PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

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PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Mon Jun 02, 2008 9:30 am

I have seen many suggestions regarding the use of PVC as a column/condensor - mostly not to use it. First, I realize most people on this board are interested in consumption of the spirits they produce. My interest is in finding an economical way to produce ethanol for farm equipment. So, I am interested in what is wrong with PvC (or some other low cost substitute) when we are interested in ethanol as a fuel source.

As we all know, copper is expensive. Building a small still may be practical, but scaling out is rediculously expensive when you are using large quanitities of copper pipe and fittings. If the cost of copper was low this would be a no brainer, but when cost is a factor one must seek a low cost alternative.

What's wrong with a PvC column for non human consumption? Thanks!
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby Husker » Mon Jun 02, 2008 10:06 am

I moved this topic here, since you are asking a specific question which is against our normal rules.

I think the PVC column would "work", but PVC is not a good solution for this, in a high (95-96% ABV) and hot (78°C) environment. PVC does not handle that well, and thus, I think your column would not hold up well, and any PVC chemical "welded" joints would leak pretty quickly.

There are cheaper substitutes than copper, but I think PVC would not be one of them, I simply bet it would not last very long. You might try things like stainless tubing (are wonderful with tri-clover fittings).

Even black iron pipe would probably hold up better than PVC, but most any "solution" other than copper or stainless, and I bet you will be rebuilding it quite often. Black iron would probably last a few years (?? not sure, but that is my WAG).

However, any solution that is not copper or SS, you had better be damn sure, no one gets in and tries to snag a little for a quick drink. It will most likely be bad for that person.

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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Mon Jun 02, 2008 1:42 pm

Thanks for the info. I'm not sure about how that violates the rules - first time poster please elaborate.

"You might try things like stainless tubing (are wonderful with tri-clover fittings). "
On the PvC topic, or more appropriately alternative materials to copper since I don't want to pigeon hole myself into PvC - is there any study/comparison on materials, their cost, quality, known chemical reactions to ethanol, and durability?

As far as humans drinking the ethanol, we have a 3000 acre farm with worse chemicals than that. If people are not able to read the warning signs (ie this stuff will kill you) and break into a locked building, I don't think I can really help people like that. Natures way of thinning the population, IMHO. My concern with impurity/chemical reaction isn't that people may drink it - rather that it may be harmful to the engines or have some sort of harmful toxin when combusted in an engine.

Ethanol production for fuel isn't against the law, fyi, as long as you have the proper permits. We have hundreds of tons of wasted fruit each year so naturally we would like to investigate the feasibility of converting that into fuel instead of throwing it out.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby theholymackerel » Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:07 pm

If yer not sure why it got moved I suggest a quick look at the rules here... there are only a couple and it makes everyone's experience here nicer.

It really doesn't matter wheather the still is for fuel, or booze... plastic is a bad idea.

Ya say ya got a big farm and ya have left over starches and sugars ya wanna turn into ethanol? Excellent! OK. You've converted yer starches to sugars, and yer yeast has made the sugar water into a thin beer or wine and now it's time to run it through the still. So ya fire up yer plastic still in yer barn/tractor and machinery shed. Maybe this idea doesn't make yer skin crawl, but all the regulars are cringin' right now. The idea of a flamible solvent heated to a vapor and run through a plastic still makes us think yer barn is gonna burn down with everythin' in it. I'd like to see what the insurance adjustor looks like when he finds out the fire was started with a plastic still.


Plastic is a bad idea from the opposite point of view too. If ya got a big place and this still is gonna get use year after year and provide ya with "free" fuel, then it's worth doin' right. Ya don't have to use expensive copper... the copper is just useful to us makin' booze 'cause the copper removes sulphur compounds from the booze that smell and taste bad. You could use some 4 or 5 inch stainless from a muffler shop. 4 or 5 inch pipe could take the vapor flow from a BIG boiler. If ya can't afford expensive column filler material at first yere are LOTS of good alternatives to do it on the cheap. The cheapest and easiest might be simply to fill the column with broken glass or crockery.

Basically, weather the still is gonna make ya inexpensive booze better than the WAY TOO EXPENSIVE stuff in the stores, or it's gonna make ya inexpensive fuel WAY cheaper than at the pump, it pays to do it right.






