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Self-propelled

High fuel costs lead Jim Geiger to do it himself

By Rod King

Fort Wayne Reader

2008-11-25


Skyrocketing diesel fuel for his Chevy truck got Jim Geiger thinking about things he could do to alleviate the painful pinch in his wallet every time he stopped to fill up the tank. The Fremont area resident began talking with people who made their own fuel nearly a year ago and finally took the big step late last year. Now, he produces his own bio-diesel fuel and is registering savings with every gallon.

Geiger has always been a guy who thought outside the box, so when he found a safe, efficient and environmentally clean way to make his own fuel he jumped in with both feet. “Instead of trying to build my own equipment, I purchased a home brew kit that came with a conical shaped blending tank that will make 40 gallons at a time, hoses, rubber gloves, safety glasses and a tried and true recipe for making the fuel from used cooking oil,” he says.

“I invested $3,500 for the equipment. On top of that I bought lye and methanol, a 300- gallon plastic bulk holding tank, a pump to move the product from the mixer to the tank, several 55-gallon drums, a hand cart specifically designed for moving drums and an electric heating band to heat the barrels of cooking oil. My cost to make a gallon of fuel is about $1.05 compared to more than $4 at the service station. I should reach the break even point in another month or two.”

It took him three hours to make his first batch. “Now I can turn out 40 gallons in just an hour,” he says. “It’s perfectly safe because it’s all done in a sealed system. I first put the heating band around the 55-gallon drum to raise the temperature to around 120 degrees. Then I do a test with a tracer solution of lye and methanol that tells me the amount of fat in the oil. When it turns pink I check the chart to determine the right mixture to convert the used cooking oil into bio-diesel fuel. I do this titration test twice just to be sure because if you don’t get the chemical balance correct, you can end up with a tank full of soap. The chemicals essentially drag the fat out of the oil and convert it back to pure vegetable oil. Since fat is heavier, it goes to the bottom of the tank where it is drained off.”

According to Geiger, nothing goes to waste. The byproduct (fat/glycerin) goes to a friend who burns it in a waste oil furnace to heat his garage. “I get nearly one gallon of non-toxic, completely bio-degradable fuel from one gallon of cooking oil. And it’s environmentally clean.” he added. “In the summer I use 100 percent bio-diesel fuel, but in the winter I have to mix it with 50 percent diesel fuel from the station or it tends to gel.

“Perhaps the hardest part of the whole process was lining up restaurants that want their cooking oil hauled off. I presently have three establishments. One fills my 55-gallon drum in just a week and the others take a couple weeks. It’s not for someone who doesn’t like to get their hands dirty,” says Geiger. “I get the oil for free and the restaurants don’t have to pay someone to haul it off for them. It’s a win/win situation for both of us.”

It took Geiger three tanks of his new fuel and 1000 miles to clean out his truck’s fuel system. “At first it clogged the filter, but now it runs nicely without clogging. There’s no more black smoke coming from my exhaust pipe, and in fact, the exhaust is clear and smells like fried chicken.”

“I’m really satisfied with the results,” he says. “It’s cost effective, I’ll soon be saving a lot on my fuel bills and the fact that I’m helping the environment, too." Next for Geiger is exploring the possibility of making heating oil for his home.

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