As a youth, I was very much into cars and airplanes. For most people my age, the automotive allure was with fast cars. Not me. I was into finely engineered cheap vehicles. My first car was a Volkswagen. It checked all the boxes: inexpensive to buy, superbly engineered, cheap to maintain and operate. In the 1970s, I discovered diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz cars. I’ve owned many of them and very few others in the years since. Mercedes also introduced me, indirectly, to the versatility of the diesel-powered vehicle. It will burn practically anything.
The wonders of diesel engines were driven home to me in the 1980s at the airport. I worked at a flying service that also sold aviation gasoline and jet fuel. Three trucks dispensed the fuel into aircraft. Each day, all three trucks plus the main storage tanks underwent a safety inspection that included draining their fuel sumps and checking for contaminants. Employees drained about three gallons of fuel from the various tanks every day. Pouring the liquid samples into the fuel truck or an aircraft was prohibited, so samples went into 55-gallon waste barrels behind the hangar. The company then paid a hazardous materials service to haul the waste fuel to a disposal facility periodically.
No chicken bones, just oil
I drove a Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan that was fueled with restaurant kitchen waste oil, carefully sifting out the chicken bones and French fries before pouring it into the tank. One day it occurred to me that because the Benz would run on anything, why not try the discarded jet fuel? After all, it’s nothing more than kerosene, a slightly refined relative of diesel. I rounded up a hand-crank pump and filled my tank. It worked. I’ve been experimenting with waste products as fuel ever since.
You can too.
Make your own diesel fuel out of plants
While I have addressed diesel fuel alternatives here, there are ways to make diesel fuel out of plants and other waste products, such as coal slag and wood biomass.
Others are making use of diesel fuels that they have made using varying degrees of sophistication. Here’s a story of a rancher who addressed his high-cost of diesel fuel by making his own out of vegetable oil.
There are also tax incentives involved in DIY diesel, due to the federal government’s efforts to promote alternatives to fossil fuels.
Restaurants, bars, aviation fixed-base operations (FBOs), grocery stores, bakeries are all businesses that are potential sources for fuel that can run, or be made to run, in your diesel engine.
(Note: Diesel engines new enough to require “Diesel Exhaust Fluids” may not be able to run on homemade biodiesel.)
Making your own diesel fuel, whether it be biodiesel or synthetic, will not only dramatically cut your RV fuel bill, but you will enjoy a good feeling from recycling waste, reducing reliance on petroleum and reducing America’s reliance on foreign oil.
“The second type of synthetic fuels, commonly referred to as Fischer-Tropsch liquids, use feedstock that can be converted directly into commercially viable liquid fuels, essentially skipping the syncrude step. The most common feedstocks used to produce Fischer-Tropsch synfuels include natural gas, coal and biomass (plants and plant waste). In F-T synthesis, the feedstock is subjected to very high heat — 1,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,037.7 degrees Celsius) or higher — and pressure to produce a mix of carbon monoxide and hydrogen called synthesis gas (or syngas) [source: Van Bibber]. This step of the process makes Fischer-Tropsch liquid fuels much cleaner than fuels produced from crude or syncrude. Impurities like heavy metals can be easily removed from the gasifier after the syngas is filtered out. Gases like carbon and sulfur can be filtered out so they don’t become pollutants when the fuel burns.”
More on this topic next Saturday.