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Hangar, aircraft, and residence destroyed.
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On Sunday Morning 6 Dec, the Houston biodiesel personality Del Martin, experienced a devastating fire in his Home/ Hangar located at David Wayne Hooks Memorial Airport, apparently while making biodiesel.
While trying to save the Aircraft parked in the Hangar Del suffered first and second degree burns and is now in hospital in stable condition

'Eyewitnesses reported hearing explosions shortly after 11:05 a.m. "I heard a loud bang and it literally shook the garage doors," said Murtza Hameed, who lives about a mile from the airport.'

"Several sources told us that Martin said he accidentally spilled some chemicals that he was mixing for fuel."


"The owner of the hanger was making bio-deasel and the grease caught fire."


"The fire started in a biofuels water heater, not related to any aircraft or vehicle"
 
Registered: November 09, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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This sounds like an instance of element being on while liquid level is too low. I know people think that you can design around that, and still have the element in the reactor, but why risk the possibility? Taking the element out of the reactor seems like such a no-brainer to me!


Kumar Plocher
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Sustainable Biodiesel...
 
Location: Ukiah, CA USA | Registered: September 19, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It's been said that no one has been hurt or killed in a Reactor explosion caused by switching on the element in an empty tank.

The first part of the excuse was just proved wrong, I wonder how long till the second part is and if the defenders will be able to come up with any remotely plausible excuse for this poor design anyone except them will believe???

The writing is on the wall and when it comes true, it will bring a whole new reputation to Bio that will never be able to be erased.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by DCS:
It's been said that no one has been hurt or killed in a Reactor explosion caused by switching on the element in an empty tank.

The first part of the excuse was just proved wrong, I wonder how long till the second part is and if the defenders will be able to come up with any remotely plausible excuse for this poor design anyone except them will believe???

The writing is on the wall and when it comes true, it will bring a whole new reputation to Bio that will never be able to be erased.

Oh so true! The reputation building is well on its way too...
There is no excuse, period!
People are only lying to themselves to try and justify their lack of ambition or motivation to make a biodiesel reactor safe... The arguments I have heard tossed around on this board advocating the use of a WH element in the reactor with no safety's are truly shameful... Same goes for those who think having the element in series with the pump switch is a "safety" are only fooling themselves... Roll Eyes

Its no more difficult to build a safe reactor if some planning is done up front...
Jon
 
Location: Wellington County, Ontario Canada | Registered: February 07, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Why is everybody assuming it was a reactor explosion, The story talks of a spill.
 
Location: Nimbin Australia | Registered: December 04, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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He was a regular on the yahoo biodiesel groups. He was selling methanol and oil. It sounds like he was hurt. Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: RickDaTech,
 
Location: Cowboy Country | Registered: December 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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Location: Cowboy Country | Registered: December 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I wonder why folks have jumped to the conclusion that Del's processor caused this fire?

I have read most of the articles/stories on this catastrophe and several quote Del as stating that he was mixing chemicals and had a spill. We'll have to wait for Del to tell us what really happened, but the neighbors are quoted as stating they heard an explosion, saw a lot of smoke, and heard more explosions.

So if Del had a spill, something must then have generated a spark (starting an airplane to move it out of the hangar?) or flame (black iron heated by a lengthy distillation process?) Some pilots on a local blog unkindly stated the theory that Del tried to put out a grease fire with water, but since Del's entire method utilized no water because he had none available I believe they were conjecturing based on a lack of understanding of how to make biodiesel using Del's method.

Unfortunately, it was a commonly known fact in the airport area that Del made biodiesel. Many stories state that the fire originated in the east end of the hangar where Del kept his fuel-making equipment. The commentaries associated with the fire stories generally conclude that Del's fire was caused by the fact that he made biodiesel.

So there are really two bad things resulting from this situation.

The first is Del's injuries. Del was seriously burned trying to push some of the planes out of his hangar. In one news video Del's wife stated he is expected to recover, but I have not seen any follow-up information on his condition. In addition to personal injury, Del has lost his business (his occupation was listed as aviation mechanic) and his home, which was on the second floor of the hangar. Even in Houston, which is notorious for its lack of zoning and free-wheeling style, Del is at high risk for a total loss as it's hard to imagine an insurance adjuster covering damages caused by a fire involving fuel-making.

The second is the blow to the biodiesel hobby. This is surely the largest biodiesel-related fire in the history of the hobby, and one which will be used by fire marshals as a case study on which to base local regs. All hobbyists may feel the effects of this catastrophe in the future.

