Energy Independence: On Farm Biodiesel Fuel Production

Energy Independence: On Farm Biodiesel Fuel Production


[ Noise ]>>A hundred years ago, we used
20 percent of our land base for fuel and that was
to feed the horses and today we still can use
20 percent of our land base for fuel but that’s
making biodiesel. So it’s kinda ironic that the
same percentages holds true today as it did over
a hundred years ago. [ Background Music ]>>Bringing the people
behind our food to life. [ Birds Chirping ] [ Background Noise ]>>We bought this farm,
my wife and I did in 1983. We were dairy farmers
my whole life. I sold the dairy cows six years
ago because of physical issues. You know, I’m milking
cows for 40 years. My knees pretty well had it
and I’ve always kinda dabbled in research a little bit. I did it with the dairy cows and I’ve always been a little
kinda anal with numbers. I like to keep in track of
stuff and the University of Vermont Extension
asked if I’d be interested in growing some canola
just to see if it’s something we could
grow here in Vermont. Heather Darby is the
agronomist that got the grant to do the oil studies and
what we’re studying is more, you know, what the
requirements are to be able to grow these different
crops here. So that’s were the
that’s where that– that SARE has really played
a big role in funding this so that we could
get those results so we can pass those
on to farmers. To be perfectly honest when I started doing
this six years ago, my goal was to grow this canola and we’ll have our
own canola meal and we’ll get some
oil out of it. Well it turned the
other way around. I mean we’re using the
oil as our main ingredient for growing the crop and then
the meal is a by-product. So we feed all the canola
meal and sunflower meal to the cows ’cause
it’s real high protein and it fits real
good in the ration and then the stock
that’s left in the field with the canola especially, we use that as a bedding
source for the cows. So that adds another value. So all of those considered, that’s why this on-farm
biodiesel production is so successful here. Canola and sunflowers are the
right crop for this region. I mean it works. We’re still doing some
research on, you know, the ideal variety
that does well here. Canola, we know that is
the highest yielder as far as oil per acre grown. Sunflower is a close second. We’re leaning more
towards sunflowers. Number one, I think is that they’re pretty
when they’re growing. I mean the neighbors love it
’cause the fields are so yellow and bright and you know,
you get gloomy days, people feel uplifted. Maybe psychologically
there’s a reason to do things. For us, it seems to be
they’re a little easier to harvest than the canola. I’m not saying canola is out of the question ’cause
we’re still doling some canola. And we’ve tried a little bit
of soybean but the yields are so low that it’s really
— it doesn’t fit for us. So we’re basically
concentrating more on the sunflowers and canola. Then the next step is making
sure that timing right is when we harvest it
so that the plant is at the right stage of harvest. The biggest problem was for us
to mold canola down into a swath like they do in the Dakotas
is we get a lot of rain and what we found is
when we did swathed, that the rain rotted the plant
when it was all mowed down and we were unable to harvest
it because it was so wet. So we found that just
letting it stand ripening on the stalk standing
worked better but we have to time it right so that
when the crop is ready to harvest we have be out
there because we’ll have a lot of field loss because
those seed pods on the canola shatter
real easily. So it’s a timing thing
more with the canola than it is an equipment thing. [Noise] There’s a
little difference in harvesting sunflowers
here ’cause we don’t have any equipment designed to do that. I mean it’s a regular
combine that we’ll use to harvest any kind of
grains, corn or whatever. We’ve put in like
sunflower fingers, is sunflower pans is what they
call for combines they use out at Midwest to do
thousands of acres. Well, and these old machines,
I mean if I could find somebody to make a set of these
sunflower fingers, it will probably cost 3,000
dollars and Jared [phonetic] and I– Jared works for me. We just sat there
and we figured, “Well we can do something.” You know, it cost us 15 dollars
to make these sunflower pans that we have and
they work fantastic. And we went through 3 or
4 different processes. We tried, thinking it
would work and it didn’t. So again I’m glad, you
know, that I was able to make those mistakes and
find something that works so that other farmers
can utilize that. So it’s fairly inexpensive. After it’s harvested
and then drying it and not getting it too dry. I mean one thing we can’t do is
get that oil seed too dry ’cause if you get it too dry then you
have trouble extracting the oil out of it. There’s aerators that are used to remove the moisture
out of the seed. So we have to have the moisture
at optimum, optimum level. The moisture level for it to
get optimal oil extraction for canola is 8, 9
percent moisture. We’ve had canola seed that
was down to 4 percent moisture and it’s almost virtually
impossible to get the oil out. And for sunflowers 10, 11,
12 percent moisture is ideal for sunflowers to get the
actual amount of oil out of ’em when you press the oil out. Something that– a lot of
people there aren’t into farming or even the ones are and
have never grown a grain or an oil seed is that
something we need is storage. You have to have something
that’s capable of drying and something that’s
capable, you know, something capable
to store it all in. We’ve done a lot of different
ways of storing the seed and there’s– if you’re a real
small scale, it’s fairly simple. We’ve used one ton tote bags
and put oil seed in that. For 120,000 dollars you can
get started and to put it in a processor and
everything and an oil press to press your oil and to
make all your own fuel. So that to me was
like, wow, you know. I mean that’s not very sexy. A million and a half
dollar digester is sexy but that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be sexy but
it’s economical and it works. Well, we use this is– and
we’ve got two oil pressers. That’s a Chinese press. This is European press. This whole thing is
gonna get hot for it to start getting the oil
out, the right, you know, the maximum amount of oil out. So as you’re running it,
the friction creates a heat. So by the time this gets
heated up, it’s gonna take 50 to 100 pounds of seed
to go through it. Then it starts getting
the maximum amount of oil. So there’s limitations to
it but 2,900 versus 15,000 and once this gets
going, you basically– you have to manually, you
know, keep the meal cleaned out and this– you’d get
a lot more meal come out through these disks. So it piles up here and you
have to manually clean that out. So there’s more manual