I wish ya luck.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby rad14701 » Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:24 pm

Just a minor observation but if you can afford to keep a 3000 acre farm running then you can afford either copper or stainless for a distillation column... If you don't cut corners when raising livestock, during crop production, or, during milk production, year in and year out, then why cut corners building a distillation column just once...???

Most farmers only jury-rig equipment when they either don't have the proper equipment on-hand, don't know any better, or are truly dirt poor and have to use scrap parts to get by... In fact, most farmers I know would have enough copper or stainless kicking around in the scrap heap to avoid the need to even consider using anything less...

My uncle was a dirt poor farmer but he took the time to do things right the first time because he had neither the time nor the money to repeat tasks more than once if at all possible... That's one lesson he taught me that I wish I had thanked him for before he recently ended up incoherent in a nursing home due to a recent major stroke...
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby new_moonshiner » Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:54 pm

I dont think the plastic pvc still would even get approval from the inspectors when they look over the setup when you apply for the permits since safety is a major concern .but thats just me ..
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Mon Jun 02, 2008 2:55 pm

[quote="rad14701"]Most farmers only jury-rig equipment when they either don't have the proper equipment on-hand, don't know any better, or are truly dirt poor and have to use scrap parts to get by... [quote]

Nobody is talking about jury rigging or cutting corners. If you can have the same results using lower cost materials, it only makes sense. If you have an electric water heater, as I do, take a look - it just may have pvc connected to it. Hot water, pvc...

The point to this thread is to determine if there are lower cost materials that will have similar results, and at the same time not get people killed or damage property. I'm not interested in building something to have a nice shiny showpiece for my friends, rather something that is utilitarian and serves a purpose.

We have scrap on the farm, but I can't say that we have alot of copper. I don't know of the farmers you know, but most farmers I know (and still in business) are frugal. They won't spend money just for the sake of spending money. So - let's talk science. What properties of pvc, copper, iron, aluminum, name your material... are harmful or might cause damage? What properties of these materials make it unsuitable for distillation of ethanol? Some pvc is designed to handle higher temperatures, and corrosive substances. There are also plastics that will do this.

The largest reccomended valved reflux still (6" column) produces 7 gallons of ethanol in an hour. If you want to scale to 100 gallons an hour (not big enough to be a commercial producer of ethanol, but too big to operate like a hobbyist) you would need roughly 15 stills, not to mention other materials to ferment hundreds of tons of fruit juice, mash the fruit, etc. So let's just start with "this isn't going to be a cheap operation". If we use copper, it will probably be prohibitively expensive and smarter to pay $4.00 a gallon for gasoline. We have all sizes of steel pipe available, but not convinced that will be any better than say pvc. I'm really most interested in scientific facts or personal experiences - it's my job to look into all options before making a decision.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby rad14701 » Mon Jun 02, 2008 3:56 pm

Well, with only three post in these forums I guess you still know it all so go ahead and do whatever it is you want...

OR...

Go to the main site, http://homedistiller.org and read...

OR...

Go ask the folks that make PVC, or whatever other materials you want to try, whether those materials will work for the distillation of ethanol... Guess what... They're gonna clam up just like folks do when you ask if something will work for the fabrication of experimental aircraft... The opinion of those in the know on this site, including several who work with solvents, or are chemists, in their real-world jobs, is that very few plastics are going to stand up to a caustic solvent like pure ethanol at nearly the boiling point of water...

OR...

Look at it this way... What would you say if I wanted to artificially inseminate one of your cows with a piece of rusty brake line...??? If it was the cheapest, easiest, safest way to do it then everybody would be doing it...

But...

Again, with three whole forum posts your wealth of knowledge is insurmountable... But I digress... And people wonder why the topic of plastics has more or less been banned here in the forums... Oh, but you'd need to read to discover that, too...
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby Tater » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:18 pm

Heres mother earth plans for a still they use sec 40 pipe thats the around the 1/4 in thick stuff, doesn't have to be stainless or copper pvc has it uses and there included where to in plans.With that much excess fruit and it being a seasonal thing gonna make time a factor .Id think the fruit probably average 2 or 3 gallons per 50 of wash if your lucky gallonhttp://journeytoforever.org/biofu ... /meCh8.htm
PLEASE READ THIS FORUMS RULES AND THESES Links: http://homedistiller.org and New Distiller Reading Lounge I use a pot still
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:29 pm

[quote="rad14701"]Well, with only three post in these forums I guess you still know it all so go ahead and do whatever it is you want...

quote]

Comments like this is why I don't like using public forums. I don't know it all - and I have stated CLEARLY that I am looking for the BEST material considering cost, quality, and results (I did not pigeon hole myself into pvc/plastics).