When Del recovers, I hope he will share with us what happened so at least we can learn from it. For now, let's hope he recovers soon and with the least possible damage to himself and his family.
 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA | Registered: July 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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accidents like this is going to make home brewing illegal, ill stick with wvo
 
Location: Florida | Registered: April 20, 2007Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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In my experience local regs tend to be broadly written, so regs resulting from Del's fire probably won't differentiate types of home fuel-making. Keep in mind, too, that nearly all restaurant kitchen fires are caused by grease, so folks who burn WVO need to follow safe practices too!
 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA | Registered: July 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
I wonder why folks have jumped to the conclusion that Del's processor caused this fire?

I see no conclusions, only speculations.
quote:

"The fire started in a biofuels water heater, not related to any aircraft or vehicle"

That statement certainly gives credence to the above speculations in my opinion, either way they are still only speculations based on the information provided and nothing more.
quote:
and one which will be used by fire marshals as a case study on which to base local regs.

That may very well be true and due to the number of these types of biodiesel related fires lately its probable that some harsh regulations may be coming down the pipe soon...
However, there are already regulations in place that had they been followed likely would have resulted in the the hangar still being intact and Del not having to deal with burns. If the minimum requirements of the NEC electrical code had been met in the area and on the processor where the brewing was taking place there would have been no ignition source to start the fire... The regulations are there the problem is hardly anybody is following them or even giving them a second thought...
Its a sad story and I hope Del recovers and his family can move on.
Jon
 
Location: Wellington County, Ontario Canada | Registered: February 07, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Maud:

So if Del had a spill, something must then have generated a spark (starting an airplane to move it out of the hangar?) or flame (black iron heated by a lengthy distillation process?)


Or maybe it was caused by something as simple and far more likely such as a cheap pump motor on the reactor or used to transfer materials with no safety or spark proofing fitted like has been warned about a 100 times before here but people want to make excuses for as well as elements in crapple seed reactors?

Speaking of which, how did you go with your last cause Maud? Did you get GM to refund the people she owed money to or is she still at large?

I have my doubt if we can ever be sure of knowing what really happened in this case. If the guy is into the bio scene and the problem was caused by something that has been disused and denied before, I doubt he is going to admit it and bring himself in the cross hairs of all those with vested interests and authorities that may also like to know the cause and would possibly ban use of such setups.
 
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quote:

"The fire started in a biofuels water heater, not related to any aircraft or vehicle"


The quote above was within a commentary appended to a news story. So it was someone's theory or opinion rather than a reported fact or quotation from an official. There is no news story that states that the fire started in a processor.

The hobby does a bad job not only with containment but also with bonding and grounding. I don't know any hobbyist who does a really good job with these. A friend of mine gave me a 55 gallon drum of methanol that still contained 30 gallons. He had it bonded and grounded, but was storing it in a black steel barrel outside in the sun, 10' from his house and 10' from his neighbor's house. The steel barrel was deformed by expansion.

Let's face it, anyone can make biodiesel on the home scale regardless of skill, aptitude, or common sense. The hobby is an untrained, unregulated activity. The NBB can't even properly regulate commercial plants, so the fact that hobbyists can't regulate themselves is hardly surprising.

As time goes by I become more and more convinced that we can expect a series of accidents by long-time practitioners who have become lax and by relatively new practitioners who lack the aptitude or skill or who have been oversold on the hobby's simplicity and don't really understand what they are doing. If that does indeed occur then we can expect the hobby to be regulated into extinction and practiced only by an illegal underground of true believers.
 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA | Registered: July 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Maud:
Some pilots on a local blog unkindly stated the theory that Del tried to put out a grease fire with water, but since Del's entire method utilized no water because he had none available I believe they were conjecturing based on a lack of understanding of how to make biodiesel using Del's method.
If he and his family lived in an appartment above the hangar I think there was water available somewhere.

