Based on the concern over global warming and the release of stored carbon, we have done serious investigation into fuels that are derived from living plant sources and use no petroleum in their processing. Two such fuels have proven to be of great value in this arena for different reasons.
A good deal of reasearch has gone into the production of Biodiesel. BioD began as a replacement for diesel fuel. Ironically, the diesel engine was designed originally to work on peanut oil, but the designer admitted that peanut production would not be able to keep up with the demand and petroleum would have to supplement it as a fuel. Now, diesel engines have been tweaked up for petroleum and running straight vegetable oil requires substantial modification. Biodiesel use in modern engines requires only regular checkups and filter changes.
Biodiesel is made by combining ethanol or methanol with vegetable oil (specifically long chain partially saturated fatty acids) using a strong acid or base to make a new chemical. BioD is a polar solvent, meaning that it will strip paint and oils from surfaces, so care must be used in it\\’s storage and use. Despite being a liquid it has a very high flash point, usually much higher than lamp oil, so it is quite hard to light, and is reasonably safe to leave uncovered.
As a performance fuel BioD may take upwards of a full minute in flame to get lit on a wick. It is very greasy and spitty, so even well spun out wicks may slick up surfaces on dance floors, stages, even concrete. And finally, it burns with a great deal of sooty smoke, making it useless for indoor burning. The up side is that it burns very long. A standard torch can burn upwards of 10 minutes on this fuel. Also the MSDS on most BioD\\’s are very promising as an environmentally safe fuel, and one that is relatively harmless to humans.
Upon investigation to solve some of the problems with BioD, great attention was placed on the base materials for the fuel, specifically the long chain fatty acid. The shortest fatty acid possible is Acetic Acid, the recognizable ingredient of vinegar. But, when run through the same process as BioD, Acetic Acid becomes Ethyl Acetate. EA is a polar solvent, most commonly found in nail polish remover, and in candy as a banana flavoring. It has a strong, recognizable smell that many find similar to Acetone.
As a performance fuel Ethyl Acetate, dubbed \\’Bio White Gas\\’ or just BioWhite, is nearly indistinguishable from White Gas. It has a flash point of 30 degrees (F) so it will burn on skin, on the tongue, it makes back to the future trails, lights quickly and lasts just about the same time on standard wicks. It burns with less soot and smoke, and is nearly as clean burning as isopropyl alcohol, though it\\’s flame size and brilliance are much closer to white gas than alcohol. Unfortunately, despite being a polar solvent, BioW will still not dissolve the normal chemicals needed to make colored flames. Also, the most serious downside to Ethyl Acetate is that it\\’s a wonderful solvent for making Meth-amphetamines. So purchasing it in any quantity may get you put on a narcotics watch list.