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Old 01-05-2012, 15:15   #1
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Biodiesel - Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

I just went through all the trouble, backache, & cost of removing a leaky 55-gal alum. diesel tank that was underneath my cabin sole, and had an experienced fabricator duplicate it with a replacement made out of fiberglass. After refitting the tank with the help of a friend, and having a skilled carpenter replace all the cabin sole bungs, etc., I discovered that the fabricator used an epoxy liner that is suitable for regular diesel, but will rapidly disintegrate (according to the mfg.) when exposed to even small percentages of biodiesel. To make matters worse, this same epoxy mfg. (Devoe) makes a different product (Dev-Chem 253) that they claim is suitable for BOTH regular diesel AND biodiesel.

So before I go back to the fabricator for possible options, I thought I'd check and see if anyone has yet seen biodiesel being offered for sale at fuel docks and, if so, whether it is clearly labeled, the vendor also has regular diesel available, or any other info on whether biodiesel is coming our way, etc., etc. I've already read a lot of info here & elsewhere about the pros & cons of biodiesel for marine engines so this is not my concern right now. Would only like to know if putting biodiesel in my tank now & in the foreseeable future should be concerning enough to start over.

This is the sort of frustrating boat issue that makes me want to "pull the plug" on cruising (speaking figuratively, of course) & buy a Sunfish.

The boat is in the Chesapeake now and thus far I sail up & down the e. coast, Fla. Keys, Bahamas.

I'd be much obliged for any help on info re: the prevalence of biodiesel at marina fuel docks.

Anyone noticed biodiesel for sale at any fuel docks yet?? Seems I vaguely recall an article in BoatUS awhile back.

Thanks,
Dan
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Old 02-05-2012, 04:27   #2
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

I've got a Sunfish I'll be happy to trade with you for that beautiful Bristol....

Sorry to hear about this experience. Down here in Florida, I've not seen any for sale at the marinas. People are fairly particular about getting pure diesel around these parts. Saw an article that Ventura Marina in CA has offered it for sale, but they offer regular diesel as well.
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Old 02-05-2012, 04:48   #3
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

What a PITA. Makes me feel a little better about my own never-ending calorifier saga.

Biodiesel is required in Europe in road diesel. It is not good for marine use because, apparently, of its much greater propensity for diesel bug problems. In the UK, you can still buy biodiesel-free red diesel fuel for marine use -- apparently the EU requirement doesn't cover marine use.

But I'm not sure about continental Europe, where recreational marine users must buy white diesel with the same taxes as road vehicles. Over an expected useful life of at least 20 years, I would not count on being 100% sure of being able to buy biodiesel-free fuel. The trend is to require its use -- from environmental and global warming concerns -- even though it causes problems and even safety risks in the marine environment.

In my opinion, the fabricator made a mistake. It would be pretty harsh to make him bear the whole cost of taking the tank back out and replacing it, but I'm not sure that it would be entirely unfair to demand it.
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Old 02-05-2012, 05:06   #4
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

Hey Dockhead,

you got a cite for that 'greater problems' assertion? As a biodiesel user, I'd be glad to hear about that, since I've not had any problems at all, and in fact, have had a very pleasant experience.
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Old 02-05-2012, 05:20   #5
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

What is it about bio-diesel compared to regular diesel that causes the problem to epoxy? Isn't it just basically vegetable oil?
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Old 02-05-2012, 05:41   #6
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don Lucas View Post
What is it about bio-diesel compared to regular diesel that causes the problem to epoxy? Isn't it just basically vegetable oil?
I'm really not sure, but assume it's the alcohol content from the soybeans (vs. the corn in "E-Diesel" & ethanol). My very limited understanding is that the soybean content produces methanol which is deadly to many epoxies & fiberglass resins. With all of the different variables & opinions out there, I'm just relying on what the epoxy mfg. is advising.

I appreciate all the feedback. Not a biodiesel debate here, just need infomation on the prevalence of biodiesel at fuel docks now & in the foreseeable future so I can make a reasonable decision re: redoing the tank now or waiting.

Dockhead -- I agree with your take on the fabricator's responsibility here -- honest mistake but one that could have been so easily avoided by calling the 800 no. for Devoe listed on the can! As I learn more & more about my boat, I find it's often just not worth calling in the "professionals," and it all too often doesn't have anything to do with saving $$$.

hogfighter -- thanks for the intel on fueling down in Fla. I'm often down there in the wintertime. As for the trade, it's tempting at times but I may need just a bit of cash along with your fine craft!

Dan
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Old 02-05-2012, 06:37   #7
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

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Originally Posted by tamif27 View Post
Hey Dockhead,

you got a cite for that 'greater problems' assertion? As a biodiesel user, I'd be glad to hear about that, since I've not had any problems at all, and in fact, have had a very pleasant experience.
If you Google " marine biodiesel problems", you will get thousands of references, including by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is well accepted, even by biodiesel advocates, that biodiesel can cause problems in marine usage -- problems with diesel bug, gaskets, hoses, etc.

