The purpose of this thread is to compile a list of equipment related safety discussions here on infopop. If you see a major thread missing please let me know and it will be added. Some topics include Preventing Tank Fires, Methanol vapor mitigation devices, Secondary containment, and Electrical Safety.
Preventing Tank Fires
Anytime an immersion element is installed in a processor in such a way that it can come in contact with methanol fumes you run the risk of a tank fire. If the heating element is on and exposed to air, the surface temperature of the element can reach the flashpoint temperature of methanol. To prevent tank fires, anytime the element is on and heating, it must be covered in oil to keep it's temperature in a safe range. People do make mistakes and these fires can happen in any processor with an immersion element in the processor tank.
An early discussion on the use of immersion elements and the alternatives: Safe heaters Dec 2002
The easiest way to avoid any kind of explosion in the reactor is to not have a heating element in it. I am always amazed at how many people poo-poo the idea of heating in a separate vessel, then transfering. The water heater insulation will keep the mixture hot. I know this for a fact- it is what we do on a commercial scale. Works great, and I can guarantee that the appleseed insulation is better than what's on our reactor.
I would like to recommend using a second water heater for heating the oil before processing. The plumbing design can be greatly simplified by since we do not need a methoxide injection port or vigorous mixing.
B100 Supply also offers a preheat tank kit based on a steel 55 gallon drum. It also includes a drum strainer for getting out the big trash and a drum lid to keep things covered and clean. This solution is the most common way to heat oil for processing in plastic processors.
Three page thread on using inline heaters with heat exchangers for indirect heating of the processor, thereby separating the heating element from methanol vapors. In-line heat exchanger idea Jul 2007
This thread looks at a number of alternatives to electric water heaters: Water Heaters Mar 2005
Heat oil with the sun
Using Solar Heat has always been a favorite method of the forum for eliminating the electrical draw of an electric heating element. Vegpup even built a solar powered processor seven years ago after he built his water heater processor with an immersion element.
Thanks Rick. We've been using this method for over a year with 1000-gallon+ batches, and have never had a problem with temperature.
Using the Appleseed design with non-pressure vessels
A serious safety concern arises when the generic appleseed design is applied to non-pressure vessels. These include, most typically, modified 55-gallon drums and fuel storage tanks. Unlike a hot water heater, which is designed to take a certain amount of pressure, these containers will not be able to withstand the pressure, should there ever be a methanol vapor ignition inside the tank, and they will bloat and rupture, or possibly explode, which can be a very serious, life-threatening hazardous event.
Here are before and after pictures of a modified 350-gallon farm tank that had vapors inside ignite when the fluid level got too low:
Incidentally, this tank was vented with a pretty large diameter open pipe (either 1 1/4" or 1 1/2" ID, IIRC) at the time of the fire/explosion. I was not present, but what was described to me was flames in the processor and shooting out the bottom, where the rupture occurred. The operators used a fire extinguisher to put out the fire. They were shaken up, but uninjured.
And here are some links for threads about 55-gallon drums and pressure:
Ideally, you would not use such a container to make an appleseed processor, but if you must, please take special cautionary measures to avoid the danger described; consider a pre-heating vessel and no in-tank heating element, or other means of guaranteeing that even a distracted, forgetful operator can't cause a catastrophe.
***If possible, use air-powered and/or explosion-proof motors. Explosion-proof electricals may cost more, but it is worth doing the research, and for a small setup, the expense may be minimal.***
Notes on Proper Attire when operating your processor
Just like a construction worker wearing his/her hardhat on the jobsite even if there is nothing directly above them, a biodiesel maker should be wearing their safety apparel whenever they are making biodiesel. Gloves on the hands, coveralls or something similar over your clothing, goggles over the eyes, and a respirator with pretty fresh cartridges (they don't work perfectly with methanol vapor, but a new one is better than an old one, and it still does a good job protecting you from other things like KOH dust) are par for the course. A hood to cover the head and shoulders is a good idea if you are dealing with KOH dust.
The bottom line is that, while you don't ever expect an accident to occur, if one does, you want your skin, your eyes, and your respiratory system to be as protected as possible.
