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JunktionFET

Biodiesel news in NC

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For several years now North Carolina has been one of the leaders in a quiet but growing Biodiesel revolution. Our state is largely composed of rural farmland outside of the major urban centers, and soy is one of the more popular crops (aside from tobacco) :) Thus there is a push in the state to become more self-sufficient in regards to Biodiesel production... the NC Grain Growers Cooperative has put a lot of effort into this.

Soybean oil can transesterfied into a product that can be used to fuel diesel engines in everything ranging from heavy equipment, trains, trucks, and automobiles. The fuel is 100% biodegradable, non-toxic, renewable, and it contains no sulfur. It is also naturally oxidized. This results in zero sulfur dioxide emissions, much lower HC, CO, and soot emissions, and it actually produces a pleasant odor at the exhaust pipe (much like unbuttered popcorn).

The process used to produce the fuel from vegetable oils is safe and the byproducts can be used for other products (like glycerin, etc). It goes without saying that this type of fuel reduces our dependency on foreign oil, if only just a little bit--it pumps that money back into our own economies (rural economies in this case!).

Anyway, it started out as a progressive-minded grassroots effort several years ago and has become more and more mainstream over time. There is still a long way to go, but the momentum has been very impressive. See this thread I created last year regarding the availability of Biodiesel at gas stations in the Triangle area. I still use it of course and it works extremely well.

Another popular source oil is what they call "Waste Vegetable Oil"--it comes from restaurants and such and makes excellent use of oil that would normally be wasted. I visited a small operation in Orange County last weekend which uses WVE, and I was very impressed with what I saw. Once properly transesterfied, WVE burns just like virgin soy-based fuel, and the smell isn't any different. My car seems to like the pure WVE-based biodiesel fuel as well :D

Today the use of the fuel (or at least a blend of it) can be found in most of the state's fleets, transit systems, Progress Energy verhicles, even the vehicles at the NC Zoo. See this link for a list of Biodiesel Grant awardees from two years ago. More can be found here. I know that information is old, but it illustrates how things have been moving along.

Additionally large volume facilities are being planned and/or coming online. One of them is in Pittsboro, which is about 25 miles from my house in Cary. Speaking of Pittsboro, their project is helping to solve a problem the town has had with waste water. They are getting the state to pay $3.1 million to partially fund a pipeline to carry treated waste water for use in a large facility growing soybeans--the fertile water will help yield a larger and healthier crop. See this link for more information on this resourceful idea.

Many more links on the subject can be found here, and don't forget to read through the Piedmont Biofuels website itself! :)

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Very interesting. I read somewhere a few years ago that they can also make diesel fuel from solid waste. Is there any truth from that?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Hmm, I'm not sure. That would be very cool if it were possible. A diesel or gasoline replacement would have to be a hydrocarbon of some sort of course, so the waste in question would also need to be an HC, or would have to react with something to become an HC at the very least.

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This is a very nice thread. I think that NC is prime for developing this industry. The stat really needs to find a replacement for tobacco growing and soybeans (or similar) for fuel migh be just the ticket. Its interesting that most of the car manufacturers are looking to expand their lineup to include more diesels, including diesel hybrids.

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Here is the website for the place I visited on sunday. It was fascinating because the person who runs the place also helps non-violent ex-cons get their life sorted out and back on track. He strikes me as a genuine person and I applaud his efforts. The link above gives a great synopsis. He is working towards getting a Biodiesel facility online and using it to employ such ex-cons to help them get back on their feet.

Also, here is an article on him and Biodiesel in The Independent Weekly

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So Norff, can anybody with a diesel engine in their car just fill their tank up with this stuff, or do you need any kind of modifications done to your car first? How much does a gallon of this stuff cost you? Would it be cheaper than regular diesel if it came into wholesale production? Sorry, I just didn't have time to click through all of the links to find out for myself.

Sounds like an unlimited resource waiting to be tapped.

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B20 Biodiesel at the gas station is priced the same as petroleum diesel. In Cary it is now $2.30 a gallon. For comparison regular unleaded is $2.12 and premum unleaded is $2.32 at this same station. B20 requires no modifications, even in very old diesels.

