Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Amereco B99 at Western States Petroleum

Western States Petroleum has been selling Amereco B99 for a while now but I hadn't been down to WSP since they added it. Since I was downtown already this morning I went by to fill up.

According to the folks I spoke to, WSP is now selling only Amereco B99 (which is made from WVO) at the B99 pump at 16th Ave and Grant, and the Iowa "Soy diesel" is only available to bulk customers.

Light duty B99 pricing on 1/28/09 was $2.19/gal.

Way to go Bill!

Meeting the Phoenix Biodiesel Task Force

Today Brad and I had a meeting at Phoenix City Hall with the newly formed "Bio-diesel Taskforce". Desert Biofuels Initiative was invited to come and give a 15 minute presentation about biodiesel and "homebrew".

After I received the email meeting invitation last week, we quickly enlisted the aid of several DBI "advisers" to get input on what to present and how to present it. Hans Huth in particular gave invaluable feedback on our slides (which we will post on our website). (Sidenote): Hans' manual is exactly the type of thorough, well-organized information that homebrewers can use to be safe and effective, and it gives real weight to the assersition that homemade biodiesel can be done responsibly.

Going into the meeting we didn't have any idea of what had already been discussed within the City bureaucracy, or how much impact we would have with our presentation. But it was great to be invited to participate.

As the various department reps assembled (Fire, Planning, Development Services, ...) we had a chance to review the minutes from the initial Biodiesel Task Force meeting, held Dec 12, 2008. At that meeting, according to the minutes, it was decided that "Planning will start drafting changes to their ordinance to prohibit bio-diesel manufacturing in residential zoning." Ugh! It appeared that we would be facing an uphill, and perhaps futile, slog.

Brad gave a short intro about DBI and then segued into my presentation about "homebrew". My purpose was: a) to accurately describe the basics of making biodiesel at home, b) to describe the advantages and challenges of homemade biodiesel, and c) to emphasize (as previously discussed here) that although it may not be reasonable to make large quantities of biodiesel at home (with "large" yet to be defined), it was certainly reasonable to allow some quantity of biodiesel to be made at home, and Phoenix residents should be at liberty to pursue their "homebrew" activities as long as they do not negatively impact their neighbors. We noted that the Town of Gilbert has already taken a "pro-homebrewer" stance which we find very encouraging, and we expressed hope that the City of Phoenix will follow their lead.

Whether or not we achieved these goals, we did have ample opportunity to answer the numerous questions that came up. And, in closing, we emphasized the need to continue dialog on this issue.

DBI will be hosting a "homebrewer safety" workshop at ASU SkySong where we hope to assemble homebrewers, home biodiesel processor manufacturers, biodiesel cooperatives, and various government stakeholders, the purpose being more constructive discussion on this topic.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

(Mis)reporting the problems with biodiesel

Gas 2.0 has an interesting update to the story you may have heard about Minnesota school buses being disabled by biodiesel:

Some Cold Truth About Biodiesel In Minnesota

School buses that left kids stranded in the cold, buses running a biodiesel blend per the Minnesota B2 mandate, were reportedly disabled by the biodiesel turning "gel-like".

The truth, it appears, is that the petroleum gunked up the fuel system, according to the National Biodiesel Board.


Coffee diesel: update

Ken Costello has done an initial oil extraction from the coffee grounds we procured from MonaLou Callery's Cup o' Karma. It turns out that the coffee grounds only contain about 10% oil, and the amount of hexane lost to evaporation exceeds the amount of oil extracted (at least in the small amounts used for his testing) by a factor of 4.5!

To get 15ml of coffee oil Ken lost 70ml of hexane during the extraction process (he recovered 230ml). Since hexane costs about $16 a gallon, plus shipping and hazmat fees, we probably aren't looking at a new feedstock for biodiesel! A lot of the hexane lost was residue in the coffee grounds that evaporated out when the grounds were dried, after extracting the oil. Residual hexane in the coffee oil also reduced the final amount of coffee oil.

Ken will be trying additional extractions to a) see if he can reduce the amount of hexane lost in processing, and b) scale-up the process to get us to a gallon of coffee oil to turn into biodiesel.

You can check out Ken's full write up of his experiment on his Chemistry Land website.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coffee diesel

About a month ago Brad got a wild hair and posted a note to a small group of us about the recently published paper:

Spent Coffee Grounds as a Versatile Source of Green Energy
Narasimharao Kondamudi, Susanta K. Mohapatra, Mano Misra
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2008 56 (24), 11757-11760

Paraphrasing, he said: "Wouldn't it be cool if we could get used coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, extract the residual oil, turn it into biodiesel, and document the process via pictures, video and blog(s), from start to finish?"

Well, why not?

Ken Costello is a friend of Desert Biofuels and was intrigued by the idea. He agreed to do some small test batches to determine how much oil was present in the coffee grounds. MonaLou Callery, who operates Cup o' Karma in Mesa, agreed to collect coffee grounds for the project.