There are two youtube clips that Del posted.
Youtube clip 1

Youtube clip 2
 
Registered: November 09, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Del had water to his home but always stated that he didn't have water available to wash fuel. That is why he developed his own variation of Graham's dry washing method. Here's a brief description of his process that Del posted on his list (biodieselhouston) on Nov. 3, 2009:

quote:

I guess I do it different than most I do not titrate and get all kinds of WVO but. I use 20% methanol to WVO so if you have 26 gal of WVO. I would use 5.2 gal or just round it off to 5 gal, always round off onto the minus side instead of the plus on methanol. Then I would use 225 grams of KOH per gal of methanol=1126g of KOH. Use the 80/20 Process at 140F for 1-1/2 hour on 80% let settle for 1hr. drain off the 80% or until you see biodiesel then add the 20% and process for 1-/1/2 hr. Let sit 8hrs and air dry for 3hrs. If you air dry when the BD is hot you will get foam. Let sit for another 8 hrs and drain off the remaining glycerin and Then USE the BD !

Been using this process and fuel for over 4 yrs.


In another post, Del states, "I do recover the methanol from the BD right after processing and draining the glycerol off. Then dry wash one hour for every 10 gallons. Let it sit a day and then use it."

By "air dry" I think that Del is talking about bubbling air through the biodiesel to drive off the methanol. In another post, Del states that he uses "the pressure side of a small shop Vac. Just the right amount of air." to do this.

Although he doesn't state it above, Del used to filter the finished fuel through sock filters to remove the soap prior to using the fuel. I don't know if that was still part of his method.

In reading over a few pages of recent posts on Del's list (the messages are public so anyone can read them but since I don't belong I can't look at the photos) I see that Del is no longer using an Appleseed but is instead now using a dual cone processor that he calls the One Step. Del mentions that he was working on plans for it that he was intending to sell. From his descriptions, it has a cone on top and a cone on the bottom, and includes a condenser for methanol recovery not only from biodiesel but (separately) from glycerol. I don't know how he controlled the heating element, what kind of pump or plumbing he used, or anything else about it.
 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA | Registered: July 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Dropped something on the floor?
Alot of bio brewers like mixing up chems. I bet he dropped some nitrogen triiodide. I mean, what else does every home brewer have that could be dropped and cause a series of explosions?
 
Location: central virginia | Registered: March 13, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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I don't know what caused the fire or even if it was biodiesel related or not. We may never know what caused the fire.

I do know he processed biodiesel in the same building with his home. He had a fire and lost not only his processing equipment, but also his home and several airplanes. Making biodiesel is making fuel. It involves the use of caustics, poisons, and flammable liquids.

The First Rule of making biodiesel should be: Don't process in your home.
 
Location: Cowboy Country | Registered: December 06, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Which I would amend to say:
quote:

The First Rule of making biodiesel should be: Don't process in your home or business.


In losing his hangar, Del lost his business too. At least two of the lost planes belonged to others to whom Del leased space, and one of the two was uninsured. I don't know whether or not Del's personal planes were insured.
 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA | Registered: July 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post



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By the look of those videos it could be any number of things associated with that hazardous reactor setup... It was an accident waiting to happen... If you can call it an accident, I call it negligence.
Hopefully Del will be strait and say what exactly happened so others may learn. However it may be in his best interest to keep the truth from his insurance company, if they can prove brewing was the cause of the fire those videos alone are likely enough for his insurance to deny him any moneys...

I could name a few things right off the top of my head that could have caused a series of explosions related to his setup.

Being that it was in a hanger there should have been plenty of quality ABC fire extinguishers readily available? Why use water?
Jon
 
Location: Wellington County, Ontario Canada | Registered: February 07, 2008Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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While those videos may indeed show Del's current methods for recovering methanol, since they are two years old they might possibly be out of date. Like Rick said, we don't know now and may never know what Del was doing when his hangar caught fire. All we know at the moment is what the news stories state (which could of course be wrong: )

  • "County Fire Marshal investigator Chad Shaw said a man was mixing some sort of chemicals or fuels together when the explosion happened." Click2Houston.com

  • "Witnesses told investigators that the fire possibly started on the east side of the hangar, where Martin was known to mix chemicals to make fuel." Click2Houston.com

  • "Several sources told us that Martin said he accidentally spilled some chemicals that he was mixing for fuel." KTRK-TV ABC 13 Houston
Fortunately, as of Dec. 10 the fire was ruled accidental (as opposed to arson: ) "Harris County Fire Marshal’s Office conducted an investigation into the cause of the fire. An early interview with the owner and witnesses reported that the fire was possibly started on the interior of the hangar on the east side where the owner is known to mix chemicals to make fuel. The cause of the fire has been determined to be accidental, according to the release." The Tomball Potpourri
 
Location: St. Louis, Missouri, USA | Registered: July 06, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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