labor involved. The other one, you’d put
one ton tote over top of it. The gravity feeds– it takes
20 minutes then you walk away and you come back tomorrow and
it’s all gone, it’s all done. This one here you have to have
somebody manning it almost all the time. So that goes back to my 20,000
dollars worth of investment to make all your fuel. I mean you’d buy one of these. You can make all your fuel with
that and you can buy a processor for processing the oil. This system here because for
research purposes, was 17,000. I could have put a
system in fir 3500. That would make a 150
gallons of fuel a day. When winter time comes and we’re
done all harvesting all our other crops, we have a little
bit a lag time then we’ll just start pressing.>>These are the heaters. You wanna heat the press
up to 120 degrees roughly. That just warm up
the oils inside and helps it flow
through easier.>>In this system, what Jerry’s
[phonetic] doing right now is just that you wanna get
the oil to start flowing so I just put the crusher
on with a screwdriver just– or whatever you happen to have
in here then he’ll clean it out, the oil start flowing a little
bit then he’ll put a nozzle in there and you’ll
once the nozzle’s on, that the meal will
come out all confined, pressed into a pellet type
form and you need back pressure to hold that seed
in there long enough so that it squeezes the oil out
and then just the meal comes out which is left after the
oil has been extracted, so. [ Background Noise ]>>The oil, you see
that there’s specs in it but 24 hours basically that’ll
settle out and they don’t look like that once it’s settled. That’s without filtering it. So after we get done
pressing the oil seed, it’s all put into a container. Once a day we’ll take that
container and we’ll pump the oil into these 250-gallon totes and
this is where it’ll set for one to two months and give it
a sufficient time to settle out the fines that we’re
looking at a minute ago. The oil is taken from here
and it’s pumped out of this and it’s pumped in to here
and this is our processor for processing the
oil into biodiesel. We’ll do what we call a
titration test which checks for the fatty acids in the oil and it tells us how much sodium
hydroxide or methanol we need to get a reaction to remove
the glycerin out of it and then once we know
what each tote of oil, we’ll know what the
titration levels are, then we’ll just run it
through the processor and make our biodiesel. If you don’t have the recipe
right for making biodiesel, you end up making soap. For 50 gallons of vegetable
oil that’s put in here, there’s gonna be about
10 gallons of glycerin and that’s what’s left over after you make the
process for biodiesel. The glycerin will just open this
valve up and we’ll put a hose on here and the glycerin will
just put into a waste container. What’s left is biodiesel. Then the biodiesel is
pumped through the filters and then into a storage tank. After we’ve made our biodiesel, we put it in these containers
here then we bring it underneath this shade area ’cause
we wanna keep the fuel out of the direct sunlight to
keep it from breaking down, means from getting rancid. So we don’t wanna
run rancid fuels so we’d keep it shaded
at all times. Then we’d put this
pump into these tanks. It’s just a regular fuel pump. It could be used for either
biodiesel or for diesel fuel. After six years of doing the
research work, we’re trying to figure out what our
cost are and adding– putting everything together and
we’ve got some concrete numbers that it cost me a dollar and
70 a gallon to make biodiesel. It’s a dollar a gallon cheaper than what we can
buy our fuel for. We figure in the depreciation
cost of the equipment over a period of time and we
used the more expensive system to come up with the
dollar and 70 a gallon for production of biodiesel. So if I had to put in
a 3500-dollar system, then we would have depreciated
that out over a period of time to come up with the fuel cost and the fuel cost might have
been even less than that.>>So that’s pretty
easy to figure that it’s profitable
for us to do it. [ Background Noise ]>>And on this farm
here, I mean we’ll use about probably 5,000 gallons
a year ’cause we’ve got five diesel tractors, all
those run on biodiesel, everything that has
a diesel engine and that runs on biodiesel. I mean you’d take a vehicle
that burns diesel fuel and we put biodiesel on it
with no conversion or anything. Just instead of pumping
diesel fuel, you’re pumping biodiesel
into to your tank. Everybody I talked to that has
tried the biodiesel says their engine runs better than
they’ve ever seen ’em because biodiesel has
a lot more lubricity so it lubes the engine better. So it doesn’t– you don’t
have that diesel knock that people normally
hear in a diesel engine because it just runs
so much smoother. So there’s no question,
biodiesel is really good. The bad part is that people
have gotten a bad taste with biodiesel is because of
people trying to make biodiesel out of old, used vegetable oil. A lot of times there’ll be grit
or something in that old oil that can get in and affect
the fuel pumps and stuff. But running virgin vegetable
oil when we’re growing it here, we don’t have that problem. I love it. It’s just you’re out in the
field all day and smelling that old stinky diesel
fuel, that biodiesel smells like French fries all day along
but you don’t wanna be hungry when you’re out there
driving a tractor. It’s just so much more pleasant
working all day smelling French fries than it is
smelling sulfur. [ Background Noise ]>>Biodiesel is not
intended to use year-round. That’s one thing we have to
realize and that’s why it works so good here in the northeast, because in the winter time
we use very little fuel because we’re not
cropping the fields. I mean 90 percent of our
fuel is used in the summer. Biodiesel gels when it
gets to certain degree. 30, 35 degrees, you’re pushing
the limit on using biodiesel. So that’s the drawback. Self sufficiency, there’s
a lot of gratitude in that. It’s like eating
your own vegetables out of your garden you know. I mean it’s something
you’ve done yourself and I mean it’s good
for the environment. That’s– you know, that’s not
the main thing for doing it. With farmers, it’s
always economics. I mean everything has
gotta be economical. If it’s not, you can’t afford
to do it and it is economical. But there’s a lot of
satisfaction in knowing that, you know, it’s just nice
to be burning something in your vehicle that
you processed yourself. I mean who would have
thought, you know, 20 years ago somebody
asked me how– “I know you’re making your
own fuel, are you crazy?” I’m not a big rural company
but it’s something we can do. So there’s a lot of
satisfaction in that. [ Pause ] [ Noise]>>This video has been
made possible with funding from Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education, SARE.

