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Renewable energy science fair project:
Can a farmer reduce his input costs by growing his own fuel?

Science Fair Project Information
Title: Can a farmer reduce his input costs by growing his own fuel?
Subject: Renewable Energy
Grade level: Middle School - Grades 7-9
Academic Level: Ordinary
Project Type: Experimental
Cost: Medium
Awards: 2nd place, Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair (2008)
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair (VSF)
Year: 2008
Description: Vegetable oil will be extracted from different oilseeds in order to find the oil percentage of the different crops and the amount of energy output is measured when the different oils are burned.
Link: http://www.odec.ca/projects/2008/leem8m2/
Short Background

Vegetable oil is an alternative fuel for diesel engines and for heating oil burners. For engines designed to burn #2 diesel fuel, the viscosity of vegetable oil must be lowered to allow for proper atomization of fuel, otherwise incomplete combustion and carbon build up will ultimately damage the engine. Many enthusiasts refer to vegetable oil used as fuel as waste vegetable oil (WVO) if it is oil that was discarded from a restaurant or straight vegetable oil (SVO) or pure plant oil (PPO) to distinguish it from biodiesel.

The main form of SVO/PPO used in the UK is rapeseed oil (also known as canola oil, primarily in the United States and Canada) which has a freezing point of -10C. However the use of sunflower oil, which freezes at -17C, is currently being investigated as a means of improving cold weather starting. Unfortunately oils with lower gelling points tend to be less saturated (leading to a higher iodine number) and polymerize more easily in the presence of atmospheric oxygen.

Some Pacific island nations are using coconut oil as fuel to reduce their expenses and their dependence on imported fuels while helping stabilize the coconut oil market. Coconut oil is only usable where temperatures do not drop below 17 degrees Celsius (62 degrees Fahrenheit), unless two-tank SVO/PPO kits or other tank-heating accessories, etc. are used. Fortunately, the same techniques developed to use, for example, canola and other oils in cold climates can be implemented to make coconut oil usable in temperatures lower than 17 degrees Celsius.

With often minimal modification, most residential furnaces and boilers that are designed to burn No. 2 heating oil can be made to burn either biodiesel or filtered, preheated waste vegetable oil. These are generally not as clean-burning as petroleum fuel oil, but if processed at home, by the consumer, can result in considerable savings. Many restaurants will give away their used cooking oil either free or at minimal cost, and processing to biodiesel is fairly simple and inexpensive. Burning filtered WVO directly is somewhat more problematic, since it is much more viscous, but it can be accomplished with suitable preheating. WVO can thus be an economical heating option for those with the necessary mechanical and experimental aptitude.

A number of companies offer compressed ignition engine generators optimized to run on plant oils where the waste engine heat is recovered for heating.

As of 2000, the United States was producing in excess of 11 billion liters (2.9 billion U.S. gallons) of waste vegetable oil annually, mainly from industrial deep fryers in potato processing plants, snack food factories and fast food restaurants. If all those 11 billion liters could be collected and used to replace the energetically equivalent amount of petroleum (an ideal case), almost 1% of US oil consumption could be offset. However, use of waste vegetable oil as a fuel competes with some already established uses.

Pure plant oil (PPO) (or Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO)), in contrast to waste vegetable oil, is not a byproduct of other industries, and thus its prospects for use as fuel are not limited by the capacities of other industries. Production of vegetable oils for use as fuels is theoretically limited only by the agricultural capacity of a given economy.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

For More Information: Vegetable Oil Fuel

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Last updated: June 2013
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