Isopropyl-Methanol mix experiments in a Trangia 25

Discussion in 'Stove Forum' started by Reflector, Jun 12, 2021.

  1. Reflector

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    Since I can't get denatured alcohol aside from buying bottles of overpriced HEET for straight methanol (and a gallon of methanol is $26.00 shipped...) in the ban happy busybody People's Republic of Callifornia these are just some personal experiments using a Trangia burner. 70% is commonly available and so are HEET bottles so this is mostly an experimentation log for anyone else who hopefully finds this useful.

    Burner: Trangia burner in a Trangia 25-3 HA windshield set
    Pot: 1.5L HA pot
    Environment: Conducted indoors with forced ventilation (fan pointed out window) for odor management

    70% isopropyl : HEET (actual amount used)

    4:1 (20ml/5ml)
    Sooting: Mildly, significant amount cleans off with a melamine sponge ("Magic Eraser")
    Stink: Yes, stinky odor once hot.
    Warmup/Blooming: Slow to start
    When hot: Burns intensely, yellow to orange flame tip without pot, blue from jets
    Cost: 1/1.77 or 57% of HEET
    Notes: It gets stuff hot but stinks and soots but less so than burning straight 70% isopropyl. Image attached shows sooting. Odor does not seem to affect food (ramen) in the testing environment. Pot is a little wet as it was rinsed.
    4 to 1 mix.jpg

    3:1 (12ml/4ml)
    Sooting: Small spot of soot in the center, cleans off with a melamine sponge
    Stink: Yes, stinky odor once hot.
    Warmup/Blooming: Slow to start, difficult to keep alight (perhaps lower level of alcohol?) but putting the pot over the burner helps. Needs pot kept over it to help warm burner up or it goes out.
    When hot: Burns moderately with blue flames but with yellow core encased by blue flames in the center without pot.
    Cost: 1/1.70 or 59% of HEET
    Notes: It gets stuff hot but stinks but soots less than 4:1. Image attached shows how mild it is. Everything from this test out did not have actual food and was used to just warm water.
    3 to 1 mix.jpg

    2:1 (10ml/5ml)
    Sooting: None noticible
    Stink: Yes, stinky odor once hot but slightly less obnoxious.
    Warmup/Blooming: Like 3:1
    When hot: Burns moderately with mostly blue flames with a little bit of reddish-orange at tips without pot.
    Cost: 1/1.57 or 64% of HEET
    Notes: I think this is a good compromise if used in a well ventilated environment/outdoors. It is cheap and you can substitute a significant amount of methanol out for cheap isopropyl. Image attached shows the lack of sooting:
    2 to 1 mix.jpg

    1.5:1 (9ml/6ml)
    Sooting: None
    Stink: Yes, significantly less stinky but still present
    Warmup/Blooming: Warms quickly if a little 70% iso is put around the rim of the burner to give it a little assistance/boost
    When hot: Burns moderately with very blue flames with a little bit of red/orange streaks without the pot.
    Cost: 1/1.50 or 66.7% of HEET
    Notes: Beyond the mild isopropyl combustion stink this is a good compromise mix as the cost unit is 1/1.5 of HEET.

    1:1 (8ml/8ml)
    Sooting: None
    Stink: No isopropyl stink, lightly "sweet" methanol burning smell present.
    Warmup/Blooming: Rapidly comes to a bloom with blue flames
    When hot: Burns moderately with blue flames with slightest bit of red to orange without thepot.
    Cost: 1/1.38 or 73% of HEET
    Notes: Most expensive but less expensive than straight HEET. Closest to burning methanol.


    Perhaps if I have time I will try some 91% mixed with methanol or salt out some 70% to bring it up concentration wise but that's a future project and this came out of curiosity after finally getting a Trangia.

    In regards to the stink it smells like burning isopropyl alcohol, I suspect it is likely the bitterant in it not being fully combusted. The smell doesn't seem present if used in a pressurized stove. The isopropyl alcohol I am using is standard rubbing alcohol so it is likely nothing nasty that is burning beyond the denatonium benzoate in it. Methanol combustion is mostly complete beyond the potential for formic acid and formaldehyde but that is mostly from a study regarding methanol in gasoline for car engines.