That's not to say that these problems are impossible to overcome, or that they affect everyone. If you're willing to be a guinea pig, more power to you - certainly you're doing a service to the boating community. For myself, however, until I have a boat which was specifically designed to run on biodiesel, I will let others perform that function, as long as I have any choice. Like many blue water sailors, I am extremely loathe to take even small risks concerning fuel problems, which can have life safety implications.
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Old 02-05-2012, 06:42   #8
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

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Originally Posted by Don Lucas View Post
What is it about bio-diesel compared to regular diesel that causes the problem to epoxy? Isn't it just basically vegetable oil?
There's no alcohol from the soybean oil or canola oil in the biodiesel, as the oil is simply mechanically crushed out of the bean/seed. There is lots of methanol/alcohol used in the reaction process however, it is all evaporated out during the drying stage.

After the oil is reacted w/ sodium hydroxide and methanol it changes its properties into a methyl ester. Soy methyl ester is a main ingredient in some paint strippers, and its a very effective cleaner of pretty much anything. It has this amazing ability to dissolve almost everything.

I've been making biodiesel for 3 years and I've never had a problem with this fuel yet. The issue with the fuel in a marine environment is that if you introduce water to the fuel much of it will become suspended in the fuel instead of settling out like in dino-diesel. The only way to remove the water would be to pump it out and dry it.

I personally like to keep water away from all fuel, so its really not that hard avoid.
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:40   #9
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
If you Google " marine biodiesel problems", you will get thousands of references, including by the U.S. Coast Guard. It is well accepted, even by biodiesel advocates, that biodiesel can cause problems in marine usage -- problems with diesel bug, gaskets, hoses, etc.

That's not to say that these problems are impossible to overcome, or that they affect everyone. If you're willing to be a guinea pig, more power to you - certainly you're doing a service to the boating community. For myself, however, until I have a boat which was specifically designed to run on biodiesel, I will let others perform that function, as long as I have any choice. Like many blue water sailors, I am extremely loathe to take even small risks concerning fuel problems, which can have life safety implications.
No, I've had enough fuel & engine troubles thus far to be a guinea pig! I appreciate Freerider & many others' enthusiasm for alternative fuels, but an ocean-going vessel is no place to experiment when there seems to be such lack of consensus. Along with the problems Dockhead points out, there is also research off Google which suggests that blends from 5-20% may in fact be just fine for modern marine diesels. My issue is with the epoxy used as a tank liner only at this point, and for that I have to rely on the epoxy mfg. unless convincingly proved wrong.

I must also confess that, after the fiasco for recreational boaters with ethanol in fiberglass gasoline tanks, I have zero confidence in the gov't's diligence in this regard. At some point, I imagine a biodiesel blend will make its way into the main US pipelines and neither we nor the vendors will necessarily know until there are problems. Let's see, what other obstacles can be foisted on us to prevent the ailing marine industry from getting back on its feet??
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:56   #10
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

I'd bet that 2% and 5% biodiesel fuel is at a lot of marinas and not always marked. These low biodiesel blends are widely used and usually cheaper than straight diesel. In my experience, most marina's buy fuel based soley on price. And even when they are picky, they have no way to check what fuel actually gets delivered.

Carl
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Old 02-05-2012, 08:57   #11
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

biodiesel--how to royally foul up your diesel engine, unless is specifically modified for it. in san diego there is some at pearson fuel dock in shelter island. i have been advised is not what is needed for marine diesels as it clumps and becomes nasty in the tank price is higher than regular diesel. good luck.
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Old 02-05-2012, 12:32   #12
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

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I'd bet that 2% and 5% biodiesel fuel is at a lot of marinas and not always marked. These low biodiesel blends are widely used and usually cheaper than straight diesel. In my experience, most marina's buy fuel based soley on price. And even when they are picky, they have no way to check what fuel actually gets delivered.

Carl
This is exactly what I've been afraid of but was hoping was several years away.
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Old 02-05-2012, 12:34   #13
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

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Originally Posted by zeehag View Post
biodiesel--how to royally foul up your diesel engine, unless is specifically modified for it. in san diego there is some at pearson fuel dock in shelter island. i have been advised is not what is needed for marine diesels as it clumps and becomes nasty in the tank price is higher than regular diesel. good luck.
At least it was marked -- both by label & by price!
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Old 02-05-2012, 13:47   #14
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Re: Biodiesel: Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

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Originally Posted by Don Lucas View Post
What is it about bio-diesel compared to regular diesel that causes the problem to epoxy? Isn't it just basically vegetable oil?
might buildup/ clog your fuel lines like it does your arteries?
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Old 02-05-2012, 13:59   #15
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Re: Biodiesel - Coming To A Fuel Dock Near You??

To be fair biodiesel is far far from an experimental fuel, I know of a German trucking company that has well over 10 000 000km on B100%, no issues.

Engines that pre-1990ish that use natural rubber for seals may have issues over time with degradation of the rubber. Although all the hippies burning biodiesel in they're 80's VW don't seem to experience this.

My families business sells fuel for a living, 99.5% is petro diesel and 0.05% is biodiesel so don't get me wrong, petro diesel pays for my boat. I'm very unbiased when it comes to biodiesel, but I know my facts and it doesn't scare me. I realize if you've never burnt it for yourself, its hard to have confidence for sure.
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