So yesterday I went down to Mesa and picked up two 5 gallon pails of coffee grounds and delivered them to Ken this morning. He'll be spending at least part of this afternoon trying to find out the percentage of residual oil in the grounds, and then a reasonably efficient way to scale up the extraction process so that we can get about a gallon of oil to turn in to biodiesel.

We'll post a full report, with pictures and maybe video, sometime soon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another "Europe only" diesel

How long, oh Lord, how long? HST used to write that a lot. It was the first thing that came to mind (again!) when I read that BMW is releasing a new turbo diesel that gets 54 MPG, is BMW's least polluting vehicle ever (and looks cool as hell), but it will, of course, ONLY BE SOLD IN EUROPE.

What is our friggin' problem? Doesn't anybody in a position of authority here in the US care that we are getting hosed? Are the EPA and our other "safety czars" really this intransigent?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

2008 Desert Biofuels Initiative Accomplishments

Happy New Year to all! We created the following summary of our accomplishments for 2008. Our heartfelt gratitude to the many, many people who made this possible. We look forward to an exciting 2009!

  • Formed as an Arizona non-profit corporation in April.
  • Submitted application for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.
  • Established tenancy at ASU SkySong.
  • Hired full-time Acting Executive Director.
  • Established advisory group that includes highly-respected biofuel experts, university professors, public relations and business professionals.
  • Developed and launched professionally-designed website at
  • Developed professionally-designed logo, courtesy of Brands By OVO.
  • Organized and held the first annual Desert Biofuels Workshop. Participant comments:
    • "...a watershed for AZ biodiesel..."
    • " ...never been at a conference with such broad representation, from corporate, to government, education, NGOs and home brewers..."
    • "...showed just how important this topic is..."
    • "...tremendously valuable..."
  • Regularly published blog with news and information relevant to the Arizona biofuels community (called "a must-read for the current happenings in biofuels in Arizona"). Biofuels expert Professor Dave Conz of ASU joined us as a regular blogger. Also maintained an e-mail discussion list with local biofuels community members.
  • Created three white papers researching and analyzing key issues:
    • Analysis of law and regulations applicable to Arizona biodiesel producers
    • Analysis of biofuels feedstocks relevant to Arizona (includes groundbreaking primary research concerning the volume of waste vegetable oil (WVO) feedstock in the Phoenix area and identifies potential linkages between WVO disposal issues and sewer blockages and overflows)
    • Analysis of biofuels incentive programs implemented in other states
  • Developed proposal for Algae Biofuel Demonstration plant:
    • Identified site location for the pilot plant on municipal property. Received an informal (non-binding) commitment from the municipality.
    • Completed detailed cost estimates and briefs for the project. Renderings of the pilot project are in progress.
    • Identified and are pursuing potential funding sources for the project.
    • Key project partners--including several private companies, the municipality and the university--are actively engaged with us in the exploration process.
  • Researched and developed materials demonstrating benefits of a WVO-based biodiesel to municipalities (focused on environmental, safety and water treatment issues). Presented to two local municipalities.
  • Developed proposal for WVO incentive program (goal: all local restaurant grease converted to biodiesel; would, e.g, displace 100,000 tons of CO2 from Valley air). Discussed with key stakeholders. Refining proposal based on input received and on results of feedstock analysis white paper research.
  • Facilitated tours of (a) ASU Algae Lab, (b) XL Renewables pilot algae facility, and (c) the Dynamite Biofuels Co-op for key stakeholders in the Arizona biofuels community.
  • Developed and launched IT infrastructure for algae biofuels wiki. Arranged for ASU intern to lead wiki project in 2009.
  • Presented our sustainable regional biofuels vision at (a) an algae biofuels conference hosted by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) and (b) the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference. Participated in the Phoenix chapter of the Arizona Green Chamber of Commerce launch event. Participated in the CTO Forum on Green Technology hosted by Intel Corporation.
  • Met with and discussed our vision with numerous elected officials and other policymakers (U.S. Congress, AZ State Legislature, AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality, City of Phoenix, City of Scottsdale, City of Buckeye).
  • Organizing a homebrew safety “Roundtable” which complements the City of Phoenix in the creation of a homebrew safety taskforce.
  • Organizing an event to create biodiesel from used coffee grounds.
  • Established an affiliation with Professor Mark Edwards of ASU and developed as a sister site to our site. Built infrastructure for new site; launch planned in 2009. Green Independence is the global portion of DBI’s vision in the use of biofuel based on algae. Professor Edwards, author of Green Algae Strategy, leads our Green Independence effort.
  • Established a strong working relationship with the Arizona State University Technology Ventures Services Group. TVSG interns were the lead authors of our white papers on policy issues facing biofuel production.
  • Received private donations sufficient to cover 2008 expenses.
  • Submitted grant applications for 2009 operational funding, including (a) EPA Environmental Education Grant and (b) Echoing Green Fellowship Application.
  • Identified potential funding sources for future projects. This includes funding from private individuals, corporations, foundations, and governments.