Energy Independence: On Farm Biodiesel Fuel Production

Uploaded by cookingupastory on 29.04.2011

[ Noise ]
>> A hundred years ago, we used 20 percent of our land base
for fuel and that was to feed the horses
and today we still can use 20 percent of our land base
for fuel but that's making biodiesel.
So it's kinda ironic that the same percentages holds true
today as it did over a hundred years ago.
[ Background Music ]
>> Bringing the people behind our food to life.
[ Birds Chirping ]
[ Background Noise ]
>> We bought this farm, my wife and I did in 1983.
We were dairy farmers my whole life.
I sold the dairy cows six years ago because of physical issues.
You know, I'm milking cows for 40 years.
My knees pretty well had it and I've always kinda dabbled
in research a little bit.
I did it with the dairy cows
and I've always been a little kinda anal with numbers.
I like to keep in track of stuff and the University
of Vermont Extension asked if I'd be interested
in growing some canola just to see
if it's something we could grow here in Vermont.
Heather Darby is the agronomist that got the grant
to do the oil studies and what we're studying is more,
you know, what the requirements are to be able
to grow these different crops here.
So that's were the that's where that--
that SARE has really played a big role in funding this
so that we could get those results
so we can pass those on to farmers.
To be perfectly honest
when I started doing this six years ago,
my goal was to grow this canola
and we'll have our own canola meal
and we'll get some oil out of it.
Well it turned the other way around.
I mean we're using the oil as our main ingredient
for growing the crop and then the meal is a by-product.
So we feed all the canola meal and sunflower meal
to the cows 'cause it's real high protein
and it fits real good in the ration
and then the stock that's left in the field
with the canola especially,
we use that as a bedding source for the cows.
So that adds another value.
So all of those considered,
that's why this on-farm biodiesel production is
so successful here.
Canola and sunflowers are the right crop for this region.
I mean it works.
We're still doing some research on, you know,
the ideal variety that does well here.
Canola, we know that is the highest yielder as far
as oil per acre grown.
Sunflower is a close second.
We're leaning more towards sunflowers.
Number one, I think is
that they're pretty when they're growing.
I mean the neighbors love it 'cause the fields are so yellow
and bright and you know, you get gloomy days,
people feel uplifted.
Maybe psychologically there's a reason to do things.
For us, it seems to be they're a little easier
to harvest than the canola.
I'm not saying canola is
out of the question 'cause we're still doling some canola.
And we've tried a little bit of soybean but the yields are
so low that it's really -- it doesn't fit for us.
So we're basically concentrating more
on the sunflowers and canola.
Then the next step is making sure that timing right is
when we harvest it so that the plant is
at the right stage of harvest.
The biggest problem was for us to mold canola down into a swath
like they do in the Dakotas is we get a lot of rain
and what we found is when we did swathed,
that the rain rotted the plant when it was all mowed down
and we were unable to harvest it because it was so wet.
So we found that just letting it stand ripening
on the stalk standing worked better but we have
to time it right so that when the crop is ready
to harvest we have be out there because we'll have a lot
of field loss because those seed pods
on the canola shatter real easily.
So it's a timing thing more with the canola
than it is an equipment thing.
[Noise] There's a little difference
in harvesting sunflowers here 'cause we don't have any
equipment designed to do that.
I mean it's a regular combine that we'll use
to harvest any kind of grains, corn or whatever.
We've put in like sunflower fingers,
is sunflower pans is what they call for combines they use
out at Midwest to do thousands of acres.
Well, and these old machines, I mean if I could find somebody
to make a set of these sunflower fingers,
it will probably cost 3,000 dollars and Jared [phonetic]
and I-- Jared works for me.
We just sat there and we figured,
"Well we can do something."
You know, it cost us 15 dollars to make these sunflower pans
that we have and they work fantastic.
And we went through 3 or 4 different processes.
We tried, thinking it would work and it didn't.
So again I'm glad, you know, that I was able
to make those mistakes and find something that works
so that other farmers can utilize that.
