Ethanol as Fuel – Fruit Project

Sean Isles is an entrepreneur in Vancouver and he sent the Vancouver Fruit Tree Project information about his new project working with ethanol. Ethanol fuel can be made from anything that has sugar in it, like fruit that is so far past its prime that no one wants to eat it or cook with it. He writes, “Ethanol is a good replacement for gasoline as fuel for cars.  It is carbon-neutral because the carbon that enters the atmosphere from the car’s exhaust has been taken out of the atmosphere during the prior growing season when the plant used it in photosynthesis.

It can be produced locally, unlike gasoline – have you ever heard of a back-yard oil refinery?”

Sean wants to see whether it’s feasible to make fuel alcohol on a community scale.  One of the requirements is a supply of feedstock, like waste fruit.  He’s hoping to partner with the Vancouver Tree Fruit Project Society to turn waste fruit into fuel and will keep VFTP informed about the performance of the fuel in small engines.  As locally-made fuel proves itself, he’ll invite members of the community to test the fuel in real-world driving conditions, then use the momentum generated to build a larger plant that can turn waste into fuel for everyone.

Sean explains,

“A garbage can full of waste apples will produce enough juice to run a test.  Depending on the kind of yeast used, the wine that results from fermenting the juice might be 10% to 14% alcohol.

“An efficient still can remove 95% pure alcohol from the wine, yielding maybe 10 litres of fuel.  The rest of the wine can be composted.  Fermentation also yields carbon dioxide, which plants need for photosynthesis. In the future, I’d like to put the fermenting tanks in a greenhouse so plants have a rich environment for growth.”

“The law requires the alcohol to be ‘denatured’, that is, poisoned, so no one will be tempted to drink it – it’s for cars, after all.  We’re not moonshiners!

He continues, “After the fruit harvesting season is over, there are other sources of feedstock.  For example, day-old doughnuts are full of sugar and starch that can be converted to sugar by using enzymes.  Think of all the waste food that could have another use before it goes to the  compost!”

Since we’re in the middle of fruit-harvesting season right now, and Sean has a day-job, he’s hoping to go on some VFTP picks to collect the groundfall that won’t make B-grade (or be used for VFTP donations) and use that as feedstock.

Sean would welcome a helping hand with this project: any volunteers who would like to help out Sean and deliver this fruit to a central location would be greatly appreciated. You can contact him via


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s