Innovative Biodiesel Project: Week 3

Posted by & filed under Sustainability, The Sustainable Swell.

We have a roof over our heads and we’re ready to make biodiesel! Read on to see what the IBP team accomplished this past week in paradise.

Previous posts: Week 1 & Week 2

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We collected grease from the Casa Tucan and Beach Dog Cafe… bringing our total to 22 gallons on Monday.

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Rigo putting the finishing touches to the frame before laying our tin roof.

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Leveled the space where our door will be.

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Ryan prepping our beach cruiser for the grease pump.

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We collected some ash from a fire pit, which we will purify with boiling water and our homemade ethanol to make lye so we won’t have to buy “potasa” (potassium/lye) from the store.

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Rigo starting the roof.

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One side done.

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We were able to start the other side, but we didn’t finish it before our meeting that afternoon.

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Nosara Sostenible Presentation at Giardino Tropicale (thanks for hosting us Marcel!).

We presented our project to Nosara Sostenible – a committee of like minded individuals (business owners, teachers, etc) in the community who are dedicated to making Nosara a model for sustainable development for the rest of Costa Rica. A couple more restaurants are interested in joining the program and Jessica (teacher from the Del Mar Academy) will include our project in her talks to the community about the new recycling center and to include their used cooking grease when collecting/sorting their waste! Tuesday was hectic at the Casa Tucan. Channel 7 News, one of Costa Rica’s national tv channels, filmed their latest story about the thievery issue in Playa Pelada (Nosara) at the Tucan and tons of people from the community came to be interviewed. There was also a major plumbing issue at the hotel so Rigo and Ivan couldn’t help with the construction of the shelter. Ryan and I went to the hardware store and purchased two clear 50 gallon drums (one for ethanol storage, one for biodiesel storage) and a 120 gallon wash tank (the last step in filtering the biodiesel by washing the remaining particulates out of the fuel).

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Channel 7 News

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They were selling baby chickens outside the hardware store… couldn’t think of a way to justify buying one for our project, but we really wanted one.

Wednesday was a productive day: we finished the roof; started the ethanol fermentation; collected more grease; received our biochar stove; and made the greywater filtration system.

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The last piece and…

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…the techo is finished!

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Ethanol tank was 1/2 full with fruit so we added water and yeast and sealed her up – we’ll have homemade ethanol in 2 weeks!

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Ryan put a braided hose into a water jug to collect the CO2 produced from the fermentation process to make algae (green color at the bottom), which we can use in our greywater filtration system and to produce more biodiesel.

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Ryan, fitted for greasin’.

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We use an old surfboard leash to tie down all the WVO we collect.

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Ryan found the cleanest grease we’ve collected so far just sitting at a dump near the town center. We are working to spread the message to all the restaurants in town that they don’t need to throw away their grease… we can use it for fuel!

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Me adding the last bit of grease we picked up, bringing our total to 37 gallons of WVO.

I made our greywater filtration system, which is fairly easy. This is where the water from the wash tank will be deposited after its been used to filter out the last of the particulates in the biodiesel:

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Dug a trench and used two pieces of pipe that were just laying around Tyler’s property.

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Drilled small holes throughout the pipe and placed rocks underneath (Tyler had a pile of rocks on his property as well).

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Put the two pieces of pipe together and filled the rest of the trench with rocks…

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…filled it with dirt and its good to go.

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Our biochar stove arrived from Art Donnelly at SeaChange here in Costa Rica so we tested it out. Click here for Art’s photo gallery of how he makes his stoves.

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Our first batch of biochar…we’ll set up the heat transfer system to the WVO tank next week.

Tyler flew to San Jose to have surgery on his knee Thursday so we watched his house for a few days.

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Not too shabby.