B100 Biodiesel is much more expensive. The reason for this is because of our federal government. The reason why we don't pay $6.00 a gallon for fuel in this country is because the feds heavily subsidizes petroleum.

And in fact the subsidy on gasoline specifically has increased, but not on diesel fuel. This is why diesel seems so much more expensive than gasoline now. In reality, if the subsidy on gasoline had not been increased, the price proportion would be about the same as it has always been in the past--diesel has always been just a little above or below the price of 87 octane gasoline.

Of course, we end up paying ~~$6.00 a gallon in the end thanks to our tax dollars.

Anyway, the government actually offers an incentive for fuel "blenders", that is, they cut a break on fuel that is up to 20% Biodiesel (B20). However our government offers zero subsidy for 100% Biodiesel (B100). As such, the going market price for B100 is around $3.20 to $3.50 a gallon. You'd be surprised at the number of people who will gladly pay that at every fill-up, I certainly was.

Apparently our government wants us to buy petroleum and they don't support the idea of independence from it. It is no matter, if you remove the subsidy, B100 Biodiesel is much cheaper per gallon than petroleum. And while Biodiesel is slowly dropping in price, I don't imagine gasoline will--petroleum deals with a finite resource that only extremely wealthy and powerful people have access to.

It would be nice if our government actively supported a technology that could pump volumes of money into our rural areas. But I guess those farmers aren't out buying the president a $2000 per plate dinner at a political extravaganza. :lol:

We have such a glut of WVE and virgin vegetable oil that most people in the industry expect to see Biodiesel "price wars" in the near future... bringing the price to perhaps below $2.00 a gallon, and that's without any help from the feds.

B100 can be used without any modifications in newer diesels (circa 1994 and newer), but older diesels need some tweaking. Vegetable oil based fuels dissolve natural rubber, so fuel lines and seals must be upgraded to newer synthethic materials. Sometime in the early-mid 1990s, most new diesel power cars were equipped with such hoses and seals. In fact, most gasoline cars were as well.

Re-hosing a 1980 VW Rabbit Diesel is no sweat. Not even an old Mercedes-Benz poses too much of a challenge to prepare for B100.

Though I don't recommend it, some people with these old school diesels have done no such modifications, and they just use a "Stanadyne" or "Power Service" brand diesel fuel additive in every tankful of B100. The additive helps lubricate and protect the rubber and seems to stop the vegetable oil from affecting it. I'm not sure about the long term effects on the rubber... but it is an interesting cheap solution nonetheless.

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I had no idea that our gasoline was subsidized like that. Although I have always wondered why diesel is usually more expensive than regular unleaded even though diesel requires less refining. That's weird then that our federal gov't subsidizes our gas only to have the states tax it. If I had a good-paying job (I'm still a student) then I'd have no problem shelling out $6.00 per gallon for the stuff, because you're paying for that subsidy anyway.

Could you imagine the political uproar in Texas if biodiesel suddenly took over petroleum. Raleigh would become the new Houston...

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wait, WHAT? the feds subsidize gas?! How does that work? They subsidize it and then tax it? No way. Fuel taxes are certainly low in the US, and driving as a mode of transportation is subsidized by various other less direct means, but I do not believe that there is anything even remotely like a federal gas subsidy in the US. There was that one time under Clinton where they dipped into the federal oil reserves, but I don't think that really amounted to a subsidy, per se.

Anyway, back to Biodiesel, last semester NCSU had a sort of "green energy" fair on the brickyard, and one day they had a bunch of eco-friendly cars there for people to take a look at. Some dealerships brought their brand new hybrids for us to gawk at, there was a Chevy S-10 that had been converted to electric power, and there was a guy who brought a 1980s Mercedes diesel that had been modified to run on waste vegetable oil. He had a pump and filter in his trunk, and evidently he'd go around to restaurants and ask them if he could have some of their grease. If they said "OK" (which they usually did) he'd stick the hose from the pump in the vat, and siphon away. The only modification to the car was a heat exchanger on the fuel line, so that the oil would atomize properly. He said that the car performed normally, and that the emissions should be cleaner than regular diesel. When I saw him driving off the car seemed to be putting out some white smoke (which is more obvious to the eye than the black stuff from diesel) but the quantity of smoke was no more than regular diesel and the odor wasn't altogether disgusting. Anyway, he said he'd not gone to a gas station for a very long time and it was saving him a lot of money. You gotta wonder if it would pass an emissions inspection, though...

