Thursday, September 18, 2008

How to Winter-Proof Your Biodiesel

Once again the leaves are turning brown and the temperatures are dropping which means that it’s time to start thinking about the impact on your biodiesel. I’m going to show you the quick, cheap and easy ways to stay out of trouble with biodiesel this winter.

As you know oils and fats gel and eventually solidify as the temperature falls. The more saturated the fat the worse it is. So animal based fats (tallows) are going to fur up pretty quickly, and any gelling means that you won’t be able to drive until you raise the temperature of the fuel.

Our fellows in the veg-oil camp have gotten round this for years with a simple in line heater to raise the temperature around their secondary veg oil tank and fuel line. For sure you can do this if you are running on biodiesel and those of you in the coldest states will already have access to plug-in systems that keep your auto warm when the snow is good and thick on the ground.

For the rest of us I offer the following strategies:

  1. Start by making your biodiesel from canola oil (sometimes called rape-seed oil) as canola has a much better gel point than any other oil.
  2. DON’T mess about with methanol or paraffin as an additive, it’s just not worth the risk. I have tried concentrations up to 25% in the past with very patchy results at best.
  3. Start by adding 20% regular diesel to your fuel (if you normally run B100) as the temperature drops increasing steadily to 50% if it gets really cold.
  4. Use the soda bottle n jerry can trick below.
  5. Use a proprietary additive.

OK this may sound a little childish but this is the trick that I have used to stay out of trouble over winter. Every time I put a batch of biodiesel in my auto I half fill a clear soda bottle with the same batch and leave it by the drivers door. When I come out in the morning I take a look at the soda bottle and if there is any gelling in the bottle I know I need to take action.

In the trunk I keep a 2 gallon jerry can of the best petro diesel money can buy which I simply add to the tank if there is any sign of gel in the soda bottle. So far this has kept me running BUT if the gelling in the soda bottle is severe then simply adding any additive won’t solve the problem – so you have been warned start blending early in the season and watch those weather forecasts!

A number of good commercial additives exist including the following:

· Wintron Synergy (I have seen this one in action and can vouch that it works well down to -10C)

· Arctic Express Biodiesel Antigel – good for treating B20 down to -40F

Only you can decide whether the cost and fuss of mixing these in is worth the hassle to you – as always I will continue to take the easy route and just add regular diesel!

I wish you a happy fall and winter motoring season.

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