43 thoughts on “Energy Independence: On Farm Biodiesel Fuel Production

  1. Way to go. I love it. I wish hemp were legal and wonder how hemp seed oil stacks up against sunflower oil. Too bad the government won't let farmers grow such a useful plant that don't even get anyone high. Sad. No, criminal on the part of the government.

  2. @dragon8me2 You can grow all the hemp you want in California. Just get a dealer's license for marijuana, get an interested farmer, a SARE grant, and let us know the results.

  3. @OGdank13 Hemp yields 38% the oil that sunflowers do. So, it would actually be much worse. But, if you insist on getting your fuel from psychotropic sources, opium poppies yield 122% the oil that sunflowers do, and they've got the pretty factor going for them as well.

  4. did the end cost also include some compensation for your labor – or only materials and equipment?

  5. Great video – To comments. % are important, but how easy a crop is to grow and harvest and where – what kind of soil requirements a crop need are just as important. If you can grow it in poor soil the benefits are much higher with less yield. The land has use value. Poor soil produces 0 to $100 per acre. Great soil is in the $1000's per acre. You have to value this in the COSTS of the fuel. A lot of things beside just lb to lb yields make it a good or bad crop. Independence is a factor too.

  6. The waste pellets that come out, are they useful as feed or perhaps burning in a pellet stove? Would they be a good mulch or compost?

  7. @kingsnoofer The pellets (meal) are used as a feed for the cattle – which was Roger's initial reason to try this (says around @1:50 ). The meal could also be used in compost, as a fertilizer.

  8. @CaptKelp Decades ago a portion of the farm was used to grow feed (fuel) for the plow horses and a similar amount of land is needed to fuel (feed) farm equipment. You also bring up a good point about land. When doing something like this, Roger highly recommended using your best soil, best land to grow the oilseed. Otherwise it may not be successful. Remember, you're not planting the entire farm in oilseed, just a percentage. I think self-sufficiency plays a big role here, too.