You should also have an eyewash and a full-body shower located very close to your work area, and train yourself to use them if there's any remote possibility that you got something dangerous on you- better to be safe than sorry.
This message has been edited. Last edited by: kumar,
Kumar Plocher Yokayo Biofuels Yokayo Biofuels Facebook page .........../ \.............. fueling / R \ evolution since 2001 '''''''''''''/____\'''''''''''''''''''
October 02, 2007, 02:10 PM
Preventing Tank Fires using a Control Panel
Control panels are the most common form of upgrade to the Appleseed. They can be used to make it easier to operate and improve safety. Over the years a lot of forum users have shared their panel design with the forum. The panels I'm discussing below are drawn from this forum. Sorry if I haven't given specific credits for each design, but if you want to claim your design and elaborate more on it feel free to do so.
Requiring the pump to run when heating
This is probably the most popular control panel design. I've seen 110 and 220 versions.
In it's simplest form it's two switches, Switch One powers the pump and Switch Two. Switch Two powers the heat. The issue with the simplest version is that it's possible to turn off everything by turning off only the pump switch. Then when you drain you turn the pump switch back on and the heat comes on with it. Adding a visual or audio indicator of the heat being on would help to prevent this from happening as do the next few modifications to the panel.
Slightly more complicated would be to use a three position selector switch wired so that it travels off-pump-pump+heat. You need a selector switch that does not rotate the full 360 degrees so it must switch through pump only to get from off to pump+heat. This forces the operator to turn off the heat before it can settle.
Adding just a touch of automation, we can replace the simple switches in the simplest example with spring wound timers. One timer for the pump and one timer for the heating element. This variation would shut down the heat after a preset time. It can also be used to automate the mixing so it shuts off after the proper time every time. Note: spring wound timers are not 100% and according to the manufactures should not be used in situations where their failure can cause injury or loss of life.
Heater and pump can not run at the same time
This version assumes that you will be using the pump to move the biodiesel out of the processor. If the pump is running, the heat will not. The simplest version is a three position selector switch with one extreme being heat, the other extreme being pump and off in the middle. It intrinsically prevents turning on the heat while draining.
Heavy equipment in industrial applications are all powered by a simple latching relay. A tap is taken from the output of the relay and run through an emergency off button to power the coil. It also has a momentary on button accross the relay contacts. pushing the on button energizes the coils pushing the off button de-energizes the coil. A power outage will de-energize the coil. If the relay is used to power the heat, it will automatically shut down in the event of a power failure.
You can add components to the latching relay to automatically shut it down or prevent it from turning on. things like float switches and flow switches, and sensors of all kinds with contacts can be inserted in the control circuit for additional protection. The panel on B100 Supply is tied into the thermostats to shut down power to the elements when it reaches temperature.
PID controllers are highly accurate thermostatic controllers that require a thermocouple to detect the temperature and a relay or SSR to control the element. They are more commonly found on methanol stills, but would be a great addition to any processor.
Here is a thread about hooking up PID controllers with thermocouples, and an SSR. In this thread the application is methanol recovery, but the information is applicable to processor controllers as well: Reflux column - Size and scrubber content
Here is another good thread on the subject of hooking up a PID: PID
SSR's and Relays
SSR's are solid state relays. They do not make sparks when switching like relays with moving contacts. They do get hot as the solid state circuitry dissipates a lot of heat. Relays can be found in a wide variety of forms and sizes with the HVAC general purpose contactor being the most common. Both SSR's and Relays can be easily found that are big enough to handle any immersion element.
PLC Logic Controllers
If you want full automation the way to go is PLC. These are basically a simple computer with inputs and outputs designed for industrial equipment control. Full automation also takes the human mistake element out of the whole process.
Other Control Devices
Washing Machine Level Switch
A thread on using a washing machine level switch to in line with the heating element to prevent turning the heat on when the level is too low. Processor Heater Safety Switch Dec 2006
Here is a thread that started off asking about compatibility of Galvanized steel with biodiesel. As many thread go, this one also went off topic and discussed flow switches to control the heating element.
