Distillation for SHTF

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Baffled
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Distillation for SHTF

Post by Baffled » Tue Feb 04, 2014 12:55 pm

With the popularity of "Moonshiners", a goofy reality show, home distillation is booming.

OT: Moonshiners has these dudes ON CAMERA committing a felony. No face blurring. Why aren't they picked up by the ATF or local LEO?

Anyway, I have been researching home stills for SHTF scenarios - alcohol will always be tradeable, can be used for fuel, and can be consumed.

The home still guys have rejected the hillbilly pots stills in favor of more advance designs, like reflux stills. These are well within reach of anybody who can solder copper pipe.

http://homedistiller.org/equip/photos-alex

For about $200, one can set up an 8 gallon rig that will deliver 6 quarts of jet fuel per run. Anybody into this?

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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by bakerjw » Tue Feb 04, 2014 4:46 pm

IIRC, there's a certain amount that you can distill for personal use. Not sure how much it is though.
And yes, the ability to make alcohol is a certain must in a SHTF scenario.
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by doubloon » Tue Feb 04, 2014 8:33 pm

There used to be a time you could distill for fuel but I don't know if that's still true or if it requires a permit
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by WhisperFan » Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:00 pm

bakerjw wrote:IIRC, there's a certain amount that you can distill for personal use. Not sure how much it is though.
And yes, the ability to make alcohol is a certain must in a SHTF scenario.
I wish that was true. You may make wine, and you may brew beer. But an individual may not distill any amount of liquor.

I think it is all about the taxes and license fees.


From the ATF site:
"Q - I've seen ads for home distilling equipment in catalogs ("turn wine into brandy," "make your own essential oils"). Is it legal to buy and use a still like that?

A - Under Federal rules administered by TTB, it depends on how you use the still. You may not produce alcohol with these stills unless you qualify as a distilled spirits plant (see earlier question). However, owning a small still and using it for other purposes is allowed. You should also check with your State and local authorities - their rules may differ.

A still is defined as apparatus capable of being used to separate ethyl alcohol from a mixture that contains alcohol. Small stills (with a cubic distilling capacity of a gallon or less) that are used for laboratory purposes or for distilling water or other non-alcoholic materials are exempt from our rules. If you buy a small still and use it to distill water or extract essential oils by steam or water extraction methods, you are not subject to TTB requirements. If you produce essential oils by a solvent method and you get alcohol as a by-product of your process, we consider that distilling. Even though you are using and recovering purchased alcohol, you are separating the alcohol from a mixture -distilling."
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by Baffled » Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:43 am

From what I've gathered, the hardware itself is legal to own. You can buy one ready to go from $400 on up. The ACT of distillation for consumption is illegal under federal law without the proper licenses.

For fuel - different matter. Local laws can vary, but my understanding is that a permit is not only available, it's easy to obtain, and there may actually be a federal income tax credit per gallon of alcohol produced!

The problem with most home distillations is that they rely on a lot of cane sugar. Expensive. Few guys do a traditional mash without added sugar. But it's possible. You can gather half-rotted fruit from supermarket dumpsters for free, and use that. Almost anything organic will ferment.

This is something I'd like to KNOW how to do.

Added: Though of another excellent use for a medium to large home still - so long as you have fuel (propane, wood), you can use the still to create safe, fresh drinking water from just about anything, up to the nastiest pond scum imaginable. You can make drinking water from ocean water, too.

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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by johndoe3 » Wed Feb 05, 2014 9:50 pm

You can apply online for a FREE Federal permit for a still--for fuel use only not for drinking spirits--that allows you to make up to 10,000 untaxed gallons per year. Here is the 2-page Federal permit application; the free unbonded Federal permit is for the "small" category which is less than 10,000 gallons per year. You can even sell or give away a portion of your production as long as the alcohol is denatured (add 1 to 2 gal of diesel fuel per 100 gallons). Link to download PDF application Form 5110.74 (can also e-file online for the free permit.

http://www.ttb.gov/forms/f511074.pdf

BTW, you can even freely use your free Federal permit untaxed alcohol for fuel to make electricity (like SHTF).

