DIY fuel production

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This page lists personal fuel generators for those fuels that can not easily be obtained via regular filling stations.

Ethanol still

An ethanol still allows you to extract ethanol from a mash. To make the mash, you basically just need sugar, water and yeast. There are however legal restrictions in many countries (i.e. you often need to get a permit to be able to own/operate a still). So make sure you get this in order before even thinking of doing this.

Some stills are:

The above stills use sugar as its base ingredient, derived from human-consumable crops (which need to be especially grown for this). A more ecologic approach is to use feedstocks that can not be used to feed humans. An example of such a feedstock, which can also be easily grown at home, is algae. Algae species as Sargassum, Glacilaria, Prymnesium parvum, or Euglena gracilis can be used for such purposes. The ethanol can be extracted from them using distillation, after having added certain yeast species. An alternative to using microorganisms as yeast is to use a mechanical reactor. This is done by such devices as the E-fuel MicroFueler.

Biobutanol processor

Biobutanol processors allow you to make biobutanol (from i.e. algae). Biobutanol can be used in unaltered gasoline engines. Biobutanol processors can be made using Jamie Hestekin's PEACE-1 biobutanol processor. It is able to generate about 1 to 2 liter of fuel from 15 kg of algae. The algae (i.e. Clostridium saccharoperbutylacetonicum) can be grown in a pond, disused swimming pool, photobioreactor or even in throughs made in your garden, along with the processor equipment itself.

Oxyhydrogen & hydrogen generators

The following devices (called electrolysers) allow to generate oxyhydrogen (when a mix of distilled water with baking soda, sodium or potassium hydroxide is used) or hydrogen (oxyhydrogen will change to hydrogen if left to stand). Keep in mind that producing hydrogen is much less energy efficient than producing oxyhydrogen. Also take note that oxyhydrogen isn't compressable (it will explode when doing so -1-) and for compressing hydrogen, you still need to combine it with a gas compressor to fill steel cylinders (2) with this fuel. At least CNG compressors (3) need to be used (3600psi), and these tend to be quite expensive.

There are some generators that make hydrogen immediately:

Biodiesel processor

You can download the plans of the open-source biodiesel processors here

Biodiesel processors allow you to make biodiesel from pure plant oil (and even waste vegetable oil, but you then need to filter it first). This is useful for those customers that don't want to alter their vehicle engine. Commercial companies supplying open-source biodiesel processors include:

The biodiesel processors above require the use of an alcohol (methanol or ethanol) and a co-reactant (like NaOH or KOH). Some biodiesel processors exist that don't need co-reactants, but rather use an (organometallic) catalyst.

Formic acid generator

Formic acid can be made from water and CO2 (it uses electricity and a ruthenium catalyst to accomplish this). A small generator has been made by GRT group.


  • 1: given that oxyhydrogen isn't compressable, it's never kept in tanks as you can't store any practical amount of energy with it. Instead, it's generated on-demand (i.e. using a battery). Do not that it's only used in engines mixed in with another fuel. This because the combustion reaction is too violent for most engines (despite that it contains but 50% to 80% of the energy in hydrogen) and use of it as a sole fuel would thus damage the engines over time.
  • 2: Roy McAllister mentions that for testing you could use 2nd hand (80 cubic foot, or hence 3 gallon) 3000 psi SCUBA dive tanks (rather than special H2 tanks that can handle 5000-10000 psi) so as to reduce costs (stated price of used diving tanks being between $50 and $100). He also mentioned that for general use, you could use (3 gallon) standard steel or aluminium cylinders (such as type 1 CNG tanks) for storing hydrogen. These latter cost somewhat more but can handle a pressure up to a maximum of 13000 psi and are hence far safer. Obviously, you should not use these CNG tanks at their maximum capable pressure though (the limit should be placed on what the other parts can handle, so that's often 3600 psi)
  • 3: inexpensive air compressors can't be used for this task, mainly because of the danger of explosion with these, and the fact that they can only compress the gas to about 100 psi (and you need to be able to compress it to at least 3000 psi (and for optimal range, even 5000 - 10000 psi assuming your tank can handle this pressure of course)