Wednesday, June 25, 2014

How To Make Combustible Fuels For Your Vehicles And Heaters

How To Make Combustible Fuels For Your Vehicles And Heaters

2950 Words

By Bill Gallagher

A lot of money and time has been spent in an attempt to hide the true facts about making your own fuels on the farm and in the shop.   The sole purpose of this report is to simplify the information about making fuels for the home laboratory and farm.  First, gasohol is really a red herring, a media distraction to keep reality far far away.  Gasohol is just regular gasoline mixed with Ethanol alcohol, usually 10% ethanol to 90% gasoline.  The making of ethanol is covered in depth at the end of this report, but it is the most difficult of all the combustible products to obtain and the least efficient for the time spent.  People are well familiar with the process of obtaining ethanol though, because it is the process of making liquor.  Production of ethanol for fuel also depletes human food stocks.

There are three things that must always be kept to the front of your mind when making fuels -- Safety, Cleanliness, Legality.  If you are not concerned about safety you will go about making some alcohol fuel and then one day -BANG!- its bye bye for you and your shop.  Cleanliness is stressed because this is a large part of safety too.  When dealing with chemicals and heat on larger scales all kinds of secretions concretions deposits subsidiary-reactions oxidations electrolysis and much much more are always going on, and if tubes get clogged and pressure builds its like a big old bomb going off.  Cleanliness in the fuels lab is your life.  Don't Forget.

The legality of making your own fuels is in constant flux.  Individual transportation has turned hyper costly, so government has become friendly towards production of combustible fuels in most ways.  The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) is the governing agency in America, and they provide a lot of free electronic and printed information on making your own fuels.  Find out what the laws are where you live and obey them and become active in changing them for your own good and for a less restrictive world.

To illustrate the true state of affairs and where priorities REALLY lie, BATF is mostly concerned that any alcohol you produce cannot be sold as liquor.  There you have it.   As for any other combustible fuels, ones that cannot be imbibed for fun and profit, BATF is not too concerned at all except in large quantities.  They will tell you what you need to know legally in order to go into the business of producing your own fuels on a small scale.



The easiest way to obtain combustible fuels for gasoline engines is by making charcoal.  In most processes a lot of the esters and other liquid emissions of the charcoal making are burned off as waste, they are directed back into the fire cooking the charcoal wood, but these emissions can be run through a cooling worm or otherwise filtered and a lot of good usable combustible fuel material is to be had.  It is dangerous, but it is all dangerous.  Make sure your vents and tubes never clog.  Collected as liquid many of the combustible materials will self separate.  Liquid Distillation will complete the process from there.  As an aside: Isomerizations in the cold realms are being achieved to render esters and tars from many types of biomass, and experimentation thus could very well lead to vast  biological sources of energy which are wasted at this time.

One very important invention concerning the use of your own fuel for transportation is called the Gasification Unit, and its been around almost as long as gasoline engines, you can literally run a gasoline engine on the vapors from burning charcoal and get anywhere from 25% to 60% power out of the motor by directing those vapors to the carburetor.

There were over a million gasification units used in Czechoslovakia alone during World War 2.  During and after World War 2, Japan literally ran on gasification units.  The gasification unit is a well made metal box that burns charcoal in the trunk of the vehicle and the collected vapors are forced via filtered tubing to the carburetor at the motor.  The charcoal gases given off are highly volatile and they work perfectly as a combustible fuel.   Fuel injection systems have to be modified to carburetion to utilize charcoal gasification units.

As its name implies, Pyrolysis is about using heat -- in the absence of air -- to break down materials, like wood, into other forms.  The making of charcoal is done with pyrolysis.  Pyrolysis is also one of the processes used to convert our wastes now at sanitation facilities, the end result of all unusable refuse is a dry crumbly burnable fuel.  Another name for pyrolysis is Destructive Distillation, used in production of coal gas, coke, and more.  Destructive distillation of water, with electricity, has created many interesting fuel possibilities, not least of which is Brown's Gas, the seemingly alchemical re-mixture of mono-atomic hydrogen and oxygen into a burnable fuel with very odd qualities, sometimes called the jewelers torch.