The Treasury Department website for alcohol permits of all types is http://www.ttb.gov/

The book, Alcohol Can Be A Gas, gives alcohol still designs, and crops that can be used for making fuel--like sugarbeets. It talks about how much fuel you can get per acre of each type of crop. I've read the entire book and it is complete in giving everything needed to make a still and start making alcohol fuel. Also complete discussions of where to obtain parts for stills and commercial Yeasts used for fermentation.

Note: People should also check and see whether their State has any requirements for a permit beyond what the Feds require and give out.
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by johndoe3 » Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:33 pm

Here is a alcohol yield per acre for various crops, from the book, Alcohol Can Be A Gas. It might give a potential maker of fuel alcohol ideas of feedstocks other than sugar cane and sugar beets. I scanned it from pg 79 of the book.

Image
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by doubloon » Thu Feb 06, 2014 9:11 am

johndoe3 wrote:You can apply online for a FREE Federal permit for a still--for fuel ....
This is along the lines of what I remember from an old issue of mother earth news but I didn't remember all the details ... thanks!
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by Libertarian_Geek » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:28 am

As far as "Reality TV" goes, don't forget the "bullshit factor". AKA "Reality TV is not reality".
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by Baffled » Thu Feb 06, 2014 11:50 am

Libertarian_Geek wrote:As far as "Reality TV" goes, don't forget the "bullshit factor". AKA "Reality TV is not reality".
I understand, and "Moonshiners" is one of the most scripted and BS laden shows in existence. But what I do enjoy is watching the process itself, and some of those boys are pretty handy with sheet copper.

Johndoe - good info, thanks. Cattails? Who'd have thought it? Outperforms corn by almost a factor of 10. I guess if you are a farmer with some marshy lowland, cultivating cattails might actually pay.

I remember a few years back a company was offering a machine that literally looked like a large service station pump. It was so heavily automated that you basically load it up with fermentables and water, push a button, and the machine makes the ethanol and transfers it into another holding tank. The machine even had a gas pump style handle. It was big bucks, however.

edit: Found it.
http://www.wired.com/autopia/2008/05/make-your-own-e/

Image

From what I've seen, for fuel, anything less than 100 gallons would hardly be worth the effort. But SHTF, a couple of gallons of ethanol from a modest still could power a modified motorcycle or scooter nicely. And you can turn it into gelled fuel (sterno) or power all sorts of liquid ethanol devices.
Last edited by Baffled on Thu Feb 06, 2014 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by johndoe3 » Thu Feb 06, 2014 6:38 pm

One of the surprising good feedstocks for alcohol fuel are potatoes (299 to 447 gal per acre from actual producers of fuel alcohol). I grew up on a farm raising potatoes, and when they are graded to sell to the public as Grade A, the Grade B (undersize) and Grade C (scabbed and damaged) were mostly used as supplement feed for cows. If a person lived close by a medium to large potato farmer, they generate a lot of discards that you could get for a very low price and make fuel alcohol. In fact, I would offer the farmer part of the alcohol fuel output in exchange for free discard potatoes. That way your feedstock would be free. And...the slurry remaining after the alcohol production can be used for cattle/pig feeding or as fertilizer for the land using a spreader.

The same output sharing with a farmer of any of the above crop feedstocks could be used to get free feedstocks for yourself.

An alternative arrangement that is already in existence in many localities in the country is a Co-op arrangement. You have the still and make alcohol fuel and a number of farmers participate and get a pro-rated share of the alcohol fuel based on their feedstock input. That way, you are not growing any crops for fuel, but being the Co-op fuel producer. The Co-op arrangement benefits many people. They mention a few Co-op arrangements in SD, IN, etc. in the book with pictures of the Co-ops' still setups.

