View Full Version : Automotive Grade Alcohol
09-08-2005, 08:26 PM
How would one go about brewing this? Would anyone on this forum know? I'm interesting in starting, but aside from a fermenter and distiler have no IDea what other materials I would need, or the modifications I would have to make to my carberator.
09-08-2005, 08:47 PM
You need to be licenced by the feds. Years ago I had plans for a still and all the laws. You probably check with ATF.
09-08-2005, 08:54 PM
Any good moonshiner can tell you. Give you a few good hints on hiding it, too.
Never burn it, tho, gas is only 3 or 4 dollars a gallon. Good shine is 40.00 right now.
09-09-2005, 06:12 AM
Ethanol, either as an additive, or as a fuel in
its own right, is a problem in my view, rather
than a "solution" to anything. Let's stick to
the case of gas with added ethanol, and look
at the inherent problems.
1) Moisture - alcohol of any sort in the gas
means water is also present in your fuel. Not a
good thing. Alcohol in gasoline attracts water,
something you can test yourself with a few
breakers and a gram-accurate scale. (The water
will be absorbed, and the alcohol/gas mix will
weigh more after being exposed to high humidity.)
Many cars will simply stop running due to water
in the gasoline, as happened when Brazil
tried to become self-sufficient, adding more
ethanol to their gasoline.
2) Surface Tension - Alcohols have higher surface
tension than gasoline. Adding alcohol results in
more "fuel wash", removing lubricating oil from
the rings and walls. More fuel gets into the
crankcase when the gasoline has alcohol in it due
to surface tension, and rings wear faster due to
"washed" cylinder walls.
3) BTUs - A gallon of ethanol requires about
130,000 BTU to be made. But that gallon delivers
only about 76,000 BTU, according to the Cornell
4) Miles Per Gallon - Your MPGs go down when you
run on gas with ethanol added. Anyone who has
driven in Minnesota, and then driven the same
car back home to a state where gasoline is not
adulterated by mandate can see the difference.
Of course, you have to track MPGs, which takes
jotting down odometer readings and gallons of
fuel purchased, a slightly anal practice.
The farmers who produce the ethanol from corn do
not use ethanol in their tractors themselves,
because of lower MPGs, and the resulting
lower "miles per dollar".
My 1972 MG Midget can get over 40 MPG on regular
gas with no added ethanol. When ethanol is added,
the MPG drops by 25% to 40%. (Note that you have
to take the average of multiple tankfuls to get
an accurate idea of MPGs, as different pumps have
different stopping points for "full tank".) If
the mileage loss as a result of added ethanol
in gas was only 10%, then using 10% ethanol in
gas would imply zero reduction in net oil imports,
but as the mileage losses are greater than 10%,
use of ethanol in gas actually INCREASES the
amount of oil we must import, assuming that the
same miles are driven.
5) Pollution Per Mile - Ethanol does not lower
the pollution created by driving, due to the
lower MPGs, and the greater volume of hydrocarbons
that must be burned to travel the same distance.
Yes, their are less emissions PER GALLON, with
ethanol added, but this is swamped out by the
need to burn more gallons to get where you wanted
Minnesota will require gasoline to have 20%
ethanol in 2013. When massive numbers of cars
refuse to start in winter, the error will be
hard to deny, and the victory of politics over
engineering that is turning corn into "fuel"
rather than food will be exposed for the sham
that it is.
If you want better mileage, switch from a
160F thermostat to a 195F version, add
1 oz to 1.5 oz of acetone to each 10 gallons
of fuel, replace your plugs with the lowest
resistance plugs you can find (NGKs are good
ones to try, and also cheap) and swap those
spark plug wires out unless you remember when
you last replaced them.
If you are forced to run on ethanol-added fuel,
realize that you are now running much leaner
than intended, and without the acetone, you need
to richen the mixture just to put things back
where they were intended by the designer of your
09-09-2005, 06:41 AM
Minnesota has been operating on 10% ethanol for many years. During the transition, there was a lot of trouble with water causing the blend to seperate. The tank would have a layer of gasoline on the top and a layer of water/alcohol on the bottom. The engine would stall out. Bad news.
The problem was caused largely by old fuel tanks that contained water in the bottom of the tank. The stand pipe of a fuel tank is usually designed to not take fuel directly from the bottom of the tank to allow an area for sediment, water, etc to settle out. Once the tanks were cleaned, the problem nearly disappeared.
