe will cause problems with my fuel system.

If worst comes to pass at least I will have a crap load of alcohol for my trangia stove.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Blast » Thu Jun 12, 2008 10:51 am

Can you solder or braze copper tubing together? If so, pm me. I think I can help you build a still.

Or, free plans from Mother Earth News:
http://journeytoforever.org/biofuel_lib ... meCh8.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

-Blast (Merriwether)

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by razi » Thu Jun 12, 2008 11:58 am

interesting experiment. I'd like to see how this progresses.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by thorian » Thu Jun 12, 2008 11:59 am

Yes I can

and PM sent
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by FelixArchon » Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:11 pm

I can give you schematics and/or photos of my current project, which takes nothing more than soldering, and could easily be scaled-up for your purposes. A column will be the only way to go with this; any sort of kettle or "batch" still is going to be too inefficient to deal with the sort of volumes you'll be managing.

I love this idea from a self-sufficiency/tinkering stand-point. That having been said, you're probably going to spend more on energy costs (heating the mash) than you'll gain from burning ethanol you produce. If you're looking for a cottage industry for your apple surplus, you should probably just get more pigs, or find a hog-farm to sell to. That also spares you the trouble of dealing with the ATF.



Edit to add: that's a great link from Blast.

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by thorian » Thu Jun 12, 2008 4:20 pm

Well I have been crunching the numbers on that one.

My current rate of electricity is 8.1 cents per KWH, Some plans require 2 1500w tank heaters to bring it up to 180' Suppose I use the 8 hours that Mother earth news suggest it will take to batch process (4 hours to get up to temp and 4 hours to distill) that would be $1.90 per batch to distill out 55 gallons. If I am able to brew a 14%/alcohol wash it would have a potential yeild of 7.7 gallons of 180-190 proof, I am going to assume that I cant recover the whole potential 7.7 gallons. I am shooting more for a number of 5 gallons / 55 gallon batch. So if electricity is my only cost that would be .38 cents a gallon. Sure I would have to add the cost of yeast but I doubt that combined to make 5 gallons of 180-190 proof could cost more then the $20 for the same amount of gasoline.

Trust me I would love to be able to cut my fuel bill in half running E-50. Not only that but I could claim a 68 cent per gallon tax credit on my federal income tax.

That is all Hypothesis though and I don't know if it would actually work as planned.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by FelixArchon » Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:00 pm

I'm not sure that just calculating the draw for the heating coils for eight hours use is going to be accurate in terms of the energy use. I'd love to hear that brewing fuel can be done for .38 per gal of energy cost, but my own experience with applied thermodynamics leads me to believe that the actual cost will be considerably higher.

You've mentioned batch stills, but have you considered a continuous-flow system? More expensive at the front end, since design and construction are more involved, and you need to puzzle out the input/output rates, but I gotta believe that one of those would be a lot more efficient in the long run. Especially since you're planning on heating electrically; that gives you pretty fine control over heat-levels, which is the critical factor in continuous flow systems.

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Abacus » Thu Jun 12, 2008 5:16 pm

I'll admit I know nothing about this, so this is probably a stupid thought, but:

Once you have your first batch of fuel, could you then use that fuel to heat the ongoing process of turning Fruit to fuel? Using Fruit fuel to make more fruit fuel rather than drawing on your grid?

Regardless of my stupid ideas, it sounds like a very interesting project (and a lot more work than I'D be willing to put into it). Good luck.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Loquinho » Fri Jun 13, 2008 12:09 pm

You might also want to look at frensel lenses as a way to heat up the still. You might still need some traditional energy, btu it should lower the cost quite a bit.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by DryGrain » Fri Jun 13, 2008 3:44 pm

thorian wrote:The water content is what I believe will cause problems with my fuel system.
5 to 10% water in your ethanol will only cause a problem if you mix it with gasoline. There are other methods of denaturing than gas.
thorian wrote:If I need to my brother has an Apexi Fuel computer that he is willing to lend me to adjust the fuel air mixture to keep the engine running properly.
You'll need to increase the amount of fuel coming out of the jets by about 40%.
Loquinho wrote:You might also want to look at frensel lenses as a way to heat up the still. You might still need some traditional energy, btu it should lower the cost quite a bit.
Theres some nifty diagrams for solar stills on the Journey to Forever site, they work pretty much like a freshwater still
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Blast » Fri Jun 13, 2008 5:04 pm

Loquinho wrote:You might also want to look at frensel lenses as a way to heat up the still. You might still need some traditional energy, btu it should lower the cost quite a bit.
I actually worked as a consultant on a project to use solar energy as the heat source for distilling alcohol for use in fuel. The problem with both fresnel lens or more passive solar heaters was you had to constantly be adjusting/refocusing the lens/hotbox to keep things hot enough. Fractional distillation is easy if you have a constant heat source, but if your heat source fluctuates your fractionalization goes to hell.