In the early days we had open topped processors. It was not too long before the biodiesel community realized that the methanol loss from an open topped processor was an expensive waste as noted in this thread: Methanol in BD Reactor: Should Fumes be Vented? Apr 2005
In this thread neutral recommended a closing the processor with the addition of a vent tube. This dramatically cuts back on methanol lost during mixing and although there was little mention of it, it also dramatically reduced the amount of methanol vapors inhaled by the brewer.
What comes out of the vent and when?
1) When adding liquids to the processor, air will be displaced. That air will need to go somewhere, and it goes out the vent.
[li]When you add methanol, some is evaporated and goes out the vent with the air[/li] [li]If your processor is designed such that when empty the tank contains methanol vapors as with the standard appleseed, then methanol vapors will be pushed out the vent while loading your oil.[/li]
2) When things go wrong, methanol can be pushed out the vent, I list two, but there are other weird conditions that cause methanol to vent.
[li]If your oil is too hot when you add the methanol, you can boil out your methanol[/li] [li]If you have a fire in your processor, usually caused by turning on the heating element with the element exposed to air, then you will get methanol vapors, smoke, and possibly some flames exiting the vent[/li]
There have been no reported injuries of tank fires to date. The events that came the closest to causing injury all have one thing in common. A missing or poorly installed vent pipe/tube. Tank fires are capable of building up to 100psi of pressure in the tank according to the limited math and simulations I have performed. The Appleseed if properly constructed can contain this pressure without exposing the operator to a life threatening situation.
To mitigate the possibility of injuries you should have hose clamps on all your tubing with double hose clamps on the return line. The vent needs to be at least 3/4" in diameter, properly secured and extending outside your workspace to an area where methanol can be released or burn without the possibility of injury to people, pets, or property. You should have separate vents run for your normal vent line AND for your pressure relief. Some people recommend steel hose or iron pipe for this vent. Simple PVC tubing has proven to be effective at diverting the smoke and flames away from the workspace without rupturing or catching the tube on fire.
Poor Vent Designs
Vents can be poorly designed and come apart in a fire as it did in this copper processor during this processor fire report if they are not properly designed. In this case the vent (condenser) was a smaller diameter than the hole in the tank causing large forces to build upon the copper tank where the vent was connected to the tank. The total length of the condenser also added some restriction to the vent and added to the forces acting on the vent/tank connection. The split nut design connector used to bolt the vent to the tank did not form a joint of sufficient strength to prevent the vent from pulling out. In addition the act of drilling or hole sawing in a copper tank can generate enough heat to anneal or soften the area around the hole, making it easier for the pressure built up in the vent to pull it out. A better design would have had the hole in the tank the same size as the ID of the vent tubing. That way no pressure can build up inside the vent and no forces are generated that can pull the vent out of the hole in the tank.
Lessons learned from this event: the vent needs to be open, free of restrictions, and not reducing in diameter.This message has been edited. Last edited by: RickDaTech,
Spontaneous Combustion is real. It happens too often among biodiesel enthusiasts. A pile of oily rags can catch on fire all by themselves. Washing them in a washing machine actually seems to make it more likely that they will spontaneously catch fire. The solution is to not leave oily rags laying around in piles. The Equipment solution is to use a fireproof metal fire can with an airtight lid. These cans are designed to starve any fire in them for oxygen.
Seems like every year or so we get a good thread on Spontaneous Combustion:
MSDS Sheets for every chemical found in your production area should be printed and kept on a clipboard or booklet in an easy to reach location in or near your production area. Several firemen have recommended that this be kept in a "fire box" or highly visible location to provide firemen with the information such as a map showing location and quantities of any hazmat materials as well as MSDS sheets.
In the United States, there are two types of labels that are found on chemicals, "Hazmat Placards" and "Health and Safety Labels" There are similar labeling requirements in other countries. These labels should be left on the container showing what was originally in the container until it has been washed out and filled with another chemical. For instance if you use a methanol drum to store biodiesel, you need to change from methanol to biodiesel labeling when you fill the drum with biodiesel.
