On Friday, February 12, the Power Trip field trip group went to Blue Ridge Biofuels in Asheville, NC. We met with a man named Woody, one of the original creators of the biofuels group and the head manager of the floor production. He gave us a tour.
Next, chemicals such as methanol are added to the oil. Methanol is potentially dangerous and needs to be handled very carefully. However, methanol is the step that makes the oil reactive and work as effecient fuel. They then remove the methanol by heating the oil above the boiling point of the methanol. They capture the methanol gasses, cool them, and return them to the methanol storage tank to be reused in later batches of fuel. This process of adding and removing the methanol must sometimes be repeated 4-5 times to achieve high quality fuel. After this step in the process, water is added to the oil to pull out other toxins and impurities.
This water/oil mixture is allowed to sit for a period of time in a tall cylindrical tank. The water and impurities sink to the bottom and are removed from the oil.