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  #1  
Old 09-17-2008, 11:41 AM
imakebiodiesel imakebiodiesel is offline
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Large scale ethanol production from waste products is well established both here in Europe and in the US but no one seems to be doing it on a small scale suited to a home brewer.
I have been making biodiesel for 2 years now and am very happy with it. I use only liquid oil for processing and keep the yellow grease for heating my workshop. See the topic "Military Heater for sale on Ebay" for details on how yellow grease can be used as a clean heating source. I have also been using the same burner to power my methanol recovery still.
Ive just built a larger still( 150 litres) which works from the same free heat source.
Im now looking into the possibility of using the still to produce ethanol from waste products that I can easily get locally. I can get large quantities of Cheese whey, waste bread products, spoiled fruit, all of which contain either fermentable sugars or convertible starches. Not only are they available but I would be paid to haul them away.
There is nothing new or especially difficult about the process, but what I need to devise is a system that is labour saving and convenient preferably that can be built from easily available materials, oil drums, standard plumbing etc.
Does anyone out there know of sources of information that might be of use to me or do you have any ideas or experience you might share.
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  #2  
Old 09-17-2008, 11:23 PM
Tim c cook Tim c cook is offline
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Does "small scale" mean just a few gallons a month or a few HUNDRED gallons a month?

A general web search for "make your own fuel" or "make E85 fuel" will find a lot of info.

This links to an old website about making ethanol for E85 fuel, it has a lot of interesting info but the originator of the page died a few years ago so it is not totally current.

Unfortunatly, this venture will likely be pretty labor intensive if using basic concepts. I Have seen basic legal commercial wisky stills that consist of nothing more than a couple of 10,000 gallon open topped steel tanks, vat strainers and filtering setup, pumps, old fire hose for plumbing, and a basic still.

Many local beer breweries give free tours of there breweries, these tours have given me many ideas into how those already producing ethanol have approached the process, the free beer tasting is a plus.

For any reasonable amount of ethanol production you are going to need a bit of space as you will have to mash at least 10 times as much fermentation fluid as the amount of ethanol you wish to produce. You are also going to have a LOT of yeast and left over feedstock glop to get rid of. My 5 gallon glass carboys of home brewed beer, wine, and mead produce a 2-3 inch deep layer of yeast, fermenting a few hundred gallons will grow a lot of yeast.

To start - It may be more conveniant to visit all your local pubs and such, even brewries. Collect all the waste drinks they pour out into there bar sink, or the couple gallons of old beer that gets dumped out of each returning beer keg. This would allow you to concentrate on the distillation of the ethanol rather than the fermentation.

What legal restrictions to distilling alcohol are in place in Ireland, Last I checked, here in the US we are restricted to less than 5000 gallons alcohol per year as hobby fuel distillers.
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  #3  
Old 09-18-2008, 09:03 AM
imakebiodiesel imakebiodiesel is offline
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Hello Tim, my aim is to produce enough ethanol to run a second car, a Volkswagen Polo or other small car. Based on a mileage of 20000 mile per year and 40 mpg Ill need about 10 imperial gals or 45 litres per week. This means processing 450 -500 litres of feed stock every week.

Ive looked at Robt Warrens site, in fact I have a copy of his still plans which are very good. My own still makes use of some of his ideas. I dont intend to run on E85. 170% proof ethanol is much more economical of energy and easier to make. It means converting the carburettor of the polo but that would not seem to be a big problem.
Ive looked carefully at how distilleries and breweries operate but their priorities are very different to someone making alcohol fuel. It was still worth the visit for the free whiskey.

My oil burner is capable of heating about 150 litres to a rolling boil but not more. The burner is really cheap $20 dollars on Ebay so I have bought 4. My idea at present is to have four steel 55gal oil drums, each with a burner mounted underneath. Each drum can serve as a cooker, a fermenter and a still depending on what lid is put onto it. The cooker lid would have a drill mounted mixer, the fermenter would have a cooling coil, a mixer and a fermentation lock, the still lid would have a reflux still head and a safety valve. This system should mean much less handling of feedstock, which as you say is a major problem.
I will should no problem with disposing of spent feedstock as a friend has a pig farm.

