Permit to produce your own alcohol fuel

Posted in General at 11:18 am by Dennis Brown

I have been doing a little research this week regarding alcohol. The purpose is two fold, for both in use to produce biodiesel and for as a gas additive in regular gasoline engines. You can use either methanol or ethanol for making biodiesel, and each has their advantages and disadvantages.

Methyl alcohol (methanol, or wood alcohol) is cheap, it takes a little less of it to make biodiesel, and it can purchased anywhere that sells racing fuel. The down side is that it is a bit harder to work due to the fact that when it burns the flame is totally invisible, and it is very poisonous. Ethyl alcohol (ethanol, or “corn liquor”) costs more to produce and is not as efficient when making biodiesel, but is easier to handle and is much less toxic. Another advantage is that it is pretty easy to make your own ethanol using copper tubing, pot, etc.

Of course, you can’t just put up a still without taking to the governement first. You can start your alcohol quest at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. My understanding is that if you are making alcohol for fuel use ONLY and will make 10,000 proof gallons or less per year (just over 5000 gallons at 190 proof), the permit process isn’t that difficult. You have to mix ethanol with something to make it unfit to drink in order to transport it legally, such as 2% gasoline, and I think you can mix it with methanol in a higher concentration. Basically, if you make it AND transport it off premise, you have to make it undrinkable. If you are using it only for making biodiesel onsite or blend it onsite with gasoline, then it isn’t a problem.

The main reason that I have been looking into ethanol instead of methanol is that I am moving to a home that is on a lake, and in case of a spill, ethanol wouldn’t cause a health issue. Drunk fish, maybe, but not poisoned. (We are talking about small quantities here, no more than 10-20 gallons at a time being stored). Another reason is economics, as buying ethanol is expensive, but it is pretty cheap to produce. We are talking about a still, just like the bootleggers use, except with the permission of the BATF so no one goes to jail. This isn’t a necessary step to make biodiesel, but is just one I am considering.

Another benefit of producing ethanol is that it can be blended with regular gas in the vehicles I have. Diesel cars are difficult to find used right now, but many cars can use E85 right now. Just blend 15% gas with 85% home distilled corn liquor and go. So distilling could have two major benefits. And besides, who hasn’t thought about setting up a still? :) And no, I woundn’t drink the stuff. First, that would be illegal, and second, I’m kinda picky about my adult beverages, being more of a social Scotch drinker. Both methanol and ethanol can be distilled and mixed with gas at about 10%-15% for any car made in the decade.

From reading the regulations, it appears that alcohol produced in a properly licensed facility (which could be your back yard) is NOT subject to any tax, as long as you are producing less than 10,000 proof gallon annually. (I am not a lawyer, you should read it using the above link before proceeding…) You can view the actual permit application here.

According to the site, calculating proof gallons is done using:
One gallon = The liquid measure equivalent to the volume of 231 cubic inches.
Proof = The ethyl alcohol content of a liquid at 60 degrees Fahrenheit, stated as twice the percent of ethyl alcohol by volume.

Proof gallon = A gallon of liquid at 60 degrees Fahrenheit which contains 50 percent by volume of ethyl alcohol having a specific gravity of 0.7939 at 60 degrees Fahrenheit referred to water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit as unity, or the alcoholic equivalent thereof.

This works about to approximately 1 gallon of 190 proof (95%) ethanol = 1.9 Proof Gallons. That means 5263 gallons of 190 proof per year before you have to pay taxes. That will make 6052 gallons of E85, which is more than 16 gallons per day. This would also make an even larger amount of biodiesel, or both.

If any of you are currently making your own alcohol for fuel use (legal or otherwise…) please email me and let me know. I may do an article about how to setup a still (legally) in the future. I will be gone next week visiting family in Texas, so it may be a while before the next post. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!


Quick look at biodiesel in California and Europe

Posted in General at 7:02 am by Dennis Brown

I am working on a rather large article that covers an entire county in Iowa, thanks to an email from a visitor, but until then, I found an interesting website that answers a lot of questions I had about biodiesel, such as “Can I use biodiesel in a kerosene heater?” (answer: it is a bit thick, you probably need to blend it with kerosene and experiment to get the right blend). The FAQ page can be found at http://www.ybiofuels.org/bio_fuels/FAQResources.html.

The company is called Yokayo Biofuels, in Ukiah, CA. and they make and sell biodiesel. They show prices for biodiesel at $3.85 (including CA tax) or $3.35 for farm use, although these obviously change from time to time. It is worth noting that California doesn’t give ANY breaks for biodiesel use and taxes it at the same rate as petrodiesel. Ironic coming from the state that preaches “green”, not puting its money where its mouth is.

On another note, I was reading an article at http://www.gulfnews.com/business/Oil_and_Gas/10079963.html that raised an interesting point. Europe is also trying to increase their biodiesel production four fold in the next 3 years, “However, in order to meet the expected future increase in output, Rahkamo said Europe will have to look to importing feedstock from outside the region.” This means opportunity for American farmers and entrepreneurs, although most of the imports are expected to be from Asia and South America.