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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Diesel engines are pretty cool. They make you feel like you’re a member of some kind of club. You get your own little island at the gas station in many cases, and an added bonus for us New Jerseyans and Oregonians is that we actually get to pump our own fuel! Our trucks have that unmistakable diesel clatter, turbo whine, diesel smell, and of course gobs of torque. Along with the diesel mystique comes the ability to run more than one kind of fuel. Gassers are limited to, well, gas, and maybe ethanol in some cases, but if you have a gasoline car the fact of the matter is there are very few things that you can put in it that will make it run besides gasoline. The rumors, half truths, etc… swirl around other fuels for diesels besides # 2, so I’ll attempt to give the straight dope on them here. Please note that this is “Powerstroke-centric” advice, so we’ll be focusing on Powerstrokes, not diesels in general.

BIODIESEL – Biodiesel is probably getting the most press out of any alternative fuel right now. I’m not going to attempt to explain how biodiesel is made or anything like that (for information of that nature check out Biodiesel & SVO Forums Home - Powered by eve community ), I’ll just present the facts. Right now I’m running B20 in my truck that is produced locally through a co-op arrangement which I contribute to by helping collect feedstock (waste oil from deep fat fryers), processing it, and chipping in for supplies such as chemicals, filters, etc…

First and foremost let me dispel the most popular misconception about biodiesel-IT IS NOT AS SIMPLE AS DUMPING WASTE OIL INTO YOUR TRUCK OR “THINNING IT” WITH GASOLINE, ETC… I will discuss using straight vegetable oil, or SVO, which requires extensive modifications to your vehicle later, but we’re talking about biodiesel right now. Biodiesel is vegetable (any kind of plant oil really, but soy and canola or rapeseed are the most common) oil that has been chemically converted through a process called “transesterfication” in order to turn the oil into a fuel that “behaves” like diesel fuel. Again, I’m not going to go into how this is done, but once the fuel has been converted it works the same as diesel fuel with a few exceptions. First, biodiesel gels at higher temperatures (anywhere from 30 to 50 degrees) than petroleum diesel. This depends largely on the feedstock used (canola vs. soy/new vs. used), but this can be combated in a number of ways:

Mixing with petroleum diesel – This is the most common way. Above, I mentioned running “B20” which means the fuel I put into my truck is 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum diesel. This is usually the highest concentration you can find at a commercial pump as well. Many times you will only be able to find B5, or 5% biodiesel, which is the most that manufacturers (including Ford) will allow for use in their engines without voiding the warranty. So basically If you were using B20 and had a catastrophic engine failure before 100K and tried to make a warranty claim, chances are it would be denied if the dealer could prove that you were using more than 5% biodiesel at the time. Although there have been hundreds of independent studies showing that B100 can be used without problems in just about any kind of diesel engine, this is the case with basically all manufacturers at this point. Anyway, getting back to the B20 blend I use, others who have used this mixture from the same source have reported no problems through the single digit temperatures we had a few months ago, although everyone was careful to use the recommended dosage of Power Service in the white bottle at every fillup. Also, Power Service does state that they have approved their additives for use in fuel mixtures up to B20. As the weather gets warmer I plan to increase the ratio of biodiesel to petroleum diesel, but I would be hesitant to go past B80 because you never know when you’ll get a chilly night in the northeast.

Mixing with kerosene – The same principle applies here as kerosene is often used as an anti-gel for regular diesel that hasn’t been otherwise “winterized” with anti-gel additives. One caveat is that kerosene is often untaxed (although clear kerosene can be obtained in some locations) and therefore dyed red to denote off road use only, which we’ll talk about later.

Mixing with an anti-gel additive – This is sort of uncharted territory for anywhere outside of subtropical climes. There isn’t much evidence out there to prove that B100 responds well or the same as petroleum diesel to a dose of Power Service or any other fuel additive. If you live in Hawaii, go for it, if not, stick to blending with diesel or kerosene.