Hazmat Placards Hazmat Placards are required by the DOT to be used when hazardous materials are transported. Section 14 of the MSDS sheet will provide you with a "Hazard Class" Each Hazard Class has it's own placard or sign that must be displayed when transporting.
Methanol NaOH and KOH
Health and Safety Labels These labels are defined by NFPA. It consists of a diamond divided into four boxes, each box is a different color and represents a different hazard. The number found in the box indicates the relative degree of each hazard. 0 being no hazard and 4 being maximum hazard. You should put this label on every chemical container for which you have an MSDS Sheet. In Commercial and industrial zones these labels are required by the fire codes.
blue health hazard red fire hazard yellow reactivity hazard white other hazard information
Section 5 of the MSDS sheet will sometimes provide you with the proper number to write in each box.
This message has been edited. Last edited by: RickDaTech,
The best action you can take to preventing methanol exposure is to prevent methanol vapors from being released in your workspace! Make sure your process from beginning to end contains the methanol vapors or vents them safely away from your workspace. When biodiesel or glycerin is hot, the methanol in it will easily evaporate. In the bad old days we mixed biodiesel in open drums with the methanol rolling off the top in profuse quantities. With the introduction of fume less processors we have reduced our exposure to methanol greatly. There are many processor designs available to choose from. Each design has special considerations on how to prevent methanol poisoning. The appleseed has two weak points in the processing where if you don't pay attention to detail you can get a good wiff of methanol vapors. These are when you drain the glycerin and when you transfer the biodiesel to the wash tank the fluids are hot and off gassing methanol. Both can be easily addressed and the methanol exposure eliminated.
How to safely ground and bond for pumping methanol pumping methanol Jun 2003This message has been edited. Last edited by: RickDaTech,
You, a member of your family or a guest could accidentally come in contact with lye or caustic chemicals, and the consequences can be pretty horrific.
Lye powder (NaOH or KOH) will absorb moisture from the skin and air and can rapidly become a concentrated solution, which may easily lead to deep tissue damage.
Pay attention to the pain signals and do something about it as soon as you feel discomfort.
That may sound like common sense, but chemical burns can act in sinister ways, and the pain may reduce as the burn destroys the most sensitive pain nerves. Many burns in shoes, for example, progress horrifically because the patient simply thought the problem had gone away, or wasn't that bad.
The results of wearing the wrong clothing when exposed to caustic chemicals...
It appears from various posts on the biodiesel forums that there is a common mis-understanding among us, which is to use vinegar for spills of lye on the body.
DO NOT USE VINEGAR on a lye or caustic burn.
If you are treating someone else who has been burned, don't become a patient yourself! If you can, use gloves and be careful not to get any of the corrosive chemical on yourself.
If the spill is on the chest or belly, do NOT pull a shirt, sweater etc. over the face, as this could transfer chemical to the face or eyes or airways. Instead CUT it off.
Brush off any powder, taking care not to spread to other areas of the body, eyes, etc.
Remove any clothing from the affected part of the body, taking care not to spread the chemical, and flush and actively wash the area with copious running water for at least an hour and seek medical attention.
Do NOT try to neutralise a spill on the body.
If the eyes have been affected, continue irrigating the eyes until medical help arrives. Do not use vinegar.
Because of the amount of time you will be irrigating the area, try to use tepid / warm water so that the patient does not become cold or hypothermic, but if that is not available, use cold water on the affected area.
Keep the patient wrapped in a blanket, because burns can cause the body's temperature regulation to fail, causing hypothermia, even in relatively warm weather.
Do not apply any ointments to the burn area, as the medical team may need to remove this to treat the burn properly.
Prevention is always better than cure. Make sure you keep all chemicals securely locked away so children, other members of the family or guests can't come into contact with them.
Wear protective clothing:- proper goggles for dealing with liquid chemicals, nitrile gloves, synthetic boots and a waterproof apron. Wash the work surface and tools, then wash your hands after every chemical procedure.
Why not use Vinegar?
I emailed the folks at Harvard Medical School to ask for reasoning why not to use vinegar, this was their reply, and my original enquiry.