So it's fairly inexpensive.
After it's harvested and then drying it
and not getting it too dry.
I mean one thing we can't do is get that oil seed too dry 'cause
if you get it too dry then you have trouble extracting the oil
out of it.
There's aerators that are used
to remove the moisture out of the seed.
So we have to have the moisture at optimum, optimum level.
The moisture level for it to get optimal oil extraction
for canola is 8, 9 percent moisture.
We've had canola seed that was down to 4 percent moisture
and it's almost virtually impossible to get the oil out.
And for sunflowers 10, 11, 12 percent moisture is ideal
for sunflowers to get the actual amount of oil out of 'em
when you press the oil out.
Something that-- a lot of people there aren't into farming
or even the ones are and have never grown a grain
or an oil seed is that something we need is storage.
You have to have something that's capable of drying
and something that's capable, you know,
something capable to store it all in.
We've done a lot of different ways of storing the seed
and there's-- if you're a real small scale, it's fairly simple.
We've used one ton tote bags and put oil seed in that.
For 120,000 dollars you can get started and to put it
in a processor and everything and an oil press
to press your oil and to make all your own fuel.
So that to me was like, wow, you know.
I mean that's not very sexy.
A million and a half dollar digester is sexy
but that's okay.
It doesn't have to be sexy but it's economical and it works.
Well, we use this is-- and we've got two oil pressers.
That's a Chinese press.
This is European press.
This whole thing is gonna get hot for it
to start getting the oil out, the right, you know,
the maximum amount of oil out.
So as you're running it, the friction creates a heat.
So by the time this gets heated up, it's gonna take 50
to 100 pounds of seed to go through it.
Then it starts getting the maximum amount of oil.
So there's limitations to it but 2,900 versus 15,000
and once this gets going, you basically--
you have to manually, you know, keep the meal cleaned out
and this-- you'd get a lot more meal come
out through these disks.
So it piles up here and you have to manually clean that out.
So there's more manual labor involved.
The other one, you'd put one ton tote over top of it.
The gravity feeds-- it takes 20 minutes then you walk away
and you come back tomorrow and it's all gone, it's all done.
This one here you have to have somebody manning it almost all
the time.
So that goes back to my 20,000 dollars worth of investment
to make all your fuel.
I mean you'd buy one of these.
You can make all your fuel with that and you can buy a processor
for processing the oil.
This system here because for research purposes, was 17,000.
I could have put a system in fir 3500.
That would make a 150 gallons of fuel a day.
When winter time comes and we're done all harvesting all our
other crops, we have a little bit a lag time then we'll just
start pressing.
>> These are the heaters.
You wanna heat the press up to 120 degrees roughly.
That just warm up the oils inside
and helps it flow through easier.
>> In this system, what Jerry's [phonetic] doing right now is
just that you wanna get the oil to start flowing
so I just put the crusher on with a screwdriver just--
or whatever you happen to have in here then he'll clean it out,
the oil start flowing a little bit then he'll put a nozzle
in there and you'll once the nozzle's on,
that the meal will come out all confined,
pressed into a pellet type form and you need back pressure
to hold that seed in there long enough
so that it squeezes the oil out and then just the meal comes
out which is left after the oil has been extracted, so.
[ Background Noise ]
>> The oil, you see that there's specs in it
but 24 hours basically that'll settle out and they don't look
like that once it's settled.
That's without filtering it.
So after we get done pressing the oil seed,
it's all put into a container.
Once a day we'll take that container and we'll pump the oil
into these 250-gallon totes and this is where it'll set for one
to two months and give it a sufficient time to settle
out the fines that we're looking at a minute ago.
The oil is taken from here and it's pumped out of this
and it's pumped in to here and this is our processor
for processing the oil into biodiesel.
We'll do what we call a titration test which checks
for the fatty acids in the oil
and it tells us how much sodium hydroxide or methanol we need
to get a reaction to remove the glycerin out of it
and then once we know what each tote of oil,
we'll know what the titration levels are,
then we'll just run it through the processor
and make our biodiesel.
