Monday, November 3, 2008

Our new portable biodiesel reactor is nearly complete! Essentially we've taken a 55 gallon oil drum and converted it into a giant blender. The first step was to cut the bottom third off and flip the barrel upside down. We are using the two pre-existing threaded holes as drain points.

Ideally a domed or concave bottom would be best but supplies, tools and most importantly money are in short supply. Access to a welding machine and torch set would have been extremely helpful for this fabrication but Team Bioride continues to happily march on to the tune of "more with less."

Once the barrel was cut down and the edges bent and folded for safety lift points were drilled and mounted and the pilot hole for the 2000 watt heating element was cut out. The addition of lift points on either side of the barrel will make storage and setup a flash and of course the heating element is crucial for the transesterification process.

After wiring our heating element to an appropriately rated plug we'll mount the element to the base of the barrel with a sandwich of washers, nuts and rubber gaskets. Hot oil is the last thing you want spilling out all over the place! The mixing of the oil, methanol and lye will be accomplished by a fixed hand drill mounted to the top of the barrel and fitted with a paint mixing attachment.

A quarter inch thick steel step provides our reactor with a little height and allows us to access the drain plugs on the bottom of the barrel. This will allow us to drain the glycerin followed by the biodiesel from the bottom of the tank - as opposed to scooping or siphoning from the top.

During the past few days our stockpile of oil has had a chance to settle and it is now ready to be cleaned. Tomorrow we will finish construction of our reactor and begin the biodiesel brewing process! Titration, a test for free fatty acids in our waste vegetable oil, will be the first step in our brewing procedure. The test only takes about a minute and will tell us how much Lye we will need for each batch.

Things are coming together and it won't be long until Doogie hits the road again. While we've been "grounded" the Team has adhered to a strict maintenance schedule of morning and evening engine warming sessions and Doogie's block heater has been handling the cool Ozark nights well. Bioride is ready to hit the road and the anticipation is high, but taking a few days to plan and prepare will be key for the successful completion of the second leg of Bioride2008's journey.

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