WE GROW IT, CRUSH IT, AND BURN IT
On our ranch we press non-food grade oil seed into fuel for all our diesel engines and meal for our livestock. We purchase off grade canola oil seed from local farmers. Peace Country canola oil seeds have a higher oil content in the seed and less saturated fat that allow it to go to lower temperatures before freezing solid. The ability to stay liquid at lower temperature is an added bonus in canola oil seed grown in northern Alberta.
Our oil pressing is great for the environment and for our ranch too. There have been times throughout the year when our local diesel fuel suppliers have run out of fuel at the pump. By crushing our own fuel we are self-sufficient and able to run our tractors when there is a shortage of fuel in our area.
Plant-Based Bio Fuels
In 2005, we started experimenting with plant-based bio-fuels to reduce our carbon footprint and lower our fuel costs. In 2006, we purchase an oil press and started pressing oil seeds for fuel. For a couple of years we experimented making bio-diesel using methyl hydrate and lye. Methanol is flammable, toxic and corrosive. Both methanol and lye are extremely dangerous to work with. With the bio-diesel process we were left with 2 products, the bio-diesel and glycerol. We had a limited number of uses for the glycerol and therefore it was not a valuable product for us.
Instead of making bio-diesel we use the pure plant oil crushed from oil seeds for fuel. We use 100% of the canola seed. One-third of the seed is oil for our diesel engines and two-thirds is meal or cake, which we feed to livestock. Nothing is wasted.
We crush the non-food grade oil seed and let the oil settle in cone bottom tanks. Then we drain the thicker settle material and pour it on a bale of hay. The thicker oil has lecithin in it, which adds value to our feed. The remaining burnable oil is stored in 1800 litre square plastic tanks. The oil is filtered as it goes into the storage tanks. It is now ready to be burned in all our diesel engines. Some diesel engines can use 100% oil but we usually use a 50% blend of oil and 50% diesel fuel for year-round use. A 50% blend allows for some idling of engines. Running at 100% oil you cannot idle the engine or it will wet stack. We have a no idle policy on our ranch.
We have crushed canola, camelina, soybeans, pennycress, and sunflower seeds. When a canola oil seed crop is poor and cannot be used in the food market we buy the non-food grade oil seed and make fuel and livestock feed. A bushel of non-food grade canola seed produces approximately eight litres of oil for fuel. About sixty-five percent of the seed is meal.
A welcome bi-product from crushing our own fuel is the meal. The valuable meal or cake is fed to our livestock. All of our livestock like eating the canola meal. Feeding meal to cows reduces the methane they produce and therefore qualifies for carbon credits. Canola meal is about 38% protein and has an excellent balance of amino acids for animals and promotes healthy productive animals. We also get lots of lethicin from the oil that is very healthy for our livestock.
We have produced both canola and camelina bio-diesel. Camelina oil seed is a low-input, oil-seed crop which is rich in healthy omega 3 and omega 6 oils.
Our winter testing showed that pure plant (canola) oil has better cold-flow properties than canola bio-diesel. We have experimented with the different cold-flow properties of bio-diesel, straight vegetable oil, and various percentages of added diesel fuel. Our findings indicate that camelina oil has better winter cold-flow properties than canola oil. Camelina oil remained fluid at -22 degrees Celsius. Canola oil was solid at -22 degrees Celsius. Camelina bio-diesel blend was fluid at -22 degrees Celsius.
We no longer store petroleum fuels in fuel tanks on the farm. Our environmentally friendly dry-storage fuel is in a grain bin waiting to be crushed. When there are shortages of diesel fuel at our local pumps we are self-sufficient and can still operate our equipment. A 2000 bushel bin creates about 16,000 litres of fuel and 31 tonnes of meal.
Northern Alberta can have temperatures of -40 degree Celsius, so in the winter we will continue to run a 50% blend. The crushed oil and diesel fuel mixes easily by pouring into the tank and allowing it to splash blend. Our diesel engines run quieter and there is no difference in power output.
Our diesel engines have no modifications and our equipment is stored outside or in unheated buildings.
In 2007 we started experimenting crushing oil seeds with European presses. We have used various models of Taby presses and found them to be a better press than the Chinese press.
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Information About Videos Below
Crushing Canola Seed:
Our 6 ton Chinese press has taken countless hours of time to get it to produce oil. We had to re-machine parts to get it to press oil. It will plug up and quit working. You need to watch it while it is crushing. We don’t recommend these Chinese presses.Tractor Running on Canola Oil:
This video was taken on November 28, 2007. The outside temperature was -18 degrees Celsius. We plugged the John Deere 1640 tractor in for 1 hour before starting. This tractor is stored outside, and has no modifications. The tractor’s exhaust is clear burning, no black smoke. The tractor’s fuel blend is 90% canola oil & 10% winter diesel fuel. At the time of the video the tractor had over 400 hours running time on canola oil. The tractor is still being used on our ranch and has countless hours running on canola oil.