The type of pollution is also affected. Alcohol can decrease carbon monoxide emissions, but other types of pollutants can actually increase.
The requirement for ethanol in Minnesota is more of an attempt to prop up corn prices than a way to save fuel or prevent pollution, although there are those who will argue that it does both.
Personally, I believe it does save a little fuel, but not much. The btu balance is not in favor of ethanol, but if you also add in the feed value of the remaining proteins and oils, the overall energy balance is slightly positive -- but only slightly -- probably not enough to justify the over all investment.
If you want to make your own ethanol, it has to be dry. You will not likely be able to accomplish the needed water content without some complex, and expensive, seperation equipment. Once you get it dry, it isn't easy to keep it dry. You will probably have to clean any existing tanks that you want to use unless they are new.
The easiest way to increase fuel mileage is keep your tires inflated to the maximum level recommended by the tire maker and drive at, constant, reasonable speeds.
09-09-2005, 06:49 AM
I forgot to mention that blending alcohol was also found to increase the vapor pressure of the final blend.
You really ought to blend with gasoline that was refined specifically to be blended with alcohol or during hot weather you could have problems with vapor lock and during cold weather you could have problems with hard starting.
09-09-2005, 07:41 AM
Jim, good post, except...
<<The farmers who produce the ethanol from corn do
not use ethanol in their tractors themselves,
because of lower MPGs,...>>
Nope. They don't use ethanol because, for the most part, the tractors run on diesel.
09-09-2005, 08:20 AM
A btu is a btu. It can come from diesel, gasoline, or alcohol. It doens't matter. Energy is fungible.
Just because farmers don't burn alcohol doesn't mean they don't burn an equivalent amount of energy.
09-09-2005, 08:27 AM
>A gallon of ethanol requires about
130,000 BTU to be made. But that gallon delivers
only about 76,000 BTU, according to the Cornell
It would take a lot less BTU's to make if they would focus on an efficient system to use a solar distillery for a couple of stages before the final step up to 180 proof, but so far the distilleries are operating on subsidies from the government and have not had to be efficient.
09-09-2005, 08:34 AM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I always thought the cooler the heat, the higher the proof. Any temp. above the alcohol evaporation temp. starts evaporating the impurities.
09-09-2005, 09:21 AM
But you have less specific control of the heat with the solar still than with a burner of some sort.
09-09-2005, 11:05 AM
You could use solar to produce some of the heat. The process wouldn't really use less heat, but it would be less heat from petroleum. It would likely limit operation to times when the sun was shining.
Big commercial operations use a column condenser. It helps fine tune the process so the alcohol can be taken off at the most optimum temperature -- not too hot, not too cold.
09-09-2005, 01:40 PM
pssst....hillside...re-read my post. I didn't address BTU's...I simply pointed out that a DIESEL tractor will not run on ethanol. It will blow the engine up just like trying to run it on gasoline. A relatively smaller explosion, but not smaller enough to notice by observation...perhaps with measuring equipment...but either way the tractor would be either scrap or one big momma of a paperweight.
09-09-2005, 02:24 PM
Ah, so you were just pointing out a triviality. Sorry, I thought you were actually trying to make some kind of a point.
09-09-2005, 02:33 PM
> Nope. They don't use ethanol because, for the
> most part, the tractors run on diesel.
"Diesohol" exists. Diesel with ethanol added.
It certainly is not very popular, but it has
been available for some time in one form or
If you put "diesel +ethanol" into google, you
can read all about it.
09-09-2005, 02:51 PM
Jim...I prefer bio-diesel. I've been making my own for about a year and a half. It costs me about 70 cents/gal, requires a total work time of about two hours (over a two week period) to make a batch, the engine runs cleaner than diesel, lasts longer, doesn't screw with warranties, no power loss. Shoot, the only downside is ya gotta work hard not to get fat...you smell like a french fry going down the road and stay perpetually hungry.
09-09-2005, 04:07 PM
BB, How are you making yours, did you get one of those home refineries or have you devised your own. With #2 headed toward $3.00 a gallon I might like to make some here.
09-09-2005, 05:12 PM
BB please keep WVO under your hat!!! There is a limited supply of it and we don't want everyone to rush it. (tongue in cheek,,, kind of....)
09-09-2005, 05:14 PM
Bio-diesel is a better option than alcohol. The trouble is our small number of diesel vehicles as compared to the rest of the planet.
