:Mr. diesel and the biofuels

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					                  Mr. Diesel and the original biofuels.

                             By Abdel Aziz Dimapunong

                              Biodix biodiesel consultant

There cannot be a complete discussion on biofuels and biodiesel without mention of
Mr. Rudolph Diesel, the inventor of diesel engine and a biodiesel user and visionary.

And when we speak of blending one form of engine fuel like gasoline with another
kind like ethanol, or fossil diesel with biodiesel, we have to learn from another
inventor and pioneer of blending fuels, Mr. Fairbanks and his associate Mr. Morse.

Speaking of further development of the diesel engine, we can not overlook Ford,
Cummins and Benz.

Looking back at these pioneering scientists and their remarkable inventions in our
search for alternative renewable energy, we realize that we are actually going back
to the 19th century. We are not moving forward. History is just repeating itself after
more than a century.

Mr. Rudolph Diesel (1858-1913)

The development of the diesel engine by Mr. Rudolph Diesel runs parallel with the
use of biofuels. The diesel engine actually began using biofuels until it was replaced
by fossil fuels. Now, therefore, we should not find it hard to get back to biodiesel as
used by the inventor himself. As we look back to history, we find that it was global
politics that relegated biofuels to the background. The story of Diesel and his diesel
engine is the technical aspect of the history of biofuels.

Mr. Rudolph Diesel was born to the era of the steam engine. As a scientist, Rudolph
Diesel developed a theory that revolutionized the engines of his day. Diesel invented
the diesel engine that was named after him. This has been the perfect internal
combustion engine in the sense that the fuel burns inside the chamber by air which
is compressed to such a degree that there is an extreme rise in temperature. It does
not need a lighter such as the spark plug. When fuel is injected into the piston at top
dead center with the highly compressed air, the fuel is ignited by the air itself, firing
the piston like a canon. Diesel designed his engine in response to the heavy resource
consumption and inefficiency of the steam engine of his time. The steam engine was
rated at only 12% efficiency.

On February 27, 1892, Diesel filed for a patent at the Imperial Patent Office in
Germany. His application was granted for a Working Method and Design for
Combustion Engine. With contracts from machine manufacturers, Diesel began
building working models of his engine. In 1893, the first model ran under its own
power and it was rated with 26% efficiency. This was remarkable because the rating
was more than double the efficiency of the steam engines that were in use. Finally, in
February of 1897, he ran the first diesel engine suitable for practical use, which
operated at 75% efficiency.

In 1898, Rudolph Diesel demonstrated his engine at the Exhibition Fair in Paris.
This engine stood as an example of Diesel’s vision because it was fueled by peanut
oil – the original pure vegetable oil (PVO) which we now call biodiesel. He thought
that the utilization of PVO was the real future of his engine. That is why when we
start to use PVO again, we are actually following the visions of Mr. Diesel. He hoped
that it would provide a way for the smaller industries and the farmers a means of
competing with the monopolizing industries. Just like what we strive for today, Mr.
Diesel look at his diesel invention as an alternative for the then existing fuel
consumption. Our version of today’s alternative is to replace an existing fossil fuel
with a renewable pure vegetable oil (PVO).

As a result of Diesel’s vision, compression ignited engines were powered by
vegetable oil until the 1920’s. Today, as we try to get back to biodiesel, we are
actually driving ourselves back to that era of discovery. We now wish to power our
engines with biodiesel again. I should think we should call it rediscovery.

The early diesel engines were so heavy for many technical reasons. First, the
cylinder of a diesel engine was naturally longer because piston displacement
requires it in order to have more compression. Second, the diesel engine was heavy
because of the size of the fuel injection pump. They were not really suitable for
motor vehicles. Their market was for stationary use such as power for industrial
and shipping in the early 1900’s. Ships and submarines benefited greatly from the
efficiency of this new engine, which was slowly beginning to gain popularity.

Rudolph Diesel disappeared in 1913. There were controversies and some questions
about his death. Some think it might have been accidental or even a suicide. That’s
what I believed in. However, others considered a possible political motivation.
Whether by accident, suicide or murder, the world had lost a brilliant scientist and
biofuel visionary.

Thaddeus Fairbanks
The idea of blending gasoline with a certain percentage of another kind of fuel such
as ethanol had actually been considered by the Thaddeus Fairbanks. Yet it now
appears to be an innovation, some kind of a new technology.
Fairbanks, Morse & Company had its beginning in 1823 when inventor Thaddeus
Fairbanks began his business in ironworks. Fairbanks was the leading
manufacturer in the United States during his time. He was the best known in the
whole world until he was overshadowed by the rise to popularity of Henry Ford.
Fairbanks and Morse began producing oil engines in the 1890s. We can say that
Fairbanks was a contemporary of Mr. Diesel. While Diesel was working on diesel
engines, Fairbanks was also working on kerosene engines. The Fairbanks and
Morse gas engine was widely accepted by farmers. It was used mainly for irrigation
and electricity generation. It was also used for oilfield work.
In summary, Fairbanks and Morse power plants evolved by burning kerosene in
1893, then to semi-diesel engines in 1913 and to full diesel engines in 1924.

