1. Wertyu
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    Wertyu New Member

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    Fuel in a post apocalyptic world?

    Discussion in 'Research' started by Wertyu, Sep 15, 2015.

    As the question suggests, my question is won't fuel be completely unusable in a post nuclear war world? Fuel that was already refined has long decayed years ago, no new sources of fuel as nobody has the experience or skill to even run an oil rig etc.

    Is there any types of fuel that can be used to run auto-mobiles or a helicopter?
     
  2. OurJud
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    OurJud Contributing Member Contributor

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    Depends on how long after the A your story is set. If it's dealing with the immediate aftermath, then fuel will still be usable.

    To be perfectly honest I don't know the shelf life of fuel, so if this is set years later then I'm not sure.
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
  3. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ethanol, baby! :) We've been, as a species, making alcohol since the dawn of time. It's easy to make from plant material and has multiple uses. Fuel, disinfectant, intoxicant... It makes sense in a post-apocalyptic world to invest in the guy who knows how to make and run a good still.

    Sorry, Mad Max, but it won't be about the "guzzaline"; it'll be about the hooch!
    [​IMG]

    Research Brazil's "Fuck you, OPEC!" policy of insular self-sufficiency for a modern, real-world example how this can be made to work, both technologically and infra-structurally. It's not a perfect system. No system is. But if it were perfect then there'd be no conflict and what a boring story that would be, aye? :bigwink:
     
  4. bustead
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    bustead Member

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    Biodiesel. As far as I remember even AH-64 gunships and F-16 fighter jets can be powered by it!
     
  5. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    The shelf life of modern gasoline is pretty short, actually. After six months or so, it'll make your car run like crap. After a year, forget about it. The addition of ethanol actually makes this situation worse in most automobiles, because it degrades fuel lines faster, gums up injectors, and corrodes hard lines. The only things running in the apocalypse will probably be diesels and carbureted gasoline engines, since the former can be modified to run on damn near anything (frying grease, for example) and the latter can possibly be tuned to run on "bad" gas, albeit very poorly.

    I don't claim to be an expert on the subject, just picked up a few things from wrenching on cars for years. (Yay for being a shadetree mechanic.) I also work in the lawn and garden industry, so I've seen, firsthand, what the recent addition of ethanol does to the fuel systems in lawn equipment. Years ago, you could let your mower sit over the winter months with a tank of gas and not have to worry about it. Not anymore. Most mowers even have a "no E85" label posted cleary on the fuel tank and manufacturers won't honor the warranty if you store a mower with untreated gasoline.

    For more info on the science behind this, research octane ratings and why some engines can run on certain fuels, while others cannot. Also, diesel engines are a lot more flexible than gasoline, mostly due to their higher compression ratios. Anything burns, given enough pressure. Burning it in a controlled manner (notice I said "burn" not "explode") is another matter.
     
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  6. DanishMike
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    DanishMike Member

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    During the fuel shortage under WW2, people rebuilt their cars to run on wood gas that was produced in a gas generator mounted on the car or tucked into the luggage compartment. Works just fine, since wood is just about 50% gas per weight. The "waste product" is charcoal, which is another fine fuel for cooking, smithing, foundry work, and to stay warm, since it burns without smoke and can either smolder at 800 degrees C or blast incandescently at 3000 degrees C depending on how much air you provide. Running an entire society on wood / wood gas / charcoal is completely plausible - we've already been doing it for millennia and would have continued to do so today if there were no fossil fuels.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2015
  7. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    There are genetically engineered bacteria which feed on sugar and excrete diesel. They're not in use on an industrial scale, but they exist. Another decade and I reckon they'll be mass-producing fuel this way.

    Between using sugar to make diesel and using it to make ethanol, you could have a conflict over the sweet stuff. I'm not sure how engaging such a conflict would be for the readers, but it could work.
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    Biodiesel is the obvious choice since it can be grown from a variety of plants and fairly easily turned into diesel. It's not a particularly high tech process and any diesel will run on it.

    Pure alcohol burns and is easily made, but most motors won't run on it reliably and it does eat fuel lines etc.

    Methanol - wood alcohol is also easily made - but from memory there were significant issues with getting it to run reliably in motors. (And the smell was terrible!)

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. Wertyu
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    Wertyu New Member

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    Thank you everyone, this is great! Again, thanks people!
     
  10. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, thank you for all that. I didn't know that gasoline deteriorates, never mind all the rest of it. I'm never too old to learn something new.
     
  11. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    An even bigger problem is how to maintain things such as cars and helicopters. I think methane would become a common fuel since nearly everything that dies releases methane in the process. I believe Henry Ford ran his early engine on the fumes from a dead cat, or at least that was the story. Steam engines would make a big comeback given some time for recovery. And of course a horse pulling a wagon is obvious if the starving masses don't eat them all first. Forget flying except hot air balloons maybe.
     

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