  9. Cookin' your right – I forgot that. And that reminds that farmers – a long time ago – use to take some of there land – when they were young and use it for retirement.. Where I was from – New England – they use to plant a grove of Black Walnut or some other rare wood and in 50 yrs when they were old – it was worth something .
    Captn'

  10. The original Diesel Engine developed by Rudolf Diesel was an engine fueled by
    vegetable oil!
    So your bringing the engine back to basics with Biodiesel!
    btw. the oil out of that press, is edible…

  11. That was amazing. I never knew that you can make your own fuel. It would make sense for people that use so much fuel. It is economical.

  12. I run my VW Jetta on 100% canola bio-diesel. Runs slick as a whistle.

    My parents farm canola seed, and run their VW Passat and ford F-350 on Bio-diesel. Those all run great. One winter we were having the toughest time getting an old blue ford tractor started. We put 100% bio-diesel in the tank with whatever was already in there, and it started right up.

  13. Because canola oil gels at a lower temperature than soybean oil and most other oils, it's the best for climates where it gets cold during the winter. All diesels will gel, even petroleum diesel. Mix in an anti-gel, or mix in winter petroleum diesel (which has anti-gel in it) and most any biodiesel won't have a problem.

    If you live in a warmer climate, biodiesel is all pretty much the same. Biodiesel from waste oil works fine for most people.

  14. Use of farm land to produce fuel to compete with fossil fuels is an economic disaster for the farmer. If fair trade with opec was established the money this farmer is saving producing his own fuel would dwarf compared to the money his crop could make on the open market. Photovoltaic cells are twice as efficient at solar energy conversion than plants. If he doesnt want to smell diesel fumes burn straight hydrogen produced by highvoltage pulse ionization of water vapor.

  15. "Photovoltaic cells are twice as efficient at solar energy conversion than plants."
    PVs require manufacturing, significant mining, produce massive amounts of polutants in manufacture and the installation is not exactly trivial.
    Plants are self-reproducing systems that require practically no high-tech knowledge to "install" – the cost per watt in plants are significantly lower even though efficiency is lower.
    Hydrogen from water vapor sourced by electrolysis would be prohibitively expensive.

  16. I am not the original commenter, but >
    hemp would yield fibre that could be used for bedding and other useful activities that would actually might make it worthwhile to plant/grow even though of the lower oil grown per acre….

  17. how many acres or sunflowers did you plant to support your diesel use on the farm? Did you have to plant a few seasons to build a surplus of fuel to fully be self sufficient? Do you sell any of your biodiesel or does that require permits. Do you need a permit to process your biodiesel. THis is great btw. awesome stuff

  18. Hydrogen is not as easily or safely stored as liquid fuels.
    Biofuels are not meant to compete with fossil fuels, but be an alternative when they deplete and cost rises

  19. I love biodiesel. I use 100% biodiesel (RME) in my Audi A2 1.2 TDI car from 2001. I get about 75 Miles to the gallon. When you are driving a car I would say that if you go below 13 degrees fahrenheit you should stick to ordinary diesel…but if you are above that temperature you're fine driving biodiesel in your car.

  20. Awesome Video and Awesome Job. When you were figuring the cost per gallon of your bio fuel did you include the cost of your labor? Thanks!

  21. Wonderful videos! Very informative! Would Roger be willing to share his information on his catch pans he had made? Size, material, shape, mounting….ect. We have a small seed oil business here in Wisconsin and are at the point of trying to growing our own sunflowers and using our own product. (YAHOOOO!) The last piece of the puzzle is harvesting. We purchased a Allis Chalmers pull type combine, and with the addition of pans it should accommodate us for now. Thank you

  22. If they added the waste vegetable oil by heating it for dewatering, filter it out down to 1 micron, then pump that dewatered filtered waste oil into their mixed feedstock, they'd have easily more fuel to use.

    Preheating the fuel going to the fuel pumps to around 120 degrees fahrenheit using the radiator's return line, using extra cooled egr, using sequential turbocharging, if they're idi adjusting their fuel injection pressures to around 165 bar, if they're direct injection adjust the pressure to 200-210 bar, and using the right injection timing for performance AND emissions would improve the miles per gallon, cut smoke down a HELL of a lot, and would still allow the engine to breathe.

  23. I love that . You are doing a wonderful project. What's the average percentage rate of oil extraction from your sunflower seeds and how much pure biodeisel you get from a gallon of filtered vergin oil ? Thanks and wish you and your team more energy

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