Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 2

Posted by & filed under Sustainability, The Sustainable Swell.

Our second week was extremely productive! Ryan started to feel a lot better on Monday thanks to the antibiotics and we organized a work schedule with Tyler’s gardeners, Rigo and Ivan. From Tuesday to Friday, we would start working at 7am and finish at 5 or 5:30pm. Ryan and I have been able to surf at sunset everyday, which is perfect for washing off all the dirt and grime. See our progress throughout this past week by scrolling through the photos. In case you missed the update from Week 1, click here. We picked up more construction materials on Monday and laid out our plans for the week. This is what the project site looked like before we began construction: innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(1) On Tuesday, we measured the size of the shelter and began digging the 2 foot deep post holes.

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Me playing in the dirt.

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Ryan cleaning and repurposing the old water heater. We flushed it with water and small amounts of muriatic acid, then we used some of the biodiesel from out little Fanta bottle to finish the job.

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Tyler’s guard dog and our construction site companion, Fiddie.

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We have been collecting fruit scraps from the Casa Tucan and Kaya Sol daily for ethanol fermentation.

Wednesday, Rigo brought all the teak we needed for the shelter, which is sustainably harvested from a local plantation in Nosara (apparently teak grows like a weed here – 2 out of the 3 species of teak are endangered, but not the one we are using). First we had to de-bark all the teak, which is no joke – you smack the bark until it becomes loose and then pull it off. My hands were done at the end of the day:

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Before

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After

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Smack, smack, smack.

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We will let all the bark dry completely and then use it for biochar.

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IMAG0105 After placing the six teak posts in the ground and securing them by compressing dirt and rocks in each hole, Ryan and I went to Kaya Sol to collect 15 gallons of used cooking grease! Thanks Jorge and everyone at Kaya Sol!

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Ryan using a Harbor Freight hand-pump to pump the grease out of Kaya Sol’s 50 gallon drum into a 5 gallon “pechinga.” The restaurants receive their fry oil in these pechingas and we reuse them for WVO collection.

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Pouring WVO through the metal screen filter into our 450 liter collection tank to catch all the crud we don’t want.

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The aftermath… these scraps are used in our compost pile.

innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(26) Our little bottle of “Fanta” biodiesel from last week is now completely settled and crystal clear with the glycerine byproduct settled at the bottom (click here or on the image to read Ryan’s DIY instructions for making biodiesel at home). Glycerine has been on my mind a lot lately… let me explain. Seeing local schoolchildren and families smothered by dust when cars zoom by bothers me immensely, and after talking to some of the surf instructors and other locals, I’m not the only one who feels this way. I was reminded of this problem Thursday morning when I saw molasses being poured all over the road (see image below), which is how the town currently keeps the dust to a minimum. However, this process is expensive, smelly and sticky (pieces of it are launched from car tires that drive by – my legs were covered). We want to use glycerine instead because it is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air. When mixed with water, we can spray it on the roads to keep the dust down without leaving pungent odors and gooey textures. Since glycerine is a natural byproduct of producing biodiesel, its significantly cheaper than molasses. We know this solution is not available right now, but in the near future we want to collect glycerine in mass amounts and use it to solve this health issue for the community.

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Molasses… not for long!

Thursday, we began building the framework for the roof of the shelter and Ryan continued to prepare the water heater for the “greasercycle” pump.

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Securing the tin sheets for our roof to Rigo’s truck.

We were hoping to use the old tin sheets that make up the fence separating the Casa Tucan from this hideous apartment complex that has been sitting unfinished for six years, but the tin is rusty and littered with holes. The group who purchased the Casa Tucan also purchased this space and is tearing down the complex completely (see image below): innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(23)

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The beginnings of the roof.

We finished the structure for the roof on Friday and we will install the tin sheets on Monday. innovative-biodiesel-project-week-2-(27)

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Rigo securing the lateral posts with metal wire… he’s 50 and killing it.

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Without him and Ivan, the shelter would have taken another week.

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Ivan will most likely be our trainee for producing biodiesel.

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Almost there…

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Ryan decided that the “Apple Turnover” design would be most appropriate for our water heater because there is too much space between the valve and the bottom of the tank – some of the biodiesel would be stuck at the bottom. Its basically just an inverted Appleseed system. Click here to learn more about the benefits of this system.

Additionally, we are testing a smaller, cheaper and easier to use pump (see image below) than the traditional 1.5 horsepower electric water pump ($90) that you connect to a bicycle to mix the chemicals and grease to make biodiesel. Ryan installed a drill chuck on to a heavy duty drill bit pump (Harbor Freight – $15) that we can hook up to Tyler’s beach cruiser (we’ll test our new design Monday or Tuesday).

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New pump with drill chuck attached.

See what other cool things people are doing with bicycle pumps all over the world (click closed captioning “CC” for subtitles):

I had sent out an email earlier in the week to all the restaurants in Nosara explaining our project and that we would like to start collecting their grease and fruit scraps. Beach Dog Cafe and Cafe de Paris have joined the program and it looks like we’ll have Rancho Tico as well. On Saturday, I went to collect grease and fruit from Beach Dog Cafe and the owner, Mike, was really helpful. Fabian from Cafe de Paris, will notify us when he has more grease because he currently has less than a liter. Thanks for the support! The methanol and lye arrived on Saturday as well. After collecting all the fruit from the past week, we will be ready to start ethanol fermentation on Monday. Once the 120 gallon drum is half full with fruit, we fill it with water to 3/4 full and add yeast – let it sit for two weeks and then we’ll have ethanol! We should have the roof finished tomorrow as well as the other parts to the biodiesel system… we will be ready for production by mid-week! Ryan and I are presenting at Nosara Sostenible’s weekly meeting tomorrow to talk about our project and hopefully rally more support from the local businesses who are passionate about sustainability. See you next week!

Jump to “Week 3.”

  • Tim Marsh

    AWESOME Job guys…so stoked to be a part of this cool project.