If you don't have the recipe right for making biodiesel,
you end up making soap.
For 50 gallons of vegetable oil that's put in here,
there's gonna be about 10 gallons of glycerin
and that's what's left
over after you make the process for biodiesel.
The glycerin will just open this valve up and we'll put a hose
on here and the glycerin will just put into a waste container.
What's left is biodiesel.
Then the biodiesel is pumped through the filters
and then into a storage tank.
After we've made our biodiesel,
we put it in these containers here then we bring it underneath
this shade area 'cause we wanna keep the fuel
out of the direct sunlight to keep it from breaking down,
means from getting rancid.
So we don't wanna run rancid fuels
so we'd keep it shaded at all times.
Then we'd put this pump into these tanks.
It's just a regular fuel pump.
It could be used for either biodiesel or for diesel fuel.
After six years of doing the research work, we're trying
to figure out what our cost are and adding--
putting everything together and we've got some concrete numbers
that it cost me a dollar and 70 a gallon to make biodiesel.
It's a dollar a gallon cheaper
than what we can buy our fuel for.
We figure in the depreciation cost of the equipment
over a period of time and we used the more expensive system
to come up with the dollar and 70 a gallon
for production of biodiesel.
So if I had to put in a 3500-dollar system,
then we would have depreciated that out over a period of time
to come up with the fuel cost
and the fuel cost might have been even less than that.
>> So that's pretty easy to figure
that it's profitable for us to do it.
[ Background Noise ]
>> And on this farm here, I mean we'll use
about probably 5,000 gallons a year 'cause we've got five
diesel tractors, all those run on biodiesel,
everything that has a diesel engine
and that runs on biodiesel.
I mean you'd take a vehicle that burns diesel fuel
and we put biodiesel on it with no conversion or anything.
Just instead of pumping diesel fuel,
you're pumping biodiesel into to your tank.
Everybody I talked to that has tried the biodiesel says their
engine runs better than they've ever seen 'em
because biodiesel has a lot more lubricity
so it lubes the engine better.
So it doesn't-- you don't have that diesel knock
that people normally hear in a diesel engine
because it just runs so much smoother.
So there's no question, biodiesel is really good.
The bad part is that people have gotten a bad taste
with biodiesel is because of people trying to make biodiesel
out of old, used vegetable oil.
A lot of times there'll be grit or something in that old oil
that can get in and affect the fuel pumps and stuff.
But running virgin vegetable oil when we're growing it here,
we don't have that problem.
I love it.
It's just you're out in the field all day and smelling
that old stinky diesel fuel, that biodiesel smells
like French fries all day along but you don't wanna be hungry
when you're out there driving a tractor.
It's just so much more pleasant working all day smelling French
fries than it is smelling sulfur.
[ Background Noise ]
>> Biodiesel is not intended to use year-round.
That's one thing we have to realize and that's why it works
so good here in the northeast,
because in the winter time we use very little fuel
because we're not cropping the fields.
I mean 90 percent of our fuel is used in the summer.
Biodiesel gels when it gets to certain degree.
30, 35 degrees, you're pushing the limit on using biodiesel.
So that's the drawback.
Self sufficiency, there's a lot of gratitude in that.
It's like eating your own vegetables
out of your garden you know.
I mean it's something you've done yourself
and I mean it's good for the environment.
That's-- you know, that's not the main thing for doing it.
With farmers, it's always economics.
I mean everything has gotta be economical.
If it's not, you can't afford to do it and it is economical.
But there's a lot of satisfaction in knowing that,
you know, it's just nice to be burning something
in your vehicle that you processed yourself.
I mean who would have thought, you know,
20 years ago somebody asked me how--
"I know you're making your own fuel, are you crazy?"
I'm not a big rural company but it's something we can do.
So there's a lot of satisfaction in that.
[ Pause ]
[ Noise]
>> This video has been made possible with funding
from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, SARE.