Please, regardless of what treatment you choose to use for yourselves, the prescribed treatment specifically excludes vinegar or other acids, so please don't promote the use of vinegar or any other acid to others. Thanks. GL
From: Graham Laming [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Fri 12/28/2007 3:22 PM To: Demling Subject: Lye burns - to neutralize or not?
Dear Dr. Demling
I would like to ask your advice on the matter of lye burn treatment. I am trying to establish a safe working protocol for users of NaOH and KOH
"- do not attempt to neutralize acids with alkali or vice versa, just use copious water "
I am meeting with repeated resistance to this, by folks who understandably feel that vinegar is a valid treatment regimen.
As this goes against your good advice, and indeed the advice on all MSDS I can find, I wonder if you would be able to help me by explaining the key reasons for advising against neutralizing, as the question is always "But why can't we use vinegar?"
I can guess at the reasoning, but would greatly appreciate your experienced guidance on this.
Many thanks, in anticipation of your help.
Graham Laming Shefford, UK
The most important treatment is to flood the area with copious water to flush the alkali away not to try and neutralize.
Alkali are hard to remove and very hard to neutralize with a weak acid unless you have gallons upon gallons of vinegar .
Copious flushing is needed for 20-30 min to be able to remove from skin as it soon is thru the upper layer of skin and needs flushing not futile attempts at neutralization which will only affect the most superficial collection of alkali.
As far as eye irrigation vinegar is toxic to the eye especially a damaged eye.
For more information, please see here and note section B , para 7. (Warning - has graphic hotos of chemical burns which some may find upsetting). See also your MSDS sheets, relating to spills on the body.
There are two pumps that are commonly used with biodiesel processors. The NT Clearwater Pump has a long history of reliability when used for making biodiesel. The less expensive Harbor Freight pump is somewhat less reliable. These pumps are intended for pumping clean water, not biodiesel. For better or worse, homebrewing seems to be wedded to these pumps. You find them on nearly every set of processor plans and nearly every homebrew processor kit.
The Harbor Freight pump uses a capacitor that is undersized, causing it to blow out easily. Neither pump has any thermal protection, meaning that if the pump locks up for whatever reason, it will over heat and possibly catch on fire.
The first thing to do when your capacitor blow out is to replace it with the right one. The stock capacitor is rated at 16 micro farads and 240V. Due to the way the motors are wired, the capacitor sees double the applied voltage, so under normal conditions 120 volts applied to the motor will apply 240 volts to the capacitor. Now if you add any kind of power fluctuation like a small spike, the capacitor is overloaded and blows out. What you need is a capacitor that is 300V and about 16-20 microfarads. The extra voltage in the rating gives the pump the ability to absorb those voltage spikes that would burn out the capacitor in the stock pump. They can be purchased at an electrical supply house for about half the price of a new pump. Be sure to tell them you want an AC capacitor. A DC capacitor would quickly burn out without ever starting your motor.
While were upgrading with a new capacitor, lets also add a little safety feature. The simplest is a 10 amp slow blow fuse wired inline. If some trash gets in the pump that locks it up or the pump is started with a defective capacitor, it will quickly draw 12-13 amps. A 10 amp slow blow fuse will protect against a locked rotor, but will not protect against thermal overloading. In higher quality pumps thermal protection units come standard, but we need to add something for this pump. To provide true thermal protection we need to look at options including a thermal snap-disc or a manual motor starter.
The manual motor starter is the best way to make the HF and NT pumps safe as it has thermal overload protection built into it and can be used as an on off switch. The Allen Bradley part number is 600-TAX4 and you will need a heater, part no P32, rated for 7.7 amps. These cost $30-$60 and are available at your local electrical supply house. They may not have the Allen Bradley items, but they will be able to use the Allen Bradley part numbers to cross reference to whatever brand they stock.
Whenever you see a picture of a Harbor Freight pump on a processor, you will almost always see a drip pan. They leak from several places. If you ever run them dry without oil in them, you will damage the seals and they will leak past the seal. You will notice the drip seems to be coming from between the pump and the motor. I don't know of any fix or replacement seals so once it leaks there it will always leak there. They also leak past the threads on the in and out ports.