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wait, WHAT? the feds subsidize gas?! How does that work? They subsidize it and then tax it? No way. Fuel taxes are certainly low in the US, and driving as a mode of transportation is subsidized by various other less direct means, but I do not believe that there is anything even remotely like a federal gas subsidy in the US.

Are you being sarcastic or for real? :lol: It's always so hard to tell in a written forum :P

Or maybe I didn't explain it very well? Well at any rate it's no secret of course, and it works perfectly (in the favor of oil companies that is). It comes out to nearly $20 billion annually in tax subsidies alone, not to mention the $100+ billion annually through various program and protection subsidies. When it's all added up and applied to how much gas an American buys in one year, the real price of gasoline is somewhere around $5 to $15 a gallon. That's with the existing gas tax that consumers are charged at the pump. I tend to think the $15 dollar estimate is a bit high, but I can believe $5-$7.

there was a guy who brought a 1980s Mercedes diesel that had been modified to run on waste vegetable oil. He had a pump and filter in his trunk, and evidently he'd go around to restaurants and ask them if he could have some of their grease...

...You gotta wonder if it would pass an emissions inspection, though...

The problem with running untransesterfied vegetable oil is that it contains compounds which cannot burn (or burn well) and it can really cause some issues down the road with carbon build up, ring seating, valve sealing, and even piston-to-valve clearance.

The white smoke and odd smell were probably from the aromatic and non-burning components of the WVE. Some people get by with no serious problems though. I'd wager the actual exhaust components from his car were still less harmful than with petroleum.

True fuel grade biodiesel burns nearly smokeless (much much less than petroleum diesel anyway), and the odor is not the "french fry" odor you hear about in stories of the guy who runs his Jetta on fryer grease :D

In fact with a new catalyzed and particulate-filtered diesel car, the exhaust odor is very benign and smoke is nonexistent. New diesels are quiet of course, and the combustion characteristics of good Biodiesel actually makes them run quieter and smoother.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but I really can't think of any disadvantages. It is as though vegetable oil was MADE to be used as fuel. Ironic since Rudolph Diesel's first engines (in the late 19th century) were designed to run on peanut oil. He designed his engine originally to be used by farmers and intended them to just grow and produce their own fuel. Hopefully we will come full circle in time :)

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The government also subsidizes gasoline in the sense that it spends billions of $$ building and maintaining roads and highways for cars instead of say putting some of those funds into rail networks.

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I already understand the indirect subsidy that comes out through road construction and maintenance.

However, I wasn't being sarcastic about the gasoline subsidy. Your original message made me think these subsidies were out in the open; now I see that they are insidious and hidden in that they are not direct subsidies to the consumer, but more like "business incentives" to the oil companies. And let us not forget the biggest drain on the country in the name of oil: wars in the middle east. Say what you want about spreading freedom and Saddam Hussein being a nasty guy; if Iraq didn't have oil, Hussein would have barely even been on the radar screen - much more like the atrocities happening in Rwanda and Sudan right now.

But at any rate, I would hold that all of these purported gas subsidies are convoluted and disputable, or else passenger rail advocates would already be making a LOT more noise about them. ;)

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Haha yeah, the government ends up molesting the consumer while dining with the oil industry. No one can deny that money and greed makes the world go 'round. Everyone better believe that our government's obsession with the middle east has more to do with oil (and the $$trillions associated with it) than anything else. Freedom is great and honorable, but it isn't profitable.