One thing that did help was to pre-concentrate the mash using solar stills like those shown in survival manuals. A large. black plastic tub was filled with ~10 gallons of mash (made by diluting vodka down to 14% alcohol with water, I loved my expense account), and in the center of the tub was glued a tall bucket. The top was covered with clear plastic sheeting that was sealed tightly along the edges but had a rock drooping the plastic down over the center bucket. The sun evaporated both water and alcohol which then condensed on the plastic sheet and slowly tricked into the bucket. I could double the alcohol concentration with these, but running this newly concentrated fluid through the system didn't improve it much more than that.

-Blast

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by DryGrain » Fri Jun 13, 2008 5:23 pm

Blast wrote:
Loquinho wrote:You might also want to look at frensel lenses as a way to heat up the still. You might still need some traditional energy, btu it should lower the cost quite a bit.
One thing that did help was to pre-concentrate the mash using solar stills like those shown in survival manuals. A large. black plastic tub was filled with ~10 gallons of mash (made by diluting vodka down to 14% alcohol with water, I loved my expense account), and in the center of the tub was glued a tall bucket. The top was covered with clear plastic sheeting that was sealed tightly along the edges but had a rock drooping the plastic down over the center bucket. The sun evaporated both water and alcohol which then condensed on the plastic sheet and slowly tricked into the bucket. I could double the alcohol concentration with these, but running this newly concentrated fluid through the system didn't improve it much more than that.

-Blast
What's the highest proof you think you could get using only a passive solar still?
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Blast » Fri Jun 13, 2008 9:14 pm

With the solar still I was only able to double the alcohol content. I started with 14% and was able to get it up to 28% as measured with a hydrometer. I would pour the mash in the outer container and let it sit in the Houston fall (Oct/Nov) sun. Each evening I would drain the collected liquor from the inner container.

Image
One of my solar alcohol stills. The water on top is rainwater. Leaving it there actually seemed to help speed up the still. I ended up giving these "pre-stills" to my lawncare guy who said he was going to bring them back to his village in Mexico to purify water.

Thorian, I dug up my copy of the plans that my neighbor used, but they are just crappy cell-phone pictures. However, detailed versions of a similar still can be found at http://www.moonshine-still.com/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The Mother Earth News has a lot of great information on making alcohol stills, including plans for several different solar pre-stills. Search for "Mother's Alcohol Fuel Seminar" and you find a nine-chapter pdf book on everything you need to know about home distillation of alcohol.

-Blast

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by pat » Fri Jun 13, 2008 9:17 pm

I've always been facinated with the idea. Problaby from all thoses
Twilight 2000 games. Here's a very ACTIVE group you might want to log onto.

Some of these guys are actualy doing what you are proposing.

http://tech.groups.yahoo.com/group/alco ... id=1137873" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Theres an other groups. Theses arent all doing for fuel but the principles are the same. Its even more active then the above.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Distillers/?yguid=1137873" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Check the link and file section in both list.

As for myself my Howtow library include : The Alaskan Bootleger Bible and : Making pure corn whiskey which you might find interesting.

http://www.amphora-society.com/books.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I got mine at Amazon.

You might also want to check the following:

http://distillers.tastylime.net/library/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


enjoy

pat

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Blast » Fri Jun 13, 2008 9:20 pm

Sorry DryGrain, I misread your question. Theoretically, I think an optimized solar still could make greater than 100-proof alcohol. Mine was running in the fall, though "fall" in Houston is still warm. Longer periods of sunshine would help, as would a constant removal of the product. A third thing that would help in my case was adding something to gentlly "thump" the plastic sheeting for a minute every half-hour. This caused the condensed droplets to flow down the plastic rather than just hang on to it. I tried rigging up a windmill thingy to do this but it never worked right.