I drool at the options europeans have........ Something like 2/3 of their vehicles are diesel.
09-09-2005, 05:52 PM
Unfortunately, there have been some studies that have shown that the yield from current oil crops results in a situation where there isn't enough arable land in the US to supply bio-diesel for all automotive applications. The same problem occurs with alcohol from current crops. So it may work for some, but for everyone, it's not a good solution.
New plant oil sources could change that.
09-09-2005, 05:59 PM
I don't envy the europeans. The reason it is that way is gasoline there was about the same price for a litre as ours was for a gallon.
09-09-2005, 06:35 PM
Hillside: Unfortunately, there have been some studies that have shown that the yield from current oil crops results in a situation where there isn't enough arable land in the US to supply bio-diesel for all automotive applications.
I beleive that, but just think what a 50% reduction would do to our dependance on foreign oil. If we looked at all the alternative energies, and actually got some relief from our governement, we could make a difference. The new energy bill that was passed is almost a joke. We are not pushing alternatives enough. As long as their is big oil in the big house we probably won't.
09-09-2005, 06:45 PM
If a bullfrog......... tongue.gif
09-09-2005, 06:46 PM
I don't disagree with you at all.
We as a country should back off the idea of sending people to Mars, as exciting as that may seem, and put all that research power into new energy alternatives. I expect we could solve much of the problem within fifteen or twenty years.
09-09-2005, 06:46 PM
The big 3 and the oil companies buy any and all inventions that save more than a hundred yards per gallon, reduce car theft, or doesn't break easily.
Then they bury them deeper than the deepest oil well in Texas.
09-09-2005, 06:55 PM
09-09-2005, 07:03 PM
Hillside....... If you are looking for a single replacement for fossil fuels....... there isn't one.
It will take all of them. Kinda like IPM.
And we can go to Mars, and solve the energy issue.
With fossil fuel profits, coupled with control of our socio-economic and political systems, there has been little to zero reason to even look for alternatives.
Only when we scream in pain from high prices will things change, as they have in europe.
09-09-2005, 07:16 PM
Barry, you can spend 5K and get one of those little 40 gal units from, I believe, Nevada, or you can do like I do. I've got maybe 500 bucks in my set-up, make 250 gallons at a time, have 500 gallons of storage for waste veggie oil waiting to be made into diesel, and have 250 gallons of storage for the finished product. I make up a batch about every 3-4 weeks...basically when my on hand finished product goes under 50 gallons.
If you start making your own, remember it is WAAAAY cleaner than reg diesel, and besides burning cleaner, it acts as a detergent in your fuel system...first 2-3 tankfuls, change all fuel filters EVERY tankful or you'll wind up sitting on the side of the road cussing me and thinking I screwed up your truck.
70 cents a gal is WAAAAAY sweet...
09-09-2005, 07:54 PM
09-09-2005, 07:57 PM
I bet it could be done in about 5 years or less. Just think how we, as a country, ramped up for WWII. We need that same thinking here. We could do this if the government wanted this. Unfortunatley all the politicians are to "in bed" with big oil, and I mean both sides of the aisle!
09-10-2005, 06:09 AM
bubba what is your system that you use?
09-10-2005, 08:15 PM
I always liked buying the alcohol/gas blend in the winter as its real easy to get water in the gas tank and then it freezes and your stuck ...with the alcohol blend thats not a problem .....I never did notice any decrease in MPG and the engine runs cooler,less ping and wear and tear on the engine.This was driving an older high compression engine.
09-11-2005, 06:40 AM
George, I use a 500 gallon tank (like you see on a large construction site for fueling heavy equipment) that I salvaged for free from a farmer's field for waste veggie oil storage until I make it into diesel. After I pick up WVO from restaraunts I rough filter it (just to get out chunks...it doesn't have to be finely filtered) as I transfer it into this tank. I have this plumbed into 2 150 gallon stainless steel cone bottom tanks that have pumps that, depending on valve setting, can either recirculate for mixing, or can transfer to finished holding tank. Those tanks, including chemical proof pumps, I got from an auction of a closing photo lab for $100/ea. The methoxide is mixed in a 55 gal plastic drum I got for $15.00. The finished product is washed with a $30.00 aquarium air pump and an aquarium bubble stone. After the bio-diesel is mixed, washed, and aged for two weeks it is pumped into a 250 gallon cube-tainer, for storage, I picked up for $40.00. The finished product is pumped into my truck via a 12 volt pump like you see on the aforementioned construction site tank. They typically cost in the $350.00 range, but I found one used for $150.00. That's $435.00, and I probably have another $50.00 or so in assorted piping, fittings, etc.