To make charcoal you fill heavy duty metal drums with wood and start a fire below the drum which slowly and methodically roasts off all liquids as dirty steam.  The outer drum is capped and air is not allowed in, only a positive pressure out.  The steam is collected as liquid, separately, leaving only the woods carbon and trace residues behind which can be burned as is, or concentrated (Recommended) by crushing and briquetting.  Methanol from the collected liquids is known as wood alcohol, the best trouble-free alcohol fuel you can get for gasoline engines, it can be run pure or mixed with regular gas in any degree.  Race cars the world over utilize a majority of methanol in their mixes.  Methanol is very poisonous though, and will migrate through skin, so rubber gloves and breathers are standard equipment.


The second best way to make and use combustible fuels is by changing all your equipment to the diesel engine, which will burn many types of oil pure, like hemp seed oil which it was initially developed for, and even waste vegetable oils once they are treated chemically.  Many choose this as the best, safest, most trouble free way to go, in fact. 

When testing waste vegetable oil (WVO) for contaminants, you have to get used to a little operation called titration, and you have to do it with every batch, but it will tell you things you need to know about the WVO so that you can add the right amount of chemicals (Methanol and Lye) to make the oil into fuel. 

If you get a big bunch of WVO you want to make into fuel, always start by straining it through cheesecloth, then finer mesh all the way down to paper filters, use a little heat like incandescent bulbs if you want, oil flows better that way.

Titration is a micro process whereby the ph of waste vegetable oil is measured, so that a known, larger amount of WVO can be treated.  Overall you are striving for a near neutral 7 PH in your finished diesel oil from WVO. 

Start by dissolving one gram of Red Devil Lye (NaOH) in one litre of water.  This is your Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) solution for titration.  Next dissolve one millilitre of strained WVO from your batch in 10 millilitres isopropyl alcohol.  This is your vegetable oil solution. With a millilitre eye dropper, drop the lye solution one drop at a time into the vegetable oil solution.

Check the ph on paper between every drop.

When the ph reaches 8-9 record the number of drops it took to raise the ph that high.  That is the number of grams  (+3.5 grams as catalyst) of Lye you will have to add PER LITRE  of waste vegetable oil.  If it took you 6 drops of lye solution to raise the ph of your wvo solution to 8-9, then you will add 6 + 3.5 grams PER LITRE of WVO.   So it is 9.5 grams of lye per litre of WVO in this example.  Not rocket science.

Next must be calculated the amount of methanol, wood alcohol, which needs to be added to the WVO to turn it into biodiesel.  Methanol is the 2nd largest ingredient in this process, beside the oil itself.  It usually falls between 15-20% of the WVO by mass, and its better to go slightly heavier on the methanol versus lighter.  The way to calculate is to weigh equal amounts of the methanol and the WVO, then calculate exactly what 15 and 20 % by mass is.  This overall process is called transesterification, and if you are transesterifying 100 litres of WVO, then you will use between 15 and 20 litres of methanol, wood alcohol, depending on the quality of your oil.  This requires another measurement  process as above,  whereby small amounts of the product are measured out and used determine the amount of methanol/lye mix it takes to bring the WVO to 7.0 PH or so.  The less methanol the better, but it is better to err on the heavy side when adding it to your mix. You must use small amounts of the wvo and small amounts of a premixed lye/methanol mix to get the correct measurements for every batch you do.

Again, very necessary, gloves, goggles, breather please.

