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Beyond Biodiesel - Running on Straight Vegetable Oil
Beyond Biodiesel – Running on Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) The green tree has many branches. In the search for new fuels that will make our farms greener and less dependent on petroleum deriv- atives, several solutions are being investigated. For example, New Holland has been at the forefront in the development and promotion of biodiesel for nearly two decades. Technologies based on the use of hydrogen and fuel cells are also being developed as clean alternatives to traditional fossil fuels to address climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The revolutionary prototype New Holland T6000 Series NH2, with hydrogen fuel cells generating the current to drive electric motors and power the tractor, has recently Several forward-thinking companies have invested in the resources and research to support higher blends of biodiesel. For received awards and publicity. some time, New Holland has been working with Penn State University to further its biodiesel agenda, as evidenced by Less well known is New Holland’s involve- this display of tractors running on a 100% blend. ment in producing alternative fuel from bio- mass, a promising fuel source for the future. Diesels original engine injected fuel his alma mater. Several forward-thinking Another fuel alternative was recently report- with the assistance of compressed air, which companies, including New Holland, have ed on by Lori Burkholder of WGAL-TV in atomized the fuel and forced it into the invested in the resources and research to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as one of that station’s engine through a nozzle, almost like an support higher blends of biodiesel, and, special “Green Week” presentations. She com- aerosol spray. The nozzle opening was for some time, Trella has been working mented in her script, “In State College, PA, closed by a pin valve lifted by the camshaft with Glen Cauffman, Farm Facilities theres something new on the fields of Penn to initiate the fuel injection before the pis- Manager at Penn State, to further New State University. For about a year, there have ton’s top dead center. This is called air-blast Holland’s biodiesel agenda. been a New Holland tractor and a Case wheel injection, and worked reasonably well with Trella and Cauffman were invited to loader working there which are the first in the pure oils derived from peanuts and oil attend a Biodiesel Conference in Vienna, country to run continuously on straight veg- seeds. As diesel engines evolved, however, Austria, in 2007, to talk about the collab- etable oil.” fuel injection changed to suit petroleum orative efforts between New Holland and Rudolf Diesel’s first engine ran on peanut oil fuel characteristics. Penn State on the subject. They also at the World Diesel engines today raise fuel to attended the renowned Agrotechnia Exhibition in extreme pressures by mechanical pumps Agricultural Exhibition in Hannover, Paris in 1900, and deliver it to the combustion chamber Germany. Billed as the world’s largest farm much to the by pressure-activated injectors without equipment show, Agrotechnia attracts astonishment of compressed air. In common rail systems, some 2,200 exhibitors and 340,000 scientists and the separate, pulsing, high-pressure fuel line visitors from around the globe to a site 3.2 engineers. Even to each injector is eliminated. Instead, a million square feet in size. The equipment then he could see high-pressure pump pressurizes fuel at up and technology highlighted at this event the advantages in to 2,000 bar (200 MPa, 30,000 psi), in a reflect the increasing importance of farm- agriculture and “common rail,” a tube that supplies each ing efficiency to supply the people of the for the environ- computer-controlled injector containing a world with food and renewable energy ment. But he died precision-machined nozzle and a plunger while protecting the climate. before his vision driven by a solenoid or actuator. While at Agrotechnica, they were of vegetable-oil These sophisticated, high-precision sys- approached by a representative of Elsbett powered engines tems can only tolerate vegetable oil if it is Technologie GmbH, an award-winning became a reality, specially processed and introduced in a company in Thalmaessing, Germany, withSingle-cylinder diesel engine, circa and the engines low-percentage mixture with petroleum a unique conversion technology. Elsbett1906. Rudolf Diesel’s first engine ran that bore his fuel. Hence the development of biodiesel. has been converting diesel engines to oper-on peanut oil at the World name were soon Paul Trella, New Holland Director of ate on Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) sinceExhibition in Paris in 1900. (Photo 1977, extended to heavy goods vehicles incourtesy adapted to run on Product Marketing for Under 100-HPwww.speedace.info/speedace_images). fuel derived from Tractors, is a graduate of Penn State 1988, and regards itself as the world leader petroleum. University and has kept in close touch with in this technology. Among their satisfied 20