-Blast

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by FelixArchon » Sat Jun 14, 2008 2:24 pm

I like that idea of running the mash through that solar still prior to distillation; if nothing else, that would remove particulate matter from the brew going into the full still. One of the notable problems with continuous-flow backyard stills is the build-up of crap in the column and the reboiler.

I've been considering trying some setup using solar or a fresnel lens for heat, but as Blast said, it's too hard to keep the temperature levels constant for a fractionating column. I've been meaning to try building a solar steam-generator, and using the resulting steam to heat a reboiler; that seems like a way to even out the flow of heat from a solar-powered device. Anyone ever try this?

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by NapTime » Sun Jun 15, 2008 3:27 pm

Just a thought, for those of you crunching the numbers, but another "cost" is your time spent keeping this going. It's a fun project (I've done some distillation myself), but in terms of if you can turn apples into fuel for the truck, you'd probably get a higher productivity when all is said and done (like FelixArchon said) just finding someone else who wants the apples, and buying gas with the money you make there. In my experience, there are a lot of things that can go wrong between apples and fuel, and if you lose some at each step along the way, you're going to fall a good ways short of your theoretical productivity. Best of luck though, if you do try this!

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by thorian » Mon Jun 16, 2008 10:13 am

How much do you get paid to watch TV, or play Video games, or surf the Internet. Some just choose to be productive with their spare time, And if this works well I don't have to worry about fuel, if it does not work well for fuel then I have a still for purifying water.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by evilpsych » Mon Jun 16, 2008 7:47 pm

Thorian,

Speaking from experience, your best result will be from a reflux still operating at near 100% reflux to get the purest highest proof product. Unfortunately, you probably won't get high enough proof alcohol for burning in a car engine (that last 5% is a bitch), however it would likely work for other applications (lamps/lanterns, heating, etc). For that you will need a molecular sieve to get that last little bit of water out, or utilize benzene or the like to push it past azeotrope and get closer to 100% alcohol.

I cannot recommend http://www.homedistiller.org" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; forums enough for a new distiller. I highly recommend the valved 'bokakob' inline design as it is relatively easy to understand and comes the closest to a practical fractionating column for a home-hobbyist.

Another recommendation is to avoid the propane heating (expensive in the long run), best bang for the buck is to use submerged 220v water heater elements in your boiler.

If you're considering making fuel at home, honestly, biodiesel is 10x easier with far less investment over time. Ethanol is a pipe-dream for large quantity production for fuel use.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by FelixArchon » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:08 pm

evilpsych wrote:If you're considering making fuel at home, honestly, biodiesel is 10x easier with far less investment over time. Ethanol is a pipe-dream for large quantity production for fuel use.

And why waste perfectly good ethanol by burning it?

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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by evilpsych » Tue Jun 17, 2008 6:19 pm

FelixArchon wrote:
evilpsych wrote:If you're considering making fuel at home, honestly, biodiesel is 10x easier with far less investment over time. Ethanol is a pipe-dream for large quantity production for fuel use.

And why waste perfectly good ethanol by burning it?
LOL. Good point. Like I said, it's extremely difficult for the homebrewer to come up with fuel grade ethanol. i recommend thorian spend time on the homedistiller site in the section for ethanol as fuel. It's a net-negative fuel-production process.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Jeriah » Wed Jun 18, 2008 6:02 pm

If it were me, I'd just brew (not distill) the apples into hard cider and then throw big parties when it was ready.

The project sounds interesting as an experiment in whether ethanol can be a viable alternative fuel, however, and may be a good idea...especially if you're less interested in getting rip-roarin' drunk all the time.
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by thorian » Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:21 am

I think Jeriah may have the right idea. Making apple sauce and selling it at the farmers market then using that money to buy gas may be the best bet. That and tossing a couple more hogs in the pen and tossing them the culls. I may experiment with a small pot still to see if I can make fuel for the alcohol stove.

That and making some cider for my self. MMMM
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Re: Home distillation of alcohol fuel (theory/experimentation)

Post by Jamie » Thu Jun 19, 2008 9:37 am

thorian wrote:I think Jeriah may have the right idea. Making apple sauce and selling it at the farmers market then using that money to buy gas may be the best bet. That and tossing a couple more hogs in the pen and tossing them the culls. I may experiment with a small pot still to see if I can make fuel for the alcohol stove.

That and making some cider for my self. MMMM
+1 to the above, and leftovers from the applesauce and cider could be used to heat up your compost pile...

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