grain alcohol fuel for oil burners?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
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    Columbia, Mo GO, TIGERS
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    896
    was reading an old late 70's manual on producing ethanol for fuel and the author states ethanol can be burned in oil burning appliances with no modification whatsoever. I am sceptical about that. Most of the book concerned low cost methods of fermentation and distillation, with some discussion of use as a motor vehicle fuel. That claim about oil burning appliances wasn't amplified or developed. Anyone ever tried it?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Central Kansas
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    1,145
    Problem with ethanol is a double edged sword. First, it is a very clean fuel. Next, as I am surrounded by corn farms, it is an added-value to crops for local farmers. The area fuel plants provide jobs for a number of families from technical to grunt labor.

    Now, as Paul Harvey would say, "the rest of the story". The Btu's required to produce ethanol from corn or grain sorghum for example is costly and exceed the Btu's produced in ethanol. There are three ethanol plants not too far from us. Two are set to expand to over 90 million gallons of fuel production per year, so these are not hobby production facilities. Even with their boilers overfired to +/- 125%, if it were not for subsidies, the costs to produce would outweigh the sales generated.

    Solar 'stills', once promoted in late 70's & early 80's are just not reliable. Once fermentation begins, you must maintain constant temps within a close tolerance. Therefore, some form of cheap fuels must be utilized. Besides, what a waste of alchol- just burning it, geeze!
    You can produce it from food scraps and almost any product containing sugars with varying degrees of success. However, you still need a reliable, cheap fuel source to make fermentation happen.

    Now, have you read recently about the hybrid fueled vehicls not being so 'clean' because of the energy needed to produce H2? Another tree-hugger's catch-22. There is a local guy who is experimenting with Hydrogen fueled lawn mowers and other small engines. Sounds like a bomb in the making to me, but I hear he may be onto something. That's another issue altogether.

    Seriosly, I am not knocking ethanol or alternate fuels by any means. In fact we normally use E-10 in our personal vehicles. I experimented with solar years ago in high school, college and later on with our first home. It's unfortunate the production efficency just isn't there yet for these clean alternate fuels. Greg

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2002
    Posts
    3,708
    Thats was a good read Greg..almost sounds like the old moonshine stills.

    I was watching a show the other night on this very subject
    and they made it sounds like the best thing to come along since slice bread.There was never a mention of the downside
    of it.

    Thanks for the info.







    [Edited by simpleman on 02-06-2005 at 01:36 PM]

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Location
    Central Kansas
    Posts
    1,145
    One thing I failed to mention. If you know anyone planning to hijack a semi or rail car load of ethanol for personal consumption- bad idea. It's transported with a 4% blend of gasolene in it to prevent that from happening.

    One of the facilities I know of does cogeneration along with a wheat gluten processing plant. They share steam and hot water for the various processes. And then 'waste' steam/hot water is piped through an electrical generation plant to preheat their boilers and generation engines in case a quick start up is called for (it's a small community's power plant for emergencies and back up generation only). Another plant passes warm water from the alcohol processing to a next door telupia (sp?) fish farm. These are some kind of tropical fish that thrive on the warm waters very popular with Vietnamese and other eastern cultures. Fish gain weight in a very efficient ratio compared to the amount they eat and are then sold for food. In the winter, some of the 'waste' warm water is also sent to water troughs in an adjacent beef feedlot. Helps the cattle gain weight and remain healthier in times of rough winter weather. I hear they are planning a greenhouse system to take waste water from the fish farm for growing vegetables in winter seasons. It should be rich in some plant nutrients (fish poo). This isn't 'tree hugging', just good economic use of so called waste energy and water by products. Greg

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2005
    Location
    Columbia, Mo GO, TIGERS
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    896
    it would seem that once one had acquired a batch of 'shine for fuel it could be expended for heating the enclosure in a controlled manner while fermenting the next batches. Their elegant solution to the problem of distillation was to use what were essentially gardeners' cold frames as solar powered stills. free energy upsets the standard calculations for energy return on energy invested, after all. They ganged the stills along a hillside, using simple piping and gravity to re-distill repeatedly increasing yield at every step. Making wood alcohol out of cellulose seems like a better idea, as the source material is more common and it isn't routinely used as foodstuff.
    I have to agree that the ballyhooed switch to a hydrogen economy is a bunch of hooey. Won't work, short of fusion power plants and a massive installation of infrastucture...
    hydrogen liquifies at temps near absolute zero and the molecules are so small they leak out the interstices of the storage containers. Remember the Hindenburg.
    http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net Funny how so many people around the world living above oil fields wake up in the morning and want to kill us. We, on the other hand, merely desire to make them free. Free of all that oil, that is.
    Well, that's off the topic of residential HVAC, to the extent that those who predict the power grid goes permanently dark in 20 years or so are wrong.

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