customers, the representative pointed out,were a number of New Holland tractorowners in Europe. The Elsbett conversion system involves twoseparate fuel tanks. The engine starts on con-ventional diesel and switches automatically toSVO fuel, held in a separate tank, thenswitches back again. In this way, low tempera-ture problems with the “gelling” or “crystaliz-ing” characteristics of SVO can be avoided. Coolant temperature is one parameter tobe met, but the primary condition for theswitching to SVO is exhaust temperature.Elsbett claims that the negative impacts ofSVO on the engine are minimized or negated A field of canola with close-up of the plant in bloom. SVO fuel used by Penn State is made by cold-pressing canola seeds.when the engine is operating at greater than The key is a crop indigenous to the area capable of creating a constant fuel supply. (Photos courtesy www.flickr.com).25% load. When the tractor goes back to idleor light load it switches back to conventional Another question arose – is it possible to all the canola they need to supply the fueldiesel, and before shutting off the engine, the press out the fuel on the farm? As a land- to keep both units running. They raisedoperator must switch back to conventional grant university, Penn State is always keen to 10 acres of the crop last year and anotherdiesel fuel in order to purge the system. answer such questions and to disseminate the 25 acres this year, using both spring and Back home again in Pennsylvania, Trella resulting information to the public. After fall varieties. Studies in Germany indicateand Cauffman made arrangements for two much searching, they found a “portable,” on- that 20% of a farm’s acreage can produceElsbett systems to be delivered to New site press capable of producing enough SVO enough oil to fuel all the equipment andHolland engineering, where they were to run both pieces of equipment. So, the still have some left over for cooking andinstalled in a T7060 New Holland tractor and SVO fuel used by Penn State in this research heating. In the U. S., using no-till meth-a Case 621E wheel loader, both with tier 3 is made by cold-pressing canola seeds on cam- ods, less acreage would probably suffice,engines and common rail, high pressure fuel pus. Any oil-seed crop such as soybeans or maybe as low as 10%.systems. These specially-equipped units were Camelina can also be used. The key is a crop The T7060 tractor has been used in justthen transported to Penn State University, indigenous to the area that is capable of creat- about every job that could be expected ofwhere they have now been working satisfacto- ing a constant supply of fuel. The cool thing it on a 1,500 acre farm, from hauling andrily in normal agricultural conditions for the is that, after the oil is pressed out of the crop spreading manure to mowing hay with apast year. Kenny Roush and his team at B & seeds, whats left over is an oily cake called 15 ft. disc mower-conditioner to pulling aR Farm Equipment, New Holland dealer in the meal. This meal gets used to feed the ani- no-till drill and a 12-row corn planter. ItMilroy, PA, have gone above and beyond the mals on the farm, and they seem to like it.call of duty helping to support this project. Penn State grows on their own farmland continued onpage 22 Elsbett systems were installed in a T7060 New Holland tractor and a Case 621E wheel loader, both with tier 3 engines and common rail, high pressure fuel systems, then the specially equipped units were transported to Penn State. 21
Is it possible to press out the fuel on the farm? Penn State University found this “portable,” Douglas H. Schaufler, P.E., Ph.D, Senior Project Associate in Farm Operation &on-site press capable of producing enough SVO to run both pieces of equipment. Services, checks out the Penn State on-site press.has also been used as a stationary power source ments, “At this point, we are not ready to self-sustaining,” Cauffman continues. “Into run their power-hungry pneumatic grain- endorse or promote the use of SVO fuel, but fact, our broader vision is to create a modelbin-filling system. the results so far are very impressive. In fact, for the environmentally friendly enhance- In all cases, the performance did not I’m so impressed that I want the university to ment of rural economies that can be duplicat-change one bit when the system switched from buy the units afterwards so they can stay at ed in all parts of the world. It would involvediesel fuel to SVO and back again. In fact, the Penn State.” townspeople and farmers coming together toonly way to know that the switch had occurred “We found that cold weather was easier produce and process oil for fuel, cooking andwas by the lights on the system monitor. to deal with using the SVO system than heating in sufficient quantities to greatlyRunning on SVO, the exhaust has less black burning biodiesel. We just parked the units reduce or even eliminate the need for petrole-smoke and smells a little like cooking oil in a outside all winter, not even under roof. Even um fuels.”hot pan on the stove. Emissions such as carbon on the coldest days, they started normally Trella and Cauffman have been invited bymonoxide, hydrocarbons and particulates are because they were operating on pure diesel the A.O.C.S., an association of internationalall significantly lower than from burning con- fuel until they warmed up enough to switch chemists, to make a presentation about theventional diesel. over. We didn’t winterize our biodiesel, so we joint New Holland-Penn State work on the Although the agreement between Penn had to keep the biodiesel-fueled units inside use of SVO fuel at an international biodieselState University and New Holland calls for the a warm shed to avoid problems,” says conference in Munich, Germany, intractor and wheel loader to continue working Cauffman. “Another advantage I see with November of this year. That will be an honoruntil the end of 2009, Glen Cauffman is hop- SVO is that the hazardous chemicals and both for the university and for New Holland.ing that the period can be extended. The units hard-to-dispose-of by products of the What the future will bring for this interestingare performing extremely well, and he is con- biodiesel production process are avoided and unique branch of the “green tree”vinced that the more hours they can work entirely.” remains to be seen, but at this point, the out-before teardown to examine the effects of SVO “We believe that producing and burning look is very promising.usage, the more that can be learned. He com- SVO will open doors to permit farms to be The New Holland T7060 tractor has been used in just about every job that could be expected of it on a 1,500 acre farm. 22
Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO) as a Fuel for New Holland Engines by: P. Trella with input from Glen Cauffman, Farm Facilities Manger, Penn State University and Professor Andre Boehman, Professor of Fuel Science, Department of Energy & Mineral Engineering, Penn State UniversityReliance on imported petroleum and fluctuating prices is serve as a soil protecting winter cover crop that is harvestedcreating apprehension among users. The desire to move away in early summer in time to establish another crop.from dependency on fossil fuels created an interest in alterna- The question to answer is what impact does SVO have on thetives. Many of our customers are still involved in basic agri- modern diesel engine? The published engineering literatureculture – raising livestock and crops to feed the masses. By its suggests that using SVO leads to reduced engine life. The mainvery nature, farming is full of uncertainties – after all, we risk is caused by the buildup of carbon deposits inside thedont want to mess with Mother Nature for she can be some- engine, as well as negative impacts on the engine oil. Bothwhat fickle. Planning has become more difficult as fuel and carbon deposits and excessive buildup of SVO in the lubrica-energy account for higher percentage of input costs. Farmers tion system are caused by the very high boiling point andare constantly looking for ways to minimize risks viscosity relative to the required boiling range for diesel fuel.and control costs. The carbon buildup doesn’t necessarily happen quickly, butBiomass generated fuels are predicted to fill the void for both over a longer period. These conclusions are consistent across apersonal consumption and powering industry, replacing some significant body of technical information in multiple articlesof the dependence on fossil fuel. Agriculture has a coveted and reports.position in this new arena as the stock for many on the new A recent technical paper1 reviews published data on the use"alternatives" have their base in animals or crops raised on of SVO in engines. Quoting from this paper:the farm. Many of us with a little time under our belts canremember a father, grandfather or neighbor concocting a Compared to No. 2 diesel fuel, all of the vegetable oils arefavorite brew to run an old tractor or pickup truck or much more viscous, are much more reactive to oxygen, andstationary engine thus stopping the fuel truck from driving have higher cloud point and pour point temperatures. Dieseldown the lane. engines with vegetable oils offer acceptable engine performance and emissions for short-term operation. Long-term operationBiodiesel is an alternative made from vegetable oils or animal results in operational and durability problems.fats through a chemical process called transesterification. Thisinvolves a chemical reaction with methanol using caustic soda Some investigators have explored modifying the vehicle to(sodium hydroxide) as a catalyst. Its a popular option to preheat the SVO prior to injection into the engine. Othersreplace diesel fuel. New Holland supports the use of biodiesel have examined blends of vegetable oil with conventional diesel.in the engines we make in house with some simple guidelines. These techniques may mitigate the problems, but do notThe conversion from crops to fuel takes several steps and eliminate them entirely. Studies show that carbon build uprequires a basic knowledge of chemistry. This process also poses continues over time, resulting in higher engine maintenancesome environmental and safety hazards for a novice. The costs and shorter engine life.energy equation - amount of energy out as a ratio of the Another issue that is particularly critical for use of SVO is fuelamount used to create the fuel - while marginal is positive at viscosity. The viscosity of SVO is much higher than that ofroughly 3 units of energy out for 1 unit if input. Weve come diesel fuel at normal operating temperatures.2 This can causea long way to understand the formation of biodiesel – in fact, premature wear of the fuel pump, injectors, and also canit has opened the door into the direct use of vegetable oils as dramatically alter the structure of the fuel spray coming out ofstraight or raw vegetable oil (SVO or RVO). the injectors to increase droplet size, decrease spray angle, andThese options are appealing because SVO and RVO can increase spray penetration. All of these changes to the fuel spraybe used without intermediate processing. However, SVO is will tend to increase wetting of engine internal surfaces withnot the same as biodiesel, and is generally not considered to be the fuel leading to increased tendency to form carbon depositsan acceptable vehicle fuel for large-scale or long-term use. and dilute the lubricant.New Holland does not recommend the use of SVO as a fuel 1 Babu, A.K.; Devaradjane, G. “Vegetable Oils And Theirin your engine. Although SVO or mixtures of SVO and diesel Derivatives As Fuels For CI Engines: An Overview.” SAEfuel have been used by some over the years, the impact on Technical Paper No. 2003-01-0767.the engine and fuel systems are unknown. Current 2 Bruwer, J.J., et al. “Use of Sunflower Seed Oil in Dieselcommercially available SVO technology uses canola oil as Engined Tractors.” Proceedings of the IV Internationalfuel. Canola, at 125 gallons of oil per acre yield, compares Symposium on Alcohol Fuels Technology; October 5, 1980,superiorly to soybeans that average 50 gallons of oil per acre. Guaruja, SP, Brazil.Canola meal, the byproduct of canola oil pressing, is a highquality animal protein supplement. Fall seeded canola can 23