The lye you calculated (9.5 grams per litre) is added to the methanol as weighed in correct amount, and mixed well.  That is called sodium methoxide and it gets warm while mixing.  This sodium methoxide is added to the WVO and agitated well for almost an hour, a good paint stirrer on a drill works, but do not let bubbles into it.  A barely discernible vortex at the center is what you want to see.  Add the lye/methanol mixture a little at a time while mixing for an hour or so, then let the drum set and cool, loosely covered, overnight.  Then cover well and let settle for some days in a warmer versus colder place.  This allows the soaps to coagulate and sink.  Get the liquid gold fuel from top of barrel via dipping or siphon, do not use any discolored stuff near bottom.  Good product has a ph around 7 and nearly clear, tinted light brown or gold.  Solids at the bottom of the barrel are compostable, discolored liquids can get further treated in next batches. 

Remember, when experimenting, start small so the mistakes are smaller, and take every precaution to keep from messing up equipment by running batches on little  motors first.  Hard starting in cold weather is one of the very few drawbacks of biodiesel but can be overcome by mixing with regular diesel fuel or creating specialized start feeds to the compression areas.


Natural Gases

There are many types of natural gas, gas like methane gets harnessed all over the world, especially on farms where manure and other refuse is readily available.  I have heard of a Chinese set up called a Methane Digestor where certain types of garbage are used as fuel and the methane then captured in bottles for use as fuel.  This is really clean usually.  Gaseous gases for fuel are  many times a lot easier to make than other gases, its just that the capture and pressure storage technology has to be there, or its useless.

Here is an interesting excerpt from an old chemistry book:

Water Gas: This is produced by the de-oxidation of steam by heated carbon (Coal)

C + H2O -> H2 arrowup + CO arrowup

This mixture of carbon monoxide and hydrogen is water gas, and is carried out by first setting the hard coal or coke on fire, and bringing it to a white heat by blowing a blast of air through it...the products of this burning are not collected.  The air is then shut off and blasts of steam substituted.  This causes the reaction to take place.  As soon as the coal has cooled to about 1000 C the steam is shut off and air is again blown through the coal.  A change from air to steam occurs about every 5 minutes, and the production of gas continues until the carbon is exhausted.  Both the carbon monoxide and hydrogen are combustible, and the mixture, Water Gas, which they form has a high heat value and burns with a smokeless flame.


Last but not least in this report on making combustible fuels is the information on making ethanol.  Any ethanol you make at home has to contain at least ten percent gasoline in it, which is called denaturing, so that it cannot be sold as liquor.

For the most part ethanol is produced by distilling the alcohol out of crushed liquid material which has been allowed to ferment.  Crushed liquid material means finely processed even shredded then strained juices with 20% or less of dissolved solids, from either the Sugar Group, or The Starch Group.

Even though there is yeast everywhere, and fermentation happens naturally, Brewers Yeast greatly facilitates the fermenting.  The brewer beasties eat whatever sugars are present in the crushed material, which is called The Mash or Wort, and they give off alcohol and carbon dioxide as by products.   Too many solids or sugars though and the yeast will over produce alcohol and kill themselves.  They got no brains, they are single celled.  10 to 15% alcohol production is the best you can hope for in any batch, more than that, the yeasts environment becomes terminally toxic.   Also higher heats will kill the yeast.

Always use distilled water when adding to the mash/wort.

The bubbles of carbon dioxide given off during the yeasts feast are a key to the fermentation process, which usually takes a week or longer.  When the bubbles stop, the fermenting is done, all the sugars have been converted to alcohol.  The solids will sink to the bottom, to be composted after the clear liquid is siphoned, ladeled, or poured off.  Always watch the cloth covered porcelain urn carefully.  Good tools are the Hydrometers which, through measurements of specific gravities of liquids, indicate many things to the distiller.  You will like to have several, to measure alcohol content, dissolved solids, and other things.   Knowing alkalinity and/or acidity, the ph of solutions and preparations, is also a very large part of making fuels.

Sugars are the definitive part of how much alcohol is produced in any fermentation situation, and even though some things like potatoes and grains do not have sugars available freely, they can be gotten to readily through a process called malting.  Starchy material is grinded or crushed or pulped and cooked in distilled water, brought just to boiling for about 15 minutes.  You will need a few good thermometers, dedicated, during the distillation of your ethanol fuel too.