The input port has straight cut over sized threads. When you tighten a 1" pipe in it, only a single thread is catching and tightening. After you run the pump a few times, the vibrations will loosen it up and it will leak. People have used lots of teflon tape, to seal it. Many have become frustrated with how it will loosen up and start leaking periodically and have resorted to JB Weld. Once you go there the pipe becomes part of the thread. I've heard of all kinds of fixes for this leak. JB Weld seems to be the most successful long term. Note that while the NT pump also has straight threads here, they are not oversized and people don't seem to have the leaking problem we have with the HF pump.
The output port is not deep enough or relieved at the bottom like it should be. It's like the cut off the end of the tap before cutting the threads. What happens is the first thread bottoms out in the bottom of the hole. Again we have the case where only one thread is holding the pipe in the port and after a few hours running starts leaking. We see this in the cutaway picture above of the blue pump and the black pipe. The best long term solution I've seen for this leak is to cut off the first three threads of the nipple you are screwing into the port. When you do that, the nipple is not long enough to bottom out and then will tighten up across all the threads at one time like it should. Note the NT pump has a proper relief at the bottom of the threads and will usually tighten without leaking.
The priming port is a screw on the top of the pump. beneath it is a rubber gasket of some sort that biodiesel/ methanol / wvo will melt. When it starts leaking, remove the goo that used to be the gasket and wrap the plug with teflon tape before tightening back in place. The NT pump uses a nitrile gasket that holds up much better.
One other mention about the HF pump. The fan shroud on the back of the motor can become misaligned during shipping and crush up against the fan. If it is, the motor will not work. The fan shroud should not be touching the fan, and the fan should be able to turn freely. The latest HF pumps dont seem to have as much trouble with this as they did in the past. The NT pump has the fan shroud bolted in place, so it's not an issue with it.
We are a company CT SYSTEMS specialized in the production equipment for production Bio Diesel. Unlike companies which manufacture biodiesel production equipment (biodiesel processor) based on outdated, tank technologies, which have been used for over a century, our company uses the high-frequency magnetic impulse cavitation principle, previously used in classified technologies. Some advantages: Low demands on the quality of the raw oil “One pass” reaction procedure Purifying sorbates, washing and drying are not required Minimal alcohol and catalyst quantity. No alcohol recovery process Low-temperature reaction www.ctsystems.ua
November 26, 2015, 10:32 AM
Originally posted by biodieselequipment: We are a company CT SYSTEMS specialized in the production equipment for production Bio Diesel. Unlike companies which manufacture biodiesel production equipment (biodiesel processor) based on outdated, tank technologies, which have been used for over a century, our company uses the high-frequency magnetic impulse cavitation principle, previously used in classified technologies. Some advantages: Low demands on the quality of the raw oil “One pass” reaction procedure Purifying sorbates, washing and drying are not required Minimal alcohol and catalyst quantity. No alcohol recovery process Low-temperature reaction www.ctsystems.ua
I would caution anyone considering buying anything from any company that goes around spamming forums.
www.MurphysMachines.Com The best Do-it-Yourself Construction Plans on the Internet! Waste Oil Heating - Biodiesel Systems Biodiesel Pumps Made In The USA
November 27, 2015, 12:10 PM
I would also point out that the CT Systems advertisement to sell biodiesel related equipment and technology, when I look at their Public Profile no information is given even about what continent they are on. No hardline telephone number, no way to find them if they cheat you or defraude you in some way.Smells fishy.
April 11, 2016, 04:01 AM
would also point out that the CT Systems advertisement to sell biodiesel related equipment and technology, when I look at their Public Profile no information is given even about what continent they are on. No hardline telephone number, no way to find them if they cheat you or defraude you in some way.Smells fishy.
Dear Sir, We are Ukrainian company that for many years already manufactures and sells equipment worldwide.You can visit our website www.ctsystems.ua for more detailed information. Or you can contact us: email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone +380626477017