BTW...I did some figuring, and with the rising cost of methanol, my costs are up to about a dollar a gallon. Shucks.
09-11-2005, 06:56 AM
A guy I know tells me there are three problems that the backyard chemist can run into while making this stuff from waste oil. I was wondering how you handle them.
Do you titrate for free fatty acids so you know exactly how much sodium methoxide to use or is there a rule of thumb that works well enough?
Do you make any attempt to remove water from the batch before reacting it? Apparently, waste frying oils can have enough in them to cause a lot of soap formation that reduces yield and can gum things up.
What do you do with the waste glycerine/soap crap that's left over? Apparently, depending on the oils that you use, this can be pretty ugly looking stuff. I would guess if it were further refined, it could be used for something.
09-11-2005, 07:32 AM
I titerate about half the time....most of my WVO comes from fast food chains, and they are on a pretty strict oil change schedule, and have pretty consistant business, so the oil is usually "used up" about the same across the board...but yes, I titerate occasionally to establish and maintain a baseline to work from.
I don't worry about water in the oil because I add, then remove, 20% water to the finished, but unwashed, product, to wash it with...any excess water is gotten rid of in the wash and there is not enough in the oil to start with to mess up the proportions.
I recover the glycerine, clean it up, and use it in my soaps that I sell the tourists.
Now if I could just find a way to easily and economically recover the unused=up methanol I'd get my costs under 50 cents a gallon.
09-11-2005, 09:48 AM
The process is called trans-esterification. There loads of web sites out there. As BB says your oil supply determines how much you have to do to the product.
Here's a site with a simple explanation of the process.
Here's a ready built system for those with more money than time.
In warmer climates you can burn filtered waste veg. oil without treating it at all. It involves simple valve system, a seperate tank with heating element. You start up with regular diesel, switch to french fry power, and when close to your destination, switch back to diesel to fill the system with diesel again.
"in warmer climates"
Couldn't us cold weather types add some type of immersion heater in the tank to heat keep the fry oil from coagulating?
09-11-2005, 05:06 PM
Joel...you'd have to heat the tank AND the lines or it would gel between the tank and the injector pump/injectors.
There are ready made systems, if you already have a two tank truck, that will allow you to do what Bruce suggested that cost around a thousand bucks...actually pretty cheap when you figure you save $1.75-2.50/gal, depending on where you live.
I just prefer to make my own BD and not have to remember to switch tanks on start up and shut down...I have a bad case of CRS, and from what I hear, starting up after a WVO only shutdown can be a bit of a...er...female dog.
09-11-2005, 05:26 PM
They have much cheaper systems that emply 6 gallon poly tanks that fit in your trunk with a imersed heater, heated lines, and heated filter. Last I checked they were like a bit less than $300.
See "The Fry Guys" system here......
Here's a way fancy kit for $795.00 for your 300TD.
But I'm with BB, making homebrew isn't rocket science and the product is superior.
CRS yeah, me too. heating th lines would be pretty involved. I would love to start getting off the grid more. This seems like the obvious place to start. I'm just a dunce when it comes to this kind of stuff. I can fix anything on my vehicle on the road but this sounds complicated. We're in that cycle where as the income goes up the expenses seen to expand accordingly. The other benefit to me would be that extra fuel I could carry on bee migration without the fear of flamabiltity and being able to avoid that ghetto gas station in the middle of the night off I-95. My asociate went to diesel but he bought new. He won't burn bio because he thinks it will (and it may) void his warranty. I look at it and say I spend 600-800 a month on fuel, not including the 4 months I make SC trips. Is really going to cause any likely problems my warranty would effect?
09-12-2005, 03:04 PM
Ford told me it didn't affect the warranty IF it's properly made...and when you go in for warranty work with bio you have 50-50 chance of a fuel sample being pulled. If my truck were under warranty I'd titerate every batch.
The service mgr at the local Ford dealer told me, off the record, that bio is MUCH easier on the engine and extends engine life dramatically.
09-12-2005, 03:30 PM
One of the problems with today's diesel fuels is that as they have removed sulphur from the fuel, the lubricity of the fuel has also decreased. This can be hard in injectors. The biodiesel is supposed to have very good lubricity which is very good for injectors and other engine parts.