                       Fairbanks and Morse Model Z engine

                         (Blending gasoline with kerosene)

In 1916 the company began production of the Model Z single cylinder engine in one,
three and six horsepower sizes.
From 1916 to 1946, Fairbanks and Morse produced over half a million units of
Model Z. That was a period of 30 years. In our estimate, about fifty thousand of
these units found their way to the Philippine Islands. Most of the units were
probably brought into the country by the United States army during World War II.
More than a dozen of these units found their way in 1960 to our shed in Lanao Del
Norte, Mindanao. My father collected them as a matter of hobby. We excavated
most of them from where they were abandoned. Some of them were bought by my
father “por kilo” a way of buying steel based on its weight. As I will explain later,
this is the first engine that uses a blend of fuels.
After the expiration of Rudolph Diesel’s of license in America in 1912, Fairbanks
entered the large engine business. As noted earlier, Mr. Diesel died in 1913.
Fairbanks and Morse took over the development of the diesel engine. The
company’s larger Model Y semi-diesel became a standard engine of its time. The
model Y was available in sizes from one through six cylinders.
The Y-VA Fairbanks engine was the first high compression using full diesel. This
machine was developed in Beloit and introduced in 1924.
Fairbanks and Morse continued to build diesel and gas engines. Export offices were
established in Rio de Janero and Buenos Aires. The model Z engines were built into
the 1970s in Mexico. An Australian branch factory, similar to the Canadian Branch
operation, was also opened. Many Fairbanks engines dutifully served into the late
twentieth century,
Henry Ford into diesel

As noted earlier, Fairbanks was the best known in the whole world until the rise of
Henry Ford in the car industry. But this popularity had to do with the idea of the
assembly line of production. And it had to do with the popularly known Ford Model
T. Early American Ford automobiles were not diesel driven, but they were powered
by ethanol. Yes, this is the ethanol that we are now considering for rediscovery. This
is the ethanol that is provided for in the Philippines Biofuel of 2000.

Henry Ford shared a similar vision with Rudolph Diesel. He believed that pure
vegetable oil should the fuel of the transportation industry. In a partnership with
Standard Oil, he helped developed the biofuel industry. But ethanol disappeared
from the scene as a result of the development of the petroleum industry.

Cummins, a diesel engine mechanic inventor

It was Clessie L Cummins, a mechanic-inventor who actually worked on the design
problems of the diesel engine. The problems of diesel engine at that time had to do
with the size and weight. There was also the issue on the instability created by its
fuel system. In 1919, Cummins developed a single disk system that measured the
fuel injected. Like the other early engines, Cummins’ products were stationary
engines and his main market was the marine industry.

It was also during the 1920’s that diesel engine manufacturers created a major
challenge for the biofuel industry. Diesel engines were altered to utilize the lower
viscosity of the fossil fuel residue rather than a biomass based fuel. The petroleum
industries were growing and establishing themselves during this period. Their
business tactics and the wealth that many of these oil tycoons already possessed
greatly influenced the development of all engines and machinery.

It was in the 1920s that the alteration to the original engines was first introduced as
a step in the elimination of the production structure for purely vegetable oils. It was
also a step in forcing the concept of biomass as a potential fuel base into obscurity,
erasing the possibilities from the public awareness.

In 1929, the Stock Market crashed. This brought the threat of bankruptcy to
Cummins. In an innovative move, however, he installed a diesel engine in a
limousine and took his backer, Irwin, for a ride, assuring further investment.
Cummins continued to experiment with the diesel motor vehicles.

In 1931, Cummins set a speed record and distance record by driving a truck with a
Cummins diesel engine coast to coast in the United States. With this distance,
Cummins established an endurance record of 13,535 miles at Indianapolis
Speedway. Cummins’ diesel engines were then established and trucks as well as
other fleets began using them. Over the years, Cummins has continued to improve
the efficiency of the diesel engine, providing technological innovations. Their engines
have set a high standard for the industry.
The Mercedes Benz diesel engines.
The 1920’s brought a new injection pump design, allowing the metering of fuel as it
entered the engine without the need of pressurized air and its accompanying tank.
The engine was now small enough to be mobile and utilized in vehicles. In 1936,
Mercedes Benz built the first automobile with a diesel engine. These were
dependable, enduring automobiles that lasted well into the second half of the 20th

The oil crisis

The 1970’s arrived and the riding public, who were firmly dependent on foreign oil,
yet, unaware of the depth of their dependence, were suddenly faced with a crisis.

In 1973, OPEC, the Middle Eastern organization controlling the majority of the
world’s oil, reduced the supply of oil and raised the price, sending the United States
and other countries into a crisis. Long lines at pump stations started to appear. I
was among them. I remember the gas ration system. This crisis was recreated in
1978. Long lines became more longer at the gas pumps. People panicked as they
realized that they depended on the consistent supply of oil – foreign oil.
Conservation and alternatives became important.

Because of the oil crisis, the riding public looked to diesel fuel which was more
efficient and economical and they began buying diesel-powered automobiles. These
automobiles include the Mercedes Benz, Isuzu Volkswagen, plus a good portion of
Audi, Volvo and Datsun during the 1970’s. For the first time, American
manufacturers began producing automobiles with diesel engines. General Motors
made and sold diesel automobiles in the late 1970’s, accounting for 60% of all diesel
sales in the United States. This surge of diesel only started to decline in the 1980’s
when the price of oil had been re-stabilized. Along with this, the automobiles
produced by General Motors were basically converted gasoline engines.

No war for oil

As we entered the 21st Century, we had become conscious of and focus on our
environment, clean air, the greenhouse effect, and pollution. It has become
fashionable to speak of alternative energy, renewable energy, bioethanol, biodiesel,
and many kinds of biofuels. Laws were passed in many countries. Nations discussed
oil supply and the reduction of dependence on fossil fuel.

Then came the Iraq War. On March 20, 2003, the United States and it allies invaded
Iraq. There was debate on the reason why was erupted. Was it because of the so-
called Weapons of Mass Destruction? Was it because of oil? Looking forward to the
future, our dependency on foreign oil and its rising prices as well as probable
instability due to conflicts that could lead to more wars will drive

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