What I find interesting is why there is such a lack of science (and curiosity) behind any discussion on this issue. I guess I'll have to look at other forums/sites; I'm sure someone is interested in finding a material better than copper when you consider all factors (including economics). Moving on.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby new_moonshiner » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:41 pm

Since the setup will have to be approved and inspected , why not contact the inspectors and see what materials they will consider safe ? Im sure they know what they will and will not approve.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby Dnderhead » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:43 pm

some thing i have not seen hear is stainless steel exhaust pipe mite be something you can use sort of middle of the road thanking
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby new_moonshiner » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:45 pm

Good suggestion dunderhead, but I think he is set on using the pvc or cpvc..
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Mon Jun 02, 2008 5:56 pm

new_moonshiner wrote:Good suggestion dunderhead, but I think he is set on using the pvc or cpvc..


No, I am interested in finding the best solution considering all factors. If pvc is cheaper (which it is), but doesn't produce a drop of ethanol or won't operate continuously because it breaks (or causes a disaster), then it obviously isn't the best solution - and isn't really "cheap" considering all the lost fuel/property.

I don't know how many different ways I can say this - I'm interested in finding the best material considering ALL factors. If pvc isn't it, then it isn't it. I'm not in love with pvc. I want the best solution to the problem. Stainless steel is obviously something that should be on the short list of possible choices.

The million dollar question is which is best considering cost, quality, efficiency, etc.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby new_moonshiner » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:02 pm

IMO it's going to be hard to find anything that will last and be safe and more feasible to use than copper or SS. Good luck on your quest my friend.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:08 pm

new_moonshiner wrote:IMO it's going to be hard to find anything that will last and be safe and more feasible to use than copper or SS. Good luck on your quest my friend.


Thank you for the tip. There seems to be a general bias towards copper over stainless steel. Why is that?
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby Dnderhead » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:10 pm

OK Ill be watching news for a "Chernobyl" meltdown about the time that thing gits hot and starts sagging in the wrong places--------full of hot ethanol---------------just leave a piece in sun and see ---- I see it as another strike against us!!!!!!
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby new_moonshiner » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:12 pm

the copper helps clean up the sulfates ,( i think thats the word im looking for) making a cleaner product for drinking , when most people use SS they normally add some copper scrubbers, or mesh in the vapor path..SS is harder to fit together unless youre pretty handy with welding . If you build it out of copper it would last a lifetime. more expense up front i know but most likely a one time.fee for something thats durable and will last and gets the job done.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby trthskr4 » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:15 pm

Mechanic at the local Chevy place says they got a boat load of cars coming in that ain't E-85 FFVs with the metal fuel tanks and fuel lines eat to hell and bad fuel pumps etc. etc. I also know if I get any spirit on bare metal sitting in the shop it takes about 30 minutes to rust it up bad. Just thought I'd post that for info on mild steel use for a still.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby Hawke » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:25 pm

I think you will find the stainless exhaust pipe in 4 or 5 inch sizes to be cheaper and more durable than a PVC of an acceptable type.
Next would be to figure out the best type of still to build for your purposes.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby HookLine » Mon Jun 02, 2008 6:42 pm

If you're after a safe and permanent solution for fuel distillation, then the hands down winner is stainless. The up-front cost is trivial compared to the decades (or more) of use you will get from it.

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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby arkansas » Tue Jun 03, 2008 2:51 am

Check out alcoholfuel group on yahoo, search the messages for pvc still and there is a guy that built one. He explains in dept why it is not a good idea.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby theholymackerel » Tue Jun 03, 2008 6:11 am

Rad, he wasn't callin' ya names, or yellin' at ya: Back off.

Floridacoder: Yer comin' across like a forum troll. Ya picked one of the against the rules topics then only responded to the aggressive guy yellin' at ya. You may not have come here to intentionally troll, but yer makin' it look that way.

