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Biodiesel and sustainable energy…

One of our goals at Laurel Nest Yurts is to have a sustainable business.  There are many ways to do this, and using biodiesel is just one aspect of how we are making progress.  Our Yurtmobiles all run on biodiesel from Blue Ridge Biofuels (check out http://www.blueridgebiofuels.com)

Biodiesel refers to a vegetable oil- or animal fat-based diesel fuel. Biodiesel is typically made by chemically reacting fats (like veggie oil or animal fat) with alcohol.

Biodiesel is meant to be used in standard diesel engines and is thus different from the waste and vegetable oils used to fuel converted diesel engines. Biodiesel can be used alone, or blended with petrodiesel.

Usually, we use B100 in the summer and then when its colder outside we go with B50 or B20.  One of our trucks had 2 tanks, one was the biodiesel tank and the other was a grease tank.  Some of our friends have traveled by bus just on grease cross country! It’s the way to go.

Biodiesel has different solvent properties than petrodiesel, and will degrade natural rubber gaskets and hoses in vehicles (mostly vehicles manufactured before 1992), although these tend to wear out naturally and most likely will have already been replaced with FKM, which is nonreactive to biodiesel. Biodiesel has been known to break down deposits of residue in the fuel lines where petrodiesel has been used. As a result, fuel filters may become clogged with particulates if a quick transition to pure biodiesel is made. It is recommended to change the fuel filters on engines and heaters shortly after first switching to a biodiesel blend.

I found some interesting links about making biodiesel more sustainable.

First off, there’s one idea to use it for cleaning up the oil spill. (see http://www.biodieselmagazine.com/article.jsp?article_id=4281 for the whole article)

Some of the same innovators who produce biodiesel are hoping their product could soon be used in the Gulf of Mexico, cleaning up the beaches and marshes ravaged by the BP oil spill.  Methyl esters, the chemical yielded in biodiesel production, can be formulated into a biobased solvent that is federally listed as a shoreline washing agent for oil spill clean-up.
The process starts with crews spraying the biosolvent from shallow draft boats onto oil-covered marsh vegetation or small beaches normally unreachable by land, said Randall von Wedel, founder and principal biochemist of CytoCulture International, a company that pioneered the method in the 1990s.

Randall von Wedel has been working tirelessly to get his biodiesel-based solvent, CytoSol, approved for use in cleaning up the oil-soaked marshes and beaches in the Gulf Coast. PHOTO: CYTOCULTURE INTERNATIONAL

After the biosolvent is applied, it is followed with a gentle “rain” of seawater to rinse the dissolved petroleum mixture off the plants and shoreline for recovery on the water, using small mechanical skimmers.

Another more sustainable source for biodiesel is algae. Check out this article for more information about how they made biodiesel from pond scum…  http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2007/01/making-biofuel-from-pond-scum-47237

For industrial production, the researchers are designing enormous growing troughs, wider than two trucks side by side, as long as a football field, and grouped by the thousands around processing plants. In this way, Sears says, algae could supply all the U.S. diesel power on a fraction of the nation’s farmland, just one percent of the 400 million hectares now under cultivation.
“Actually we wouldn’t have to convert any of our arable land,” [Sears] observes. “We could use desert land to grow this algae. It doesn’t require good soil. Just flat land, carbon dioxide and sunlight.”
Carbon dioxide helps algae grow fast and fat, so the team plans to siphon it from fossil fuel power plant exhaust, which will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And Sears says there are other ways to get the gas. “It would actually start with biomass such as switch grass or wood, where in some countries are the only type of fuel that they have anyway. In that case, the grass, the trees, the wood is pulling the carbon dioxide out of the air, then we burn it as fuel and feed the carbon dioxide to the algae.”
He stresses that no carbon will be added to the atmosphere during all these energy conversion steps, making biofuel from algae is a truly carbon-neutral technology. “It’s essentially solar powered fuel.”
To conserve water, the growing troughs are sealed. The algae grows under a clear plastic lid that allows in plenty of sunlight, but keeps the water the plants are floating in from evaporating. “It is about 1,000 times more efficient to produce fuel from algae than it is from an irrigated crop,” Sears says. “There’s enough water even in the desert from natural rainfall to support this technology.”

How’s that for inspiring a sustainable, green energy?  There’s lots of articles online about making your own biodiesel from Waste Vegetable Oil and Algae… and the more of us that work towards a cleaner, greener earth, the better for all of us!

Thanks to the websites I used for the information! I pasted and paraphrased, and I encourage anyone who is interested to go to the links in this blog entry.

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yurtmanI live in a little sustainable minded yurt village in western NC near AshevilleView all posts by yurtman →