Veggie Voyagers

Couple travelled 30 states and 3 Canadian provinces between 7/07 and 5/08 running their 1987 Ford truck on straight veggie oil. The blog continues with a focus on the natural world and energy politics from a personal perspective

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Processing Collected Vegetable Oil

In order to use our collected oil as fuel it must be cleaned or filtered and have ALL of the water removed. Any water in the fuel will destroy our fuel injector pump. Unfortunately, water in the fuel is hard to filter out because, unlike diesel fuel, water can be dissolved or emulsified in oil. The water –block fuel filters used in most diesel systems don’t work nearly as well for oil.

Fortunately, our modified Acme juicer can remove all of the dirt (larger than 1 micron) and all of the water (at least all I can detect with my crude “pan test”).

Working with a small group of veggie users on one of the straight vegetable oil (SVO) forums (www.biodiesel.infopop), I was able to modify an Acme juicer to transform it into a small but powerful centrifuge. (my posting name there is Bio-me). This is accomplished by sealing up the fine mesh holes that form the sides of the 7” diameter bowl that the raw fruit is normally fed into. Usually, the juice flows out through the mesh holes and the pulp stays trapped inside the bowl.
By sealing up the mesh holes with fiberglass resin, the dirt and water ( being heavier than oil) are trapped in the bowl but the lighter clean oil flows up the inner sides and out over the angled rim and down the drain spout ( where the juice used to exit).

In order to facilitate this centrifugal separation, I heat the oil to about 160 degrees F in a
2 ½ gal pot on a small propane stove. The oil is then transferred to a 5 gal cooler that sits on the top tray of a 5’ ladder. The juicer/centrifuge hangs inside the ladder and the clean oil flows down to another cooler on the ground below. The clean oil is then pumped directly to the veggie tank by a small 12v fuel pump.

I can process oil at a rate of 5 gal/hr. Since we have two 110 watt solar panels and two 6v golf cart batteries with a total of 220 amp hours capacity, we usually process 15 gals of oil at one time. The juicer uses 45 amps/hr (600 watts) and is run off a 1200 watt dc/ac inverter. With cleanup, the whole process consumes a good part of the morning. We try to find a good campsite (not in a campground) the night before, preferably with some privacy and a nice view.

Our whole setup is quite strange looking to passersby, and for all anyone knows we could be distilling whiskey or cooking meth. We did have one visit from a local sheriff, who did attentively approach, hand on holster, but he was friendly in the end. Now we have copies of the article to help inform visitors. Perhaps we’ll make up a sign.

One visitor we’ve yet to encounter, thanks to our vigilant Sasha’s barking, is the dreaded bear guest. I half jokingly refer to our rear racks, full of oil cans and spilt veggie, as the “bear buffet”.

We processed oil last week in Konkanee Glacier Park, miles up a logging/jeep road (there were no paved roads and few visitors). The area was full of bear scat and supposedly numerous grizzlies. We camped at the upper end of a beautiful valley at a remote trailhead below the glaciered peaks. It was just too nice to leave, so after a day hike we decided to stay another day to process oil. Fortunately, the bears were already full from stuffing themselves on thimble berries and didn’t seem interested in our Burger Hut oil.

It’s a really good feeling to have a full tank of clean veggie oil, a savings of $50-$60 in fuel costs, and another 225 miles of voyaging ahead.


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