Commercially available malt powder must be mixed in the ratio of 2.5 pounds of malt powder to one gallon of distilled water and is applied to the grinded and cooked starch material at the rate of 1 pound of malt powder per 10 pounds of starch material (Potatoes etc.).  2 to 5% of the calculated malt powder solution is added after boiling the mix for about 15 minutes, which is called premalting.  Don't overdo it.  Grain takes less premalting, other starches more.

After premalting, boil another 15 minutes, and let stand, stirring slowly on occasion, until the temp cools to 150 F, which is when the rest of the malt mix is added.  A balling hydrometer is used then to determine the dilution of this mix.  The amount of solids should be around 20%, 20 balling degrees.  Working quickly is a must when introducing the yeast, do it when the mash reaches 70-80 uniform degrees F.  Stir well during cool down, and often, because pockets of hot mash can kill the yeast.

After fermentation the clear liquid above the solid dregs at the bottom of the barrel gets siphoned, ladled, or poured off, then boiled in a still, and its good if the still has a reflux column.  If not it will make your job a lot harder, because it is through distilling multiple times, each batch over and over again, that you get the alcohol content up where it is possibly usable as fuel for an internal combustion engine.

The reflux column is a copper tube full of marbles with a thermometer at the top.  You may have to custom make it.  Keep your operating temperature at the top around 175F during distillation, any sharp deviation upward then shut it down.   The glass surfaces of the marbles in the column represent a much larger area than just the inside of the column itself, and they heat and cool accordingly.  This helps the alcohol vaporize better, and go over into the worm, while helping the water re-condense and fall back into the pot.   The Reflux Column tweaks the law of nature which makes distilling alcohol possible:  The boiling point of alcohol versus the boiling point of water.  Alcohol goes gaseous at about 173 F, water around 212 F at sea level.  Alcohol is easily separable from water with just heat except in a very pure form.  There will always be some water in a distilled ethanol product.

Which is why, as a final step in the production of our ethanol fuel additive to make gasohol, one must DRY the ethanol fuel product with lime powder.  Yes, at the very end of ethanol production,  another hydrometer measurement and calculation needs to be made concerning the amount of water in your ethanol, so that 10 pounds of powdered lime per one quart of perceived water gets added to the product and it will combine with the water and dry the alcohol so it is usable as fuel for motors.  The lime selectively binds with water and settles to the bottom of the barrel.  If you are making heater fuel some water, as much as 5% even, is not a problem.

An important thing to look out for when distilling ethanol is incomplete fermentation, whereby there are still sugars present during distillation.  This will more quickly clog the works and cause trouble all the way down the line.


Some of the recipes below were developed by the Germans during wartime.  They are all good viable fuel extender recipes for internal combustion engines.

Gasoline: 60 parts

Alcohol or benzene: 20 parts

Acetone: 20 parts

Gasoline: 85 parts

Methanol (Wood Alcohol): 15 parts

Gasoline: 70 parts

Benzol: 20 parts

Methyl formate: 10 parts

Methanol: 50 parts

Acetal: 25 parts

Gasoline: 25 parts

(Additives Required)


Anhydrous (Without Water, Dried) Ethanol, or Methanol: 91.8 parts

Benzine: 8.2 parts



How to Legally Distill Alcohol Fuel For Your Car And Oil Burner

Copyright John Sheehan 1980

JGS INC Merrifield VA


A Technical Memorandum

Congress Of The United States, Office of Technology Assessment

Septemeber 1979



Thomas R. Reed, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lincoln Laboratory, Lexington, Ma. 02173

Alcohol Magic

Bill Gallagher

Johnny Blackwell

Copyright 2001

First Principles Of Chemistry

Brownlee Fuller Hancock Sohon Whitsit

1937 Edition

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