Met-Chohm-Phuu (Appleseed) Biodiesel in Thailand

Creating Appleseed Biodiesel reactors in Thailand in rural areas for farmers with the PDA.... stories from a farang in Krabi... biodiesel back home in NC... and whatever else needs to be told online in my blog....

August 16, 2006

Frantic Construction

Constructing the Oil Storage Tank beside the Reactor

After spending a great weekend in Phuket, visiting beautiful beaches, big energy generating windmills (my next project?!?), and getting the strangest sunburns I've ever had, Jordan and I hopped on a bus to Krabi on Monday afternoon. Monday was a holiday; the celebration of the Queens birthday and Thai Mother's Day, but our reactor and all the parts were expected to arrive sometime Monday evening. We got off the bus at Ban Tung, aka the middle of nowhere, a dry dustball town which looks like the Wild West. After getting a delicious fried rice pork, a beer Chang (kuat yai), and an ice cream from the motorcycle ice cream lady, we hitched a ride on the song taow and were dropped off in front of the PDA Center.
Immediately after we dropped off our backpacks at the center we turned around and a huge van filled to the brim with stuff pulled up. We hopped in the back and drove up to the hong het, or mushroom room, the temporary area where we're setting up shop. Sure enough, everything came from Bangkok. The reactor, the wash tanks, chemicals, my suitcase with random stuff, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Mmm... Screwing Steel Threads into Plastic Pipe....

We got to work. Plumbing, gluing, testing, raising tanks, lowering standards, getting stuff done. We've been working the last two days, and despite a few hangups everything's going relatively smoothly. Today we finished the core plumbing assembly, the water misters in the wash tanks, and the air bubbler system. Basically, we're done installing the parts and pieces and we're now in the tweaking phase. This is the fun part I’ve been planning for for 6 months.
We'll make our first batch of biodiesel tomorrow. We have 200 liters of oil, 200 liters of methanol, and 25 kg of KOH. We'll set up our titration

supplies and lab equipmet, make a batch, and then continue writing a report which explains it all. We've been working with two awesome workers here on the PDA staff; Khun Suh, the resident pyromaniac who believes the solution to everything is a little fai, and Khun Mack, aka Mackdaddy, the engineer who gets his hands dirty but chats to his girlfriend at all times while doing work. We've got a good team here.

Jordan Playing in an Grot Bat Acid-Bath

One little rant before I sign off tonight. So we needed acid to clean the pipes. The Thai word for acid is grot. For the last 3 weeks I've been asking for grot at every hardware store and I always get a wide eyed looked and a “no way, go to a chemical supply store” response. I don’t need any crazy acid, just muriatic acid, which is common worldwide at general hardware stores. I asked a PDA staff member where to buy acid, and I got the normal “no way, they don’t have any in Krabi” response. Ten minutes later, I was in a hardware store and found battery acid, or grot bat. We looked at the battery acid, and I decided to get it, used it and it did the job well. Then Far (my girlfriend) called and I asked her what muriatic acid is in Thai, and she said grot glua, or acid salt. Just because I was interested, I asked the PDA staff member if he had grot glua, and he replied yeah, or course I do. And we could buy it in 25 kg quantities at the regular old hardware store…? So before, when I ask for acid, I get a no way response. But if I ask for battery acid or muriatic acid, I can get it at any local hardware stores. Why didn’t I get that response in the first place?!? Ohh well, all is done and it’s all worked out beautiful. Tomorrow if the batch is successful then I’ll really feel like it’s been a job well done. Then on to Bangkok for that beer I promised myself a few weeks ago….


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