Sources of biodiesel tend to be another big question. From what I’ve read, commercially produced, taxed, ASTM certified biodiesel is getting easier to find in the Midwest every day. Here in the Northeast however, we rely on either ordering it in large quantities from elsewhere or making it ourselves. If you’re buying biodiesel at the pump you can breathe easy, because anything sold commercially has to meet rigorous government standards, just as any motor fuel would, and it will run in any diesel vehicle with no problems whatsoever. There are no vehicles that were “made for biodiesel” or other vehicles that “don’t respond well to biodiesel,” (ie: 6.0L vs. 7.3L) it all depends on the quality of the fuel. I have NEVER read a report of good quality biodiesel damaging an engine, however, I have heard of poorly made biodiesel damaging PLENTY of engines. If you’re making it yourself or buying it from a co-op arrangement, you need to CYA. Using underprocessed, poorly made, or otherwise substandard fuel WILL DAMAGE YOUR ENGINE. Again, refer to the aforementioned site and it will give you all the information you need on processing techniques, quality testing, etc… One final thing you do need to watch out for, especially in older trucks is the solvent properties of biodiesel. On pre ’00 trucks the rubber components of the fuel system may swell and eventually leak because biodiesel can “eat” certain kinds of rubber. Newer fuel systems are usually made with viton rubber and won’t have this problem. Also, biodiesel will wash the gunk off the walls of your tank which will then find its way into your fuel filter, clogging it completely and leaving you on the side of the road. Keeping an extra fuel filter or two behind the seat when running through those first two tanks or so of biodiesel is cheap insurance-once one clogs up just pop in a new one and go. Once the gunk is gone the problem will disappear.

Finally, once you are using biodiesel that is of good quality you can rest easy because:
-Biodiesel has higher cetane values than petroleum diesel.
-Your engine will run smoother and quieter because biodiesel has MUCH higher lubricity than even low sulfur diesel.
- Biodiesel will also keep your fuel system from drying out when blended with ULSD.
-Your exhaust won’t smell AS bad or make as much black smoke.
-You’ll be using a domestic, sustainable fuel that puts money in the pocket of the American farmer.

STRAIGHT VEGETABLE OIL – Otherwise known as SVO. Straight vegetable oil is just that, vegetable oil that has not been CHEMICALLY changed or treated in any way. However, just as with biodiesel, you can’t just empty the fryer into the tank and go. As with biodiesel I won’t go into great detail because that’s not why we’re here, but I will say that you need to take steps to ensure that the oil is free of water and filtered to at least 5 microns before it ever sees your fuel tank. That brings us to the fundamental difference between running biodiesel and SVO. As our good pal Clay Henry has told us, “with biodiesel you change the fuel, with SVO you change the vehicle.” You see, once SVO is clean and water free it is still too thick (at room temperature) to be effectively shot through an injector in a good spray pattern (think about trying to squirt cold vegetable oil through a spray bottle) and burned well. This can cause all sorts of problems from damaged injectors, to ring coking, etc…all of which will ruin your day. Therefore the SVO needs to be heated to lower the viscosity before it can be consumed by the engine. This is done by utilizing two fuel tanks. One (usually the stock tank) tank holds diesel fuel which provides fuel to start the vehicle as normal. The second tank holds the SVO which is heated in some form or another which I won’t go into here. Once the SVO reaches operating temperature, the fuel system is switched to draw from the SVO tank, and the vehicle is powered solely by SVO at that point. Once the vehicle gets wherever it is going the system must be purged of all SVO to ensure easy starting and to eliminate the possibility of engine damage the next time the vehicle is used. This is done by switching back to diesel just before shut down. The advantage here is that only small amounts of diesel are used at every start up and shut down, so if you're using free waste oil from a restaurant, it's a significant savings. However, there are also relatively high startup costs depending on your mechanical/fabrication skills. An installed complete kit could run as high as $3000. Depending how much fuel you would use and the rising price of diesel though, you could recoup that cost relatively quickly. In order to run SVO there are many options. If you’re a tinkerer by nature and have the skills, the tools, and the time, you could probably piece together a system on your own. There are also many companies out there that sell adaptable systems, model specific systems, etc… If you ask Clay what he’s using he’ll be glad to tell you.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
"Know Your Fuels" Part II