In my first comment to ya I gave ya a easy to get and cheap solution for column material (I have plenty more cheap solutions, but will save em till I know yer listenin' and care), I also explained why the preference for copper and said it didn't apply to yer application, but ya weren't listenin' 'cause ya ask the question I answered on the next page. Lots of other folks tried to give helpful suggestions, but you only responded to the guy bein' aggressive. If yer not a troll, don't act like one.

I hate plastic posts 'cause they allways deteriate quickly into a flamewar. This thread will be locked or censored if it happens here.

So... guys (and especially rad14701) chill out and give the guy a chance... be nice. And floridacoder, we will assume yer not here just to troll our boards, you please review the board rules and don't ignore folks answerin' yer questions.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Tue Jun 03, 2008 8:02 am

"Floridacoder: Yer comin' across like a forum troll. Ya picked one of the against the rules topics then only responded to the aggressive guy yellin' at ya. "

I'm not a troll - I'm not sure how my posts can be interpreted that way.

For some reason people like to get heated about what should be a non-controversial topic. I have had reasonable responses to my inquiry in this thread, but because of the heated discourse I'm going to look elsewhere for the complete answer. Thank you to those who responded to the questions, much appreciated. I don't understand why it is impossible to have civil discourse over such simple topics.

The cost of copper has risen dramatically in recent years - given the increased global demand. Of course people are going to want to find a more suitable/economical material - especially for larger scale (fuel) production. If we can't have that discussion here without name calling or inuendo, that is sad. For my part I apologize if comments were taken personally.

Does anyone know of a good forum more relavent to my interests - meaning ethanol production as a fuel source? Perhaps these two discussions (human consumption vs fuel) just won't mix very well given that our concerns are very different. You want something to sip on that won't kill you or make you sick. I want to cheaply produce fuel for farm equipment in a way that the economics beat that of gasoline at the pumps.

I apologize if my comments have offended anyone or taken personally. They weren't intended to be edgy. I simply wanted a non-controversial discussion based on reasoned discussion on an issue that is very important these days considering the high cost of fuel, our dependence on foreign oil, and in our case we are throwing away hundreds of tons of fruit that have some energy potential. I can tell you that if the economics don't make sense farmers will continue dumping 10% of their fruit on average, because it can't be sold/juiced/canned. And of course the nation will continue our dependence on foreign oil.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby floridacoder » Tue Jun 03, 2008 8:03 am

arkansas wrote:Check out alcoholfuel group on yahoo, search the messages for pvc still and there is a guy that built one. He explains in dept why it is not a good idea.


Thank you! Going there now.
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby Black Davy » Mon Dec 12, 2011 7:46 pm

Check out the Alabama Coop Extension and engineers making ethanol out of a PVC still. They have the permit inspected and approved by the Coop. I'm not knocking anyone here and I know this is years late, but these good old engineers and the Coop are not going to be advertising a PVC still if it was going to blow up. Now I'm not saying I am building a PVC ethanol still, just saying there isnt going to be a meltdown.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIRY77faclQ
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby maheel » Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:07 pm

Black Davy wrote:Check out the Alabama Coop Extension and engineers making ethanol out of a PVC still. They have the permit inspected and approved by the Coop. I'm not knocking anyone here and I know this is years late, but these good old engineers and the Coop are not going to be advertising a PVC still if it was going to blow up. Now I'm not saying I am building a PVC ethanol still, just saying there isnt going to be a meltdown.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIRY77faclQ


hey their meal is cooked based on the temp gauge...

retired "engineers"..... lol
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby rad14701 » Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:11 pm

Black Davy wrote:Check out the Alabama Coop Extension and engineers making ethanol out of a PVC still. They have the permit inspected and approved by the Coop. I'm not knocking anyone here and I know this is years late, but these good old engineers and the Coop are not going to be advertising a PVC still if it was going to blow up. Now I'm not saying I am building a PVC ethanol still, just saying there isnt going to be a meltdown.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIRY77faclQ

That's just scary and irresponsible... :crazy: :wtf:
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Re: PVC column for Ethanol (not human consumption)

Postby Fastill » Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:40 pm

And a 2.5 year old post!! At least for two and a half years we knew better!!!

Should be able to lock these old posts.......
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