To Do List for TBI

On our “Things to do once we get settled in” page, we wanted to establish a placeholder for goals, projects, and products we’d like to secure to make us a better company, or perhaps just because they sound like fun…

  1. Establish “oil for cake” program with farmers to provide an expeller press on site to press soy/canola at small farms. TBI will provide the press and diesel powered (of course) engine for the press, plus free fuel to run all diesel equipment on the farm.
  2. Develop Cold Weather blend for biodiesel to improve the pour point for B100 to be better than D2 petrodiesel.
  3. Research grant opportunities for testing for canola replacement of winter wheat in North Carolina.
  4. Establish composting and/or processing facility for glycerol co-product to maximize profit potential for glycerol.
  5. Establish a recycling program for used 55 Gallon Drums and IBCs for product storage and distribution.
  6. Work with NC biodiesel coops, farms, and other biodiesel producers to effectively lobby the NC legislature for a biodiesel tax holiday and other incentives for renewable fuels.
  7. Provide internship program for college students wishing to gain experience in a real biodiesel production facility.
  8. Establish a practical, automated, cost effective biodiesel production system design that can be duplicated by other businesses, colleges, and coops to make biodiesel in significant quantities.
  9. Research feasibility and grant opportunities for algae research as a feedstock oil resource and CO2 scrubber.

Progress Report Jan 19

Lots of progress this week.  Got three 1700 gallon storage tanks, new processor manifold installed, several feedstock sources secured, and methanol and catalyst sources firmed up. 

Established the online webstore this week as well and have all stocked (and some not) equipment and product listed, priced, and inventoried.   I’ll set the link on the main page once we’re ready to go live with the store. 


New Reactor Acquired

We acquired our new 900 gallon stainless steel jacketed processor today.  We will begin installing it this week, and once connected to the waste oil boiler to heat the jacket, we will be able to process up to four 900 gallon batches per day.

Biodiesel Glycerol Conversion to Anti-Freeze

–  In addition to topping off your gas tank with biodiesel, a new advance could let you fill your vehicle’s cooling system with a biomass-derived antifreeze. A new process developed at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) creates a valuable secondary product from the biodiesel manufacturing process that makes the production cycle both profitable and affordable.

Galen Suppes, chief science officer of the MU-based Renewable Alternatives, developed a process for converting glycerin, a byproduct of the biodiesel production process, into propylene glycol, which can be used as nontoxic antifreeze for automobiles. Suppes said the new propylene glycol product will meet every performance standard, is made from domestic soybeans and is nontoxic.

Suppes said this technology can reduce the cost of biodiesel production by as much as $0.40 per gallon of biodiesel. The market for propylene glycol already is established, with a billion pounds produced a year.

“The price of propylene glycol is quite high while glycerin’s price is low, so based on the low cost of feed stock and high value of propylene glycol, the process appears to be most profitable,” Suppes said. “The consumers want antifreeze that is both renewable and made from biomass rather than petroleum from which propylene glycol currently is produced.”

The creation of a valuable secondary product could help mainstream the use of biodiesel. In 2004, biodiesel producers sold 30 million gallons of fuel, up from 500,000 gallons in 1999. It’s still, however, a relatively niche fuel.

“At best, right now biodiesel production is only part of the solution,” Suppes said. “Current biodiesel production in the United States is about 0.03 billion gallons per year as compared to distillate fuel oil consumption of 57 billion gallons per year.”

Renewable Alternatives is currently licensing this technology to three biodiesel plants. The National Science Foundation and Missouri Soybean Farmers are helping to fund the research.

Methanol Recovery

My brain is literally overloaded with information about methanol recovery.  I’ve been researching stills, vacuum pumps, chillers, and testing methods until I’m just plain numb.  It’s a critical step in the overall process of making biodiesel, since we can recover between 30 – 50% of the methanol used.  At over $2.00 a gallon, that’s a significant savings.  Plus, since methanol is toxic, the EPA gets a little concerned if you just start pumping methanol vapors into the atmosphere.  Our biodiesel reactors are vaporless, so that’s not a concern, but we do want to get back as much methanol from the biodiesel and glycerol as possible. 

My initial attempt was to use a counterflow chiller made in my garage.  It worked, really well actually, but the energy required to heat the mixture until the methanol evaporated is too excessive.  That’s where the vacuum comes in, by lowering the boiling point.  I think Morgan and I have a pretty good idea for a working model to use at the scale-up plant using a combination of hot water heaters and vacuum pumps, but for large scale production, we’re still investigating options.  I’ll post pictures of the contraption(s) when I can. 


Production Continues

We’ve had great success with the pilot plant facility in generating some great looking biodiesel. The PH and Specific Gravity are right on, as appears to be the flash point. Can’t really check much else with the simple lab equipment we have right now, but so far, it looks like we’ve got a good handle on producing spec fuel that meets ASTM D-6751.

TBI B100 showing specific gravity of .88
TBI B100 showing specific gravity of .88

See Through Biodiesel

Made another 100 gallons today. Took my retain samples to test against, but just putting it in a beaker to start testing I had to stop and take a picture of it. This is about as good as it gets from WVO. Color is fine, clear as a bell, smells clean. A sample burned in the generator emanated that nice “french fry” smell that everyone always comments on about biodiesel. Actually, I think it smells a little more like egg rolls or tempura, since most of the oil we’re using comes from Asian restaurants. About 50% of the oil we get is rice bran oil. I didn’t even know you could get oil from rice bran, and it’s never listed in any documenation about oil composition, but it makes pretty good biodiesel. See for yourself.

Sample of B100 pulled from 12/10/2005 batch

Magnasol Wash

Tried making a small batch (35 gallons) by “washing” it with Magnesol instead of a water wash. It worked, but boy was I unprepared for the process of filtering the Magnesol out of the wash. The pump, filters (30 micron, 10 micron, 1 micron) were just pissed about having to filter this stuff, and kept clogging. For a small batch, I figured a whole house water filter with a 1/2 hp pump would get it. I was wrong. I finally got it all filtered, but it took several days, several filters, and several dozen temper tantrums.

Next try will be to load a high capacity sock filter with the magnesol in the sock. Coupled with a big pump, I’m hoping this will have better success. What’s Magnesol? See

Sample of B100 after being washed with Magnasol