Rigo and Ivan worked on the garden at the Tucan so Ryan and I made a trip to the hardware store to buy copper tubing for the biochar heat transfer system and the bubble coil in the wash tank. I began permanently securing all the pieces of the system into the ground with rebar and cinder blocks (we only had to buy a few more cinder blocks, the rest were old ones we collected from the Tucan and on Tyler’s property). Friday, we finished stabilizing all the parts of the system with rebar and cinder blocks while Ryan continued to work on the pump with the water heater, the methoxide tank, and the WVO tank.

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Securing the wash tank and six other tanks/drums.

Rigo built a desk and a shelf with all the scrap wood lying around Tyler’s property and what was leftover from the construction of the shelter.

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We used biodiesel from our “Fanta” test batch to treat the wood and stain it – looks better doesn’t it?

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Our recycled side table, which will hold the ethoxide (ethanol and sodium hydroxide) tank.

We dug the trench for the underground copper tube that will transfer heat from the biochar stove to the WVO tank through a coil system. innovative-biodiesel-project-week-3-(31) On Saturday, Ryan said he a needed a day to himself without any distractions (construction, hardware store visits, miscellaneous hotel issues) to finish testing and making the first batch of biodiesel the old fashioned way before we start to add the “innovative” parts to the system. Ryan tested the water heater and the pump with a 5 gallon pechinga of WVO and wrote 5, 10, 15…30 gallon marks on the tube that feeds into the water heater tank so we know how much WVO is being mixed with the ethoxide before we start pedaling the greasercycle.

We went to the rodeo that night in Garza (one beach town south of Playa Guiones) to experience the local cowboy culture and have a break from work. Check out Safari Surf’s new blog series “Inside the Peak” for more photos and stories from the past week thanks to our new social media man behind the scenes, Nick.

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View from atop the fence around the ring…had a few close calls with the bulls – yeeew!

We woke up to destruction Sunday morning as unprecedented gale-force winds had ripped through Nosara. The Casa Tucan had a few fallen trees and the power was out so I walked down to the beach to see what the offshore winds were doing to the waves.

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This tree was completely uprooted and in the Casa Tucan pool, but it was cleaned up a couple hours later no problem.

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All the sand was being stripped off the beach and engraved in my calves. Waves looked good, but impossible to ride…until later that afternoon when it glassed off and the water temp dropped down to 68 degrees (brrr).

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This green sea turtle laid her eggs and was struggling to get back to the water with the windblown sand in her face…one guy eventually picked her up and brought her to the shore.

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Salvation… it was a relief for all of us watching.

That afternoon, the wind died down a little bit and two clients that had booked the voluntourism package I created for Safari Surf, called the Sustainable Surfer Package, wanted to see the “Innovative Biodiesel Project” and Ryan and I wanted to make sure it was still there! innovative-biodiesel-project-week-3-(42) Megan and Lauren were impressed and Ryan and I were relieved to see that everything was still in tact – it was just covered in branches and leaves thankfully. If our shelter and biodiesel system can withstand the strongest winds to ever hit Nosara, then we are in good shape. However, the news says this wind storm will be here for two more days and we have a lot to get done so hopefully it doesn’t slow us down too much. Ryan’s batch of biodiesel that he started to make Saturday has been pushed back another day due to the harsh winds on Sunday and the Harbor Freight drill pump failing to pump the methoxide into the water heater (even though the pump is supposed to be resistant to chemicals, it seized up so we’ll have to use the red hand pump). Come back next week to see the “Innovative Biodiesel Project” complete! Rigo’s friend who is a welder is helping us put together the greasercycle system. We have 7th graders from the Del Mar Academy coming on Tuesday to learn about the whole process. We will finish enclosing the shelter with a fence and a door and the appropriate safety signs and we are tossing around ideas for the plaque so we’ll have that up this week as well. (People expecting post cards as a “perk” for donating – you should have them in the next week or so!)

Jump to “Week 4.”

  • Freaking love reading this stuff, Carl! You’re kicking some serious ass down there!

    • Carl Kish

      Thanks guys! We really appreciate the support!

  • Tim Marsh

    Really good stuff Carl! You and Ryan are doing an insane job…