The book, Alcohol Can Be a Gas, has chapters on modifying cars and trucks to run straight alcohol, modifying tractors to run on straight alcohol, and even mentions experimental modification of small airplanes to run on straight alcohol fuel.
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by Baffled » Thu Feb 06, 2014 7:00 pm

The book, Alcohol Can Be a Gas, has chapters on modifying cars and trucks to run straight alcohol, modifying tractors to run on straight alcohol, and even mentions experimental modification of small airplanes to run on straight alcohol fuel.
:lol: I always think of "The Road Warrior" when I think SHTF or TEOTWAWKI. Those idiots were bashing heads over a few gallons of gasoline, when they could have been distilling.

And if I wanted to escape the outback, I'd steal an airplane or gyrocopter like that dork had, and motor on out. But I guess in retrospect, there wasn't much to distill out there except the corpses of your enemies.

I've been like a dog with a bone on this for a few days. There are plenty of online resources, many ready-to-run rigs for a few hundred bucks, but I want to make my own reflux tower at a minimum. The boiler part is probably best bought ready made, unless one is good with sheet stainless and TIG.

If/when I crank something up, I'll take a few pics as it progresses.

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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by johndoe3 » Fri Feb 07, 2014 12:36 am

OK, my last post on this because you brought up distillation columns. The following may be helpful to you in your design based on published experience for design efficiency.

Column height to diameter for an efficient packed distillation column
Image

Matching tank size to column size for a packed distillation column
Image

You'll want to use a 24:1 ratio for height to diameter. So if you chose a 6" diameter distillation column for a moderate production capacity, then the height of the packed distillation tower should be 12 feet.

The packing for an efficient distillation column is engineering science, just like baffles in suppressors. As the book shows, the computer designed "pall rings" give a 20-25% energy savings during production over that of simple packing (like chore boys in a suppressor). Here is one manufacturer of the pall rings with pictures of them. The book says the stainless steel ones last forever, while the plastic ones break down quickly, and the ceramic ones also break down over time. You may be able to make the stainless steel pall rings yourself. The top picture is the improved pall ring for packing the distillation column, and the lower one the original design.
Image

One company who makes pall rings for distillation columns. Google "pall rings for distillation columns" for others. The performance improvement with pall rings is like comparing chore boys to k baffles.
http://www.tower-packing.com/Dir_Pall_R ... pplier.htm
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by Baffled » Fri Feb 07, 2014 11:32 am

JohnDoe, thanks! You seem to have some experience with this. I appreciate all your inputs.

The home still crowd mostly uses engineered copper mesh packing for the flavor benefits - apparently, Cu absorbs sulfides and some other off tastes. But if fuel is all one is after, any packing works, and SS would be best, I'm thinking.

One could always swap packing from SS to Cu if the idea is to create alcohol for sale or trade in a SHTF scenario.

I talked to my wife about this, not so much as to "get permission" (I'd lose my man-card for that) but to let her be aware there'll be some hefty and weird CC charges coming. She was excited, said "Don't whimp out, get the big boiler." Yes, I will. :lol:
From what I've gathered, the hardware itself is legal to own. The ACT of distillation for consumption is illegal under federal law without the proper licenses.
I was thinking about how this contrasts with silencer laws. If this ^^ was the case with silencers, we could own or make any number of them; it'd be using them on a firearm that would be illegal. Wouldn't that be nice?

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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by doubloon » Fri Feb 07, 2014 12:09 pm

Baffled wrote:...
I was thinking about how this contrasts with silencer laws. If this ^^ was the case with silencers, we could own or make any number of them; it'd be using them on a firearm that would be illegal. Wouldn't that be nice?
Just like Washington used to be but I don't recall residents of that state thinking it was all that nice.
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Re: Distillation for SHTF

Post by Baffled » Fri Feb 07, 2014 10:15 pm

Well, nice is relative. I'd rather be allowed to have a bunch of silencers on hand than not.

Obviously the best case is a bunch of silencers (and MG's too) and be able to use them.

I think New Zealand allows one to have ANY machine gun made, but you can't shoot them. I wonder how much <wink wink> goes on with that deal?

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