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Vegetable Oil, Neat?

One of the questions that biodiesel makers often hear is, “Can’t I just use straight vegetable oil in my diesel engine or furnace?”  Actually, most of us in the business have asked that question ourselves or even tinkered around trying to make it work.  So if you’re interested in trying veggie oil, here are some tips and resources that may be helpful.

The US Department of Energy has tried a lot of things in a lot of ways.  There have been billions and billions of dollars spent on experimentation, studies and trials.  Thousands of pages of scholarly articles out there summarize their work but are pretty difficult to decipher.  So we were grateful when the DOE issued an easy-to-read fact sheet on a topic like using veggie oil in diesel engines.

It turns out that the answer is, “yes, but…”.

Be prepared to carefully study the blend percentage of SVO to be mixed with diesel and be prepared for some unwanted side effects.  The DOE reports that coking (build-up of carbon) is the primary side effect of SVO in diesel engines.  If you blend less than 5% you will see long term negative impacts on the engine but should not expect immediate catastrophic damage.  On the other hand, if you go large right out of the gate, then expect carbon to be building up on the valves and pistons until you can’t run the engine any longer.  Carbon is abrasive and will tear up your engine quickly.  So, like most good things in life, a little may be okay but a lot will sink you.  Even Rudolf Diesel studied the concept of using SVO in his early diesel engines (see Happy Birthday Rudolf!).

Take a look at  The fact sheet describes the downsides of using SVO and briefly shows what you can expect at different percentages.  This type of info is practical- it doesn’t say “no, you can’t do that”.  But buyer be warned.  You will see negative side effects.  Know what you’re getting into; do your homework and then decide if you should try it.  If so, monitor the engine and fuel closely so that you learn from it.

Happy Birthday, Rudolf!

Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, was born on March 18, 1858 in Paris, France.   He attended engineering school in Germany and, in 1885, established a workshop in Paris to develop a compression ignition engine.  The process took 13 years and resulted in Diesel receiving several patents for his efficient, slow burning, compression ignition internal combustion engine.  

In 1900 an unmodified diesel engine was tested using vegetable oil.  It ran so well on vegetable oil that observers could not tell which fuel was being used.  Diesel later said that, “I have recently repeated these experiments on a large scale with full success and entire confirmation of the results formerly obtained.”

Today’s diesels, much like the original versions, are designed and warrantied to run on biodiesel blended with petro-diesel.  Biodiesel blends can provide the same power output as petro-diesel but offer greatly improved combustion that results in cleaner engine components.  Check for future posts about using biodiesel blends or call Clean Green Energy for information.


Spring thaw is coming… watch for ice dams

Spring in Northern New England is a wonderful time.

Although with the lasting cold temperatures and seemingly endless snowstorms it may not seem like it, spring is around the corner!  But along with the annual traditions of making maple syrup and starting garden seedlings comes another phenomenon that we should be on the lookout for- ice dams.  Older houses that are common in New England often have uneven attic insulation or other building characteristics that can lead to ice dams.  Warm sunny days followed by cold nights are perfect to get maple sap flowing, but they also are perfect conditions to form ice dams.  If your house has places where the insulation is inadequate or there is movement of warm are near the eves, daytime snow melt can refreeze at night and cause water the next day to back up behind it.

Fortunately you can often see this happening.  If you see large icicles hanging from the eves or at corners near dormers or gables, there is a good chance that water is backing up behind the ice you see.  Carefully remove the icicles and allow the water to drain.

Newer houses, even well-built homes, can experience ice dams.  Also, insulation within your house may have shifted or other conditions may cause dams to form where they have not in the past.  So take a quick walk around the house to check for problems, then take action to avoid leakage and prevent expensive damage to your home.

The diagram below is borrowed from (  That site has numerous excellent articles and guides pertaining to building and maintaining buildings.


Figure_01: Ice dam at a typical roof

Biodiesel Comes of Age

A lot can change in just a few years.

A Consumer Reports article from 2009 describes the trials and tribulations experienced when that organization tried to understand the differences between cooking oil, biodiesel, and diesel used to fuel a converted Volkswagen TDI.  It is now seen as somewhat quaint that CR even considered the possibility that people would use cooking oil widely in diesel engines.

The magazine derisively ended by saying, “we conclude that moonshine biodiesel is best left to a dedicated hobbyist with experience and a focus on safety.”  Asserting that the only biodiesel available is ‘moonshine biodiesel’ is as ridiculous as saying that the only wine available is from grapes pressed by the calloused feet of unwashed peasants.  Like many of the most successful products of the industrial age, biodiesel production probably started by innovative people working from their garages.  However, the image of a few steaming tanks and a crazy-haired tinkerer is a thing of the past.  All biodiesel sold commercially is made in modern production facilities with the best quality control equipment available.  And although a new biodiesel production facility may look like a complicated industrial process, the chemistry is very straightforward.  Used vegetable oil is the major ingredient and the byproducts can be composted or used for animal feed or as feedstock for biodigesters.

A part that Consumer Reports did have correct is that biodiesel producers must be experienced, dedicated and safety-focused. Today’s biodiesel producers also are highly educated, well-informed, innovative, and quality-driven.  Biodiesel is a high-quality product that is ready to be an important part of America’s energy picture.

A cleaner choice

Want a reliable, easy, cost-effective home heating solution? Consider Biofuel from Clean Green Energy! Available in Central Maine, Biofuel is used in existing home furnaces just like traditional heating oil. No need to change your furnace, only the fuel. The difference is that Biofuel burns cleaner and does not clog your furnace with the contaminants that are in traditional heating oil. The biodiesel in our blend is made in Maine from locally collected waste vegetable oil. Call Clean Green Energy today at 1-888-991-FUEL(3835)!