For those who have been following up the petroleum nut discovery of ours, here are the latest development we have made:
1. It can DIRECTLY totally replace, we repeat, REPLACE LPG for cooking without undergoing any physical processing except plain sedimentation.
2. It can be directly used for lighting.
3. We’re running the engine tests currently. We started last Friday and should have those done in about 2 weeks.
Based on our chemical analysis, the petroleum nut samples had nonane (9 carbon alkane), pinene (a small monoterpene), and beta-phellandrene (larger terpene). The pinene is the chemical that gives the oil the ‘pine/lemon’ smell. Basically, these oils are made of small hydrocarbons and that’s why it catches fire so easily. LPG is similar in that it is really small hydrocarbons and that’s why it burns so well. The petroleum nut chemicals are larger than LPG, but only by ~4-8 carbons, which doesn’t make a huge difference apparently. The petroleum nut chemicals are also cyclic, which makes them different from LPG. I’ll send all of these things in a more formal report when I can get the engine data together.
Fuel Property Analysis
We looked at two different kinds of the petroleum oil. The first was the oil without the white waxy layer that forms after settling for a couple hours. The second oil had that white wax mixed back into it for comparison. Initial fuel property testing shows that 20% blends of the petroleum nut (without wax) has a flash point lower than standards, but otherwise passes all ASTM biodiesel fuel property specifications. Essentially this means that it could be sold for biodiesel, but it catches flame too easily (low flash point) and so would be a transportation risk. I think we could have guessed that may be the case from lighting the fruits so easily. The petroleum nut oil with the wax failed several tests including flash point, sulfated ash (emissions standard), ramsbottom carbon residue (another emissions standard), etc. So basically, if this stuff was used as diesel fuel, it would need to settle out the wax first before use to maintain clean air regulations.
I was there when we ran the 20% petroleum nut oil:80% diesel #2. The engine didn’t explode! That’s always a relief. It will be two weeks before we get the final numbers back, and then I can give you a pretty detailed report on what we found. Of course, all of this information and everything above will be put together for publication sometime late this year or maybe early 2011 and you will also get a copy of that final completed report.
We’re still in the initial stages of testing, and I was surprised to find that the oil had nonane rather than heptane, but presence of nonane has been reported before. As for isolating the genes involved, that will take a much longer time. We’re looking for 2-4 genes out of ~30,000, and that can be a difficult task. I have been doing my homework about what is known in petroleum nut and also another plant, Pinus jeffreyi. The pathway to make nonane or heptane is really strange in plants, so basically we’ll be starting from scratch as far as the genetics go. I’ll keep you updated on that side of the project as I go of course.
Expect a more formal update in mid-July.
Hopefully, this will be a e sustainable fuel for the Cordillera region.