The gas subsidy business is complicated and multi-layered, but the information is no more or less difficult to come by than researching any other form of government spending/money "management" (if you can call it that :lol: ). Of course that really isn't saying much, as someone can spend forever and a day researching government spending and barely scratch the surface. :D

As far as passenger rail goes, remember that trains have always run on the same subsidized petroleum as automobiles and aircraft. If there were no subsidies, the price of train travel, automobile travel, and air travel would all increase (by quite a bit I might add). So gas subsidy or not, the train issue comes down to the same thing as always: Funds.

Of course, on second thought... I suppose if gasoline were $6 a gallon, more people would ride the train or some other form of mass transit, even if the fare was more expensive. :)

I'm certain rail advocates get quite livid when they see the huge quantity of cash that our government has thrown at the Airlines, I know I get mad for sure. Just imagine what our national rail system would be like if the train industry got that kind of money.

Speaking of trains--they run quite nice off of Biodiesel, and I can't think of a more eloquent application for the fuel :thumbsup:

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Thanks to the economy of scale associated with rail travel, the cost of fuel is only a small fraction of the cost of running a passenger rail system. In the case of Amtrak, the biggest costs are for crew (both operational and service), equipment maintenance, and payments to freight railroads for access to the ROW. Other significant expenses include station staff and facilities, as well as insurance required by indemnification agreements with the freight RR's. All in all, the costs for fuel are small - less than 10% of what it costs to run a diesel train. That cost drops even further when you're talking about an electric railroad. This is why trains would be much less affected by a sharp jump in fuel costs than any other form of transportation.

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Ive also heard Missouri is doing the same thing as eastern NC is with alternative fuel. As great as this solution is to bringing in competetion to lower prices hopefully, my main issue is, what abotu the long term effects of changing fuels? Will it be compatable as the traditional gasoline we've been using on existening cars?

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Ive also heard Missouri is doing the same thing as eastern NC is with alternative fuel. As great as this solution is to bringing in competetion to lower prices hopefully, my main issue is, what abotu the long term effects of changing fuels? Will it be compatable as the traditional gasoline we've been using on existening cars?

100% Biodiesel is no problem of course in newer diesel vehicles--in fact it is better for the engine overall. It has a clensing effect that keeps carbon deposits much lower than with petroleum diesel, and the fuel itself helps to lubricate the pumps and injectors more effectively than petroleum diesel.

^All of this so far applies to diesel engines.

Now, biofuels can also be applied to gasoline engines. Ethanol or blends of it can be used in slightly tweaked gasoline engines. Since it is vegetable based, any gasoline-engined car will need the same synthetic hoses and o-rings in the fuel system--again, not much of a concern for most newer cars.

Ethanol is often derived from corn oil, and almost all gasoline cars (even those from the 1970s and earlier) can run on E10, which is 10% Ethanol and 90% Gasoline. Because ethanol carries a higher octane rating, it can be blended with really low octane gasoline and thus produce a nominal overall octane using what is otherwise crappy gasoline. As such E10 ends up costing a little less to produce, and it uses less energy to produce.

So called Flex-Fuel-Vehicles (FFV) offered by certain manufacturers can run on E85, which is 85% Ethanol and 15% Gasoline. In order to run E85 in a non-prepped car, you must advance the ignition timing and tweak the fuel mixture curves a bit. The reason for this is the combustion characteristics are very different from gasoline, and gasoline engines operate with very specific variables (unlike a diesel engine which is much more forgiving).

It goes without saying that E100 would require further tweaks to the engine management, but the engine itself would run just fine. While Ethanol does give a higher octane rating (meaning it burns slower--smoother engine operation), and it does curb carbon buildup, etc... its chemical potential energy level is lower than petroleum. Therefore, a car burning Ethanol would get a little less fuel economy than with Gasoline. The difference in economy isn't huge by any means though.

If it means burning a fuel that is exclusively obtained from corn grown in the midwest (and I had a gasoline-engined car to use it in :D ), I would gladly use Ethanol.

I believe gas stations should start selling E10 as a matter of habit nationwide, perhaps exclusively--just to get people used to the idea of a biofuel blend. As I said above, E10 requires zero modifications on even old cars, and it uses 10% less petroleum per gallon.

E85 should be offered more as well. I believe it should become common to see an E85 pump at gas stations, and encourage people with FFVs to use it.

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