You idea of collecting waste drinks from pubs is a good one which I had not thought of before.I dont think I could get enough to produce all of my need but it would be a useful additive to the feedstock.
I have permission from the Revenue commissioners to operate a still producing denatured alcohol because of my methanol recovery. I dont know if there is a limit but Ill cross the bridge when I come to it. Thanks for your input.
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  #4  
Old 09-19-2008, 04:24 AM
Tim c cook Tim c cook is offline
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10 imperial gallons/week, that is going to take a good bit of time to boil a hundred gallons of wort, I would expect about three 8 hr days a week would have to be allowed for this, I would think it would take several hours just to get 50 gallons of the sugar water up to the boiling point, then several more hours per barrel for running the still?

I have been running my 500CC 12 HP riding lawn mower on E85 ethanol all this summer, very good results, considerably more power and uses less E85 than it did gasoline, the oil has also stayed MUCH cleaner. The only adjustment I made to the carborator was to slightly increase the main fuel jet, luckily this engine has a carborator with a main jet that is adjustable rather than replacable. I LIKE alcohol as vehicle fuel..

Sounds like you have thought this through enough to give it a go, you will be the leading experimenter on this concept, at least in this discussion group.

I don't quite understand the verious uses of the barrels, why does the fermenter need a cooling coil, the fermentation should proceed faster if it is warm, also don't understand the term "cooker" unless this is referring to boiling the fermented liquid. I hadn't thought of a stirrer, is this to keep the solids from settling during boiling as a still. I would have expected the fermentation liquid would have been poured of the solids before heating the liquid for distillation.

I have been thinking about this same sort of process mainly using mesquite beans for the feed stock (30% direct suger, no mashing time needed to convert starch to sugar), I have a couple acres of Arizona desert that is covered with mesquite bushes. Reading indicates about 300 gallons of ethanol/acre from these. Once I build the equipment it could just as easily be used with other feed stock.

I have been heating two buildings with vegoil drip heaters over the last two winters, one is a similar burner as the military ones but even simpler (discussion here). I could use this sort of burner or more likely I will fuel a simple "roarer" type pressure burner (bigger version of a Coalman camp stove burner) fueled with the ethanol, much claner burn and plenty of heat.

How do you intend to remove the spent feed stock from the barrels?
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  #5  
Old 09-19-2008, 11:05 AM
imakebiodiesel imakebiodiesel is offline
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For me time is not a big problem. Im in my workshop most days and the still or fermenter can be running in the background. I am concerned that the oil burner will take too long to bring 150 litres up to the boil. I may use an over the side immersion heater to boost the heat initially.

The cooker is to sterilize the cheese whey and to soften and break down the bakery waste. After boiling for 15 mins the cooling coil reduces the temperature quickly down to the temperature suitable for starch enzymes to work, then reduces again to the temp suitable for yeast. In larger vats the fermenting process can give off a lot of heat which can kill the yeast. I may need the cooling coil to keep the temperature under control. I wont know until I try a full sized batch.
I,ve read about mesquite but never seen it. In our climate Jerusalem Artichokes or Sugar beet would seem to be the best bet. I dont really want to get into growing my own feedstock as there seems to be so much waste material available. I recently made enquiries at food factory near me that makes oven ready french fries. They would be happy to let me have half a ton of potato skins a week!
I intend to braze a 2 or 3 inch pipe and valve to the bottom of each tank for easy emptying.
Small air cooled engines seem to work well with alcohol. Years ago I used to drive a Citroen 2CV Car with a 500cc twin cylinder engine. I bet it would run on alcohol no problem but it was slow I couldnt bear to drive one now.
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  #6  
Old 09-19-2008, 01:39 PM
imakebiodiesel imakebiodiesel is offline
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Here is a pic of my workshop stove. I start it on biodiesel for about an hour until the small tank on top heats up and melts the solid fat. Then I turn off the biodiesel and trickle feed the hot fat into the burner via a peristaltic dosing pump. It uses about 1 litre of fuel per hour and puts out about 10K watt of heat. I clean it once a week with a vacuum cleaner, 5 minute job.
Although liquid wvo is scarce around here, I only get just enough to fuel my car with biodiesel, I can get all the solid grease I want.
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  #7  
Old 11-22-2008, 02:49 PM
imakebiodiesel imakebiodiesel is offline
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Ive completed two trial runs with whey/bread waste and whey/potato waste. The first was much more sucessful. I achieved 33% fermentable sugars and 11% alcohol. The second had 17% sugars and is fermenting as we speak. I would expect only 7% alcohol.
If I can consistently achieve over 12% alcohol this is going to be feasable.
My batches will be 170 litres so each batch will yield about 20 litres of 85% pure ethanol. I have modified an old toyota corolla to run on this mixture of ethanol and water so hope to be running by Christmas.
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