ASU prof produces own bio-diesel - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

ASU prof produces own bio-diesel

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Diesel is hovering around $3.49 a gallon and will no doubt climb higher. This could be a hard year for those who drive any kind of diesel powered vehicle.

With the right type of equipment that you can  purchase off the shelf, you can make your own diesel for about a dollar a gallon.

Dr. Kevin Humphrey is a teacher with the ASU Department of Agriculture.  He says you can be a purist or a mixer.

"Once you make the fuel, you can use that fuel by itself. Or you can blend that with what they call the petro diesel." He says.

You have to start with oil, either used oil from a restaurant, or maybe some peanut oil or crush some soybeans or sunflower seeds or other kinds of seeds.  Humphrey says that is one aspect of the project is to grow different types of seed crops and grasses to find out how different oils process out. Equipment wise, Humphrey has installed a feeder system to bring soybeans into his lab. They will then go into a cleaner then a crusher and a processor. 

Dr. Humphrey uses Methanol as an alcohol base for the fuel. His lab has two types of machines for producing bio-diesel. One is extremely automated the other a simpler plastic container that requires more hands on. Cost wise the automatic processor costs about 8 thousand dollars. That is a base expense in the process.

"This is a 55 gallon drum of Methanol that costs me about 170 bucks. I use 10 gallons per 50 gallon batch."Humphrey said.  He went on to say that aside from the machine and labor costs you can save a lot making your fuel.

"By the time it's all said and done it equals out to be about a dollar, dollar ten a gallon."

There is a glycerin byproduct. Graduate Student Lucia Acosta was separating the darker glycerin from the bio-fuel in the lab. Even though it looks nasty, student Randy Dempsey says it has many uses.

He tells Region 8 that you can make, "Soaps, lotions, cut down dust. Put it in animal feed to hold it together." And other uses not yet discovered. It can be spread on roads because it is a natural bi product and has no pollutants.

The making of bio-fuel is part of Dr. Humphrey's research on bio-fuel and small diesel engines.

In a separate lab, he has controls that will put loads on small engines. The motors are enclosed in a sound proof room with a variety of instrumentation running to computers and monitors. Humphrey says he is really in unexplored territory with his research. He says there are thousands of these engines out there in the world being used in a variety of ways.

"We don't really know what the impact is going to be when we start using these alternative fuels. " He said, "I wanted to have a source of dependable bio-diesel that I can use."

Dr. Humphrey said that by using a processor and homegrown oil crops like soybeans, a farmer could make his year's fuel supply over the winter.

Humphrey, "It's really not rocket science, but it's science that you half to be careful with."

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