UNTAXED FUEL – Otherwise known as “red fuel, farm fuel, ag fuel, red diesel, off road diesel, home heating oil, fuel oil, stove oil, etc…” We’ve all heard of this stuff and many of us have tanks of it sitting in our basements or just outside which we’re burning for heat. All of the abovementioned things are in fact diesel fuel with three distinct differences. First, this fuel does not have a road tax applied to it, which means it is usually about $0.20 to $0.25 cheaper than on road diesel fuel. Second, the sulfur content is usually higher, since the EPA more strictly regulates on road diesel fuel sulfur content. Third, the fuel is dyed red in order to differentiate it from on road fuel. That is it. There is no question that untaxed fuel will work just fine in any diesel vehicle. Any diesel engine that does not travel over the road can legally use off-road fuel. Off road fuel runs our construction equipment, generators, boats, etc…every day.

That being said, there is the question of “Should I run off road fuel?” I won’t get on a soapbox, but here’s the short version. Highways don’t build or repair themselves, and they don’t do it for free either. Not paying the road tax is like not voting-if you don’t pay the tax, don’t complain about the pothole that just threw your alignment out of whack. Likewise, if you didn’t vote, don’t complain about the crook who just got elected Mayor, Councilman, Senator, etc… However, if the moral argument isn’t compelling enough perhaps the legal one is. Most states have stiff penalties for running off road fuel, and if you’re driving a diesel truck and you are stopped for a moving violation you can be “dipped” which means the officer can insert a long stick through your filler neck and see if your fuel has a red tint to it. If it does you’re in trouble. Frequently, large numbers of diesel trucks in one place (equipment/livestock auctions) are dipped in the parking lot and you can come out to find a summons on your windshield. Search and seizure arguments aside, if you don’t want to get caught and/or fined, don’t run untaxed fuel.

This is the point where some of you are saying, “But you said it’s ok to run biodiesel/SVO you produce yourself-that’s not taxed!?” Here is my other moral argument. Biodiesel is many orders of magnitude better for the environment than petroleum diesel and as long as you’re not selling it to anyone, I don’t see a reason to pay tax on it. Plain and simple. This is besides the fact that the tax forms required just to pay the tax on biodiesel you make yourself are by no means easy to obtain, understand, or complete.

USED ENGINE OIL – This also tends to be a pretty popular one since many people look at the stuff left over from an oil change and say “Wow! Five gallons of free fuel!” I used to work summers for an excavating company and like any heavy equipment company we had some old stuff. My personal favorite was a 1961 Mack Tri-axle. In the old trucks we would change the oil and it would go into a holding tank that would either feed the waste oil burner to heat the shop, or get filtered and pumped right into the trucks’ tanks. My boss’ rule of thumb was never more than a ¼ tank of waste oil, but no matter how much you put in you could tell from the extra black and extra pungent smoke coming from the stacks. Also, we would NEVER put waste oil into any of our newer Deere or Caterpillar equipment.

Here’s the bottom line. Waste engine oil is full of nasty stuff including dissolved particles of bearings and iron from the block, not to mention it usually has an extremely high ash content (the amount of solids left over when it burns), and it wasn’t formulated or designed to be burned-it was designed to lubricate. You wouldn’t pour 16 quarts of # 2 into your oil fill would you? Personally I would never put a drop of waste oil in my PSD, but I could be persuaded to run some in an older, mechanical DI engine. The same goes for any other type of waste oil out there. I’ve heard everything from engine oil, to ATF, to cutting oil, to transformer oil! One other caveat is to consider what ELSE is in the oil and what you’re putting into the atmosphere and possibly your lungs. Many of these things contain nasty chemicals that were never meant to be burned.

CONCLUSION AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS – Some of you may notice that I made no mention of jet fuel. Much of this information was shamelessly stolen from the infopop biodiesel forums during countless hours of “research” (read: zoning out on the internet at work), as well as just accumulated through personal experience around diesel vehicles. That being said, I don’t know much about the different grades of jet fuel, but I do have an air force buddy I could ask. The only thing I do know is that I’ve HEARD it doesn’t have much in the way lubricity, so it could be risky to use without a lot of additives. Anyway, special thanks go to Clay Henry for being Powerstroke.org’s ambassador for SVO, as well as the infopop forums.
 
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