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Old 01-12-2012, 08:09 PM   #1
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What alternate fuels will burn in a diesel engine?

I've read on this forum about people burning waste vegetable oil, biodiesel, and even used motor oil. I'd like to know what alternate fuels will burn safely in an unmodified diesel engine? Specifically, a 1995 DT466, but any information could be helpful to anybody who needs fuel in an emergency and may only be able to source something unexpected.
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Old 01-17-2012, 03:54 PM   #2
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Re: What fuels will safely burn in a diesel engine?

this is a question i am very interested in as well, so please someone with some knowledge help!
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Old 01-17-2012, 05:17 PM   #3
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Re: What fuels will safely burn in a diesel engine?

We used to have a coach with a DD 8V71 with N65 injectors (and yes, I do know what all that means). We were looking to an alternative to the price of diesel because we thought it was high priced (little did we realize).

Un-modified... you can run diesel in todays modern diesel engines. I once deeply researched the engine that was developed by Rudolph Diesel. He created an engine that could run off of most anything, including water. He was building an engine to use on farms. He believed that a farm should be self-sustainable and should be able to grow the fuel to power the farm equipment. He had a vision of farms all over the world, including the poor third world countries, raising their own fuel (veg oil) and not be at the wims of foreign countries. He believed that this would allow the farms and the countries to be come more prosperous. The diesel engines of today are not, nor have they been for many, many decades, the same engine Diesel built (old WW2 story about an old German or Polish generator for a hospital that was running on water... they could not turn it off as they had no diesel to get it reprimed and to start back up). The closest thing to "un-modified" would be to run heated vegetable oil.

Other than that.... Kerosine (K-1 & K-2), home heating fuel and POSSIBLY low-odor mineral oil. I know you can run the low-odor mineral oil in Kerosine heaters and lamps with minimal problems. But the price is terribly high per gallon. All the alternative fuels I looked into were either expensive or impractical for us as fulltimers with no "home base". I watched the source of waste vegetable oil in Western NC get "acquired" by a bio-diesel outfit in Asheville. If it was happening in Western NC, then it was happening in many other places. I even looked into buying fresh, unused soy oil in 55 gallon drums from Sysco. The price was about $5 per gallon. About what mineral oil sells for. I know of commercial truck drivers that got caught with red diesel (home heating fuel/off road diesel) in their tanks and lost their trucks to the revenuers. Red dye is supposed to stain your regular fuel for months after 1 tank and the dye does nasty stuff to some engines.

So, the conclusions I came away with were.... stick with diesel or bio-diesel (higher price) from the pump and NEVER run out (priming the 8V71 is a b*%ch when it runs dry and takes about 5 gallons to get it running again). Also it appears to "hurt less" if you top off your tank rather than letting it get close to empty. Seems "Murphy" gets involved and if running low, you end up getting fuel from a high priced place when there was a cheaper place just down the road from where you HAD to get fuel.
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:20 PM   #4
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Re: What fuels will safely burn in a diesel engine?

Thank you for that information, but I wasn't really worried about cost as my question was predicated on an emergency "MacGyver" solution. It's obviously better to not run out of fuel, but as everyone knows, sometimes things don't go according to plan. In those cases, it's nice to know that I can dump a few gallons of kerosine or maybe mineral oil into the tank and get back to where I can buy regular diesel fuel. I don't expect it will give me the best fuel economy or run like a new engine, but maybe it will get me down the road instead of sitting on my ass in the middle of nowhere.
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Old 01-20-2012, 12:12 AM   #5
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Re: What alternate fuels will burn in a diesel engine?

If you have a inline priming system inline with your detroit, they start just fine.. at least that has been my experience. Also good idea to prefill filters and leave them unscrewed a tiny bit and pressurize the fuel line before them until the fuel runs out which pretty much eliminates the air. I have never had one that i had much trouble with, except for the one that had sat for 10 years under a tree, and someone wanted the engine, so it took a bit for the ancient fuel to make the thing start, with the help of ether and 2 sets of batteries.

As far as alternate fuels, i use green diesel in my bus, red in the equipment now because the state has these vans that can just park beside the road and tell which fuel you are using... and i dont want to invest in the whole veggie oil thing, as i have enough to do with the standard fuel.
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Old 01-20-2012, 01:29 AM   #6
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Re: What alternate fuels will burn in a diesel engine?

I can tell you one thing that we have discovered. Kerosine is not as widely available in NM as it is in GA, NC, TN, SC & AL. I had thought about picking up a kerosine space heater until I realized, we hadn't seen a single kerosine pump at any fuel station we had been in. So weird. But does explain the lack of kerosine space heaters in the stores. So I though fine, I know I can use low odor mineral oil/spirits until I priced it. EEK!
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Old 01-20-2012, 05:25 PM   #7
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Re: What alternate fuels will burn in a diesel engine?

A friend of mine here in California has spent his working life delivering home heating oil and other petroleum products to customers, and he tells me: Home heating oil and kerosene is the same product. Diesel #2 (the common diesel fuel) is also the same, except that Diesel has a little bit of lubricating oil added.

While on his home heating oil delivery routes, he is sometimes called on to help trucks that have run out, and he gives them enough kerosene to get to the next town. He tells them to fill up with real Diesel as soon as possible, because the kerosene / home heating oil lacks lubricating quality.

Poking around on the interweb over the last few years I have come across web sites related to diesel engine manufacturers, where acceptable fuels are listed. "Acceptable fuels" in this context pertains to emergencies such war, disasters, and operation in god-forsaken territories. The list of acceptable fuels I remember seeing was quite long. But again, the longevity of the engine may be compromised.

NEVER attempt to use gasoline (UK petrol) in a Diesel engine. Complete destruction will result within minutes.
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Old 01-21-2012, 01:15 AM   #8
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Re: What alternate fuels will burn in a diesel engine?

Oh for dog's sake, an engine that runs on water is nonsense.

Maybe an engine could rotate a few extra revolutions as an "accidental" steam engine if suddenly switched from fuel to water. But the cooling effect of the water would quickly consume the remaining heat of the burned fuel, and that would be that.

And an engine could not burn the hydrogen molecules of water either. It takes more energy in the form of electricity to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen than the available energy in the resulting hydrogen. No perpetual motion there either.

If I remember correctly from what I read years ago, Dr. Diesel used peanut oil for his prototype. Wikipedia would no doubt have the details.

What CAN be done, as sort'of hinted at above, is to run a gasoline engine on kerosene/diesel. Some old farm tractors were that way. There is an example in the California Automobile Museum in Sacramento, where I was once a docent. These engines had to be started and warmed up on gasoline, and could then be switched to cheaper kerosene. This is just like the modern use of pre-heated waste oil in diesel engines -- they must be started and stopped on real diesel fuel.
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Old 01-21-2012, 01:27 AM   #9
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Re: What alternate fuels will burn in a diesel engine?

Yes John, the old basic diesel engines could run on water once they heated up. Even the old military ones could. The "modern" diesels are so far removed from what originally were built that it is very sad. How accurate the story is I really don't know. But it is a story that I found repeated several places (including on German websites). Many of them having nothing to do with diesel engines. I spent about 4 years researching diesel engines and alternative fuels.

Elliot, you do not know everything.
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Old 01-21-2012, 02:38 AM   #10
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Re: What alternate fuels will burn in a diesel engine?

People have been known to drip small amounts of water into the air intakes of running engines in order to "steam clean" carbon build-up from the combustion chamber. Too much, and the engine "hydraulics" and you need a new one.
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