    The entire point of this was to reduce the cost of alcohol, with reference prices as:

    70% isopropyl 32oz ~ $1.79-1.99
    HEET 12oz ~ $1.49-1.58
    Shipped 1 gal (128oz) methanol as "race fuel" ~ $26.00
    Or:
    $0.0563/oz isopropyl
    $0.1242/oz HEET
    $0.2031/oz gallon methanol "race fuel"

    So at respective ratios assuming equalized:
    4:1 .2252+.1242 (5) = $0.070/oz or 1/1.77 HEET
    3:1 .1689+.1242 (4) = $0.073/oz or 1/1.70 HEET
    2:1 .1126+.1242 (3) = $0.079/oz or 1/1.57 HEET
    1.5:1 .0844+.1242 (2.5) = $0.083/oz or 1/1.50 HEET
    1:1 .0563+.1242 (2) = $0.090/oz or 1/1.38 HEET

    Reference:
    1 gal denatured alcohol procured outside of California ~ $15.49
    Or:
    $0.1210/oz (still more expensive than isopropyl mixes)

    Note that isopropyl prices may have gone up to $2.00-2.18 for 32oz and knocked down some of the savings available. At $2.18 it would be $0.6812/oz but still below HEET cost wise. Furthermore 70% isopropyl has less energy content in it. I'd guestimate it out as around 9,000btu/lbs, down from 12,900btu/lbs for what is likely anhydrous isopropyl. Methanol is around 8,400btu so there isn't that big of a loss from mixing isopropyl.

    I hope this was useful information for any experimental types, or perhaps someone with too much isopropyl or isopropyl based hand sanitizer they're salting out to make into fuel. I probably should go test some hand sanitizer or gelled alcohol in the gel burner at some point as well.
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2021
  2. Marc

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  3. Reflector

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    Thanks for the link. Is the right time of year around spring or summer since I assume winter is peak pricing? I rarely see the local Walmart in my area clear HEET out but I also don't get any snow in SoCal.
     
  4. Marc

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    End of winter, if I'm remembering right. Heet is touted as gas line antifreeze, so the end of be freezing season is when they clear it out.

    For it's intended purpose, the product amuses me. 10% alcohol wasn't enough, but bump it up to 10.1% and that does the trick
     
  5. SveaSizzler

    SveaSizzler United States Subscriber

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    In AZ, Home Depot sells yellow Heet for $1.29 a bottle.
     
  6. itchy

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    If you happen to be in a "dollar" store next winter, check for off-brand bottles of methanol dry gas. I've found it for a buck. Usually in the back of the store with other odd stuff.
     
  7. Reflector

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    Thanks for the tip on the dollar store as well. If they're going for a buck each then it'd be worth it since it should drop to around $0.08 or so an fluid oz assuming its 12oz.

    Further testing but no real luck in finding any optimization point for mixture ratios:

    1.75:1 (16ml from 150ml+85ml)
    Sooting: None
    Stink: Yes, less stinky but present to be sufficiently annoying.
    Warmup/Blooming: Warms quickly if a little 70% iso is put around the rim of the burner to give it a little assistance/boost.
    When Hot: Burns moderately with mostly blue flames with a little bit of reddish-orange at tips without pot.
    Cost: 1/1.75 or 65% of HEET
    Notes: Tested to see if a compromise between 2:1 and 1.5:1 exists. Odor is definitely worse than 1.5:1.

    1.35:1 (16ml from 141ml+105ml)
    Sooting: None
    Stink: Yes, faintly present.
    Warmup/Blooming: Rapidly comes to a bloom with blue flames
    When hot: Burns moderately with blue flames with slightest bit of red to orange without the pot.
    Cost: 68% of HEET
    Notes: An attempt to find an alternative to 1:1 which yields a lack of stinkiness but with more isopropyl. Still a failure from stinkness.

    1.2:1 (16ml from 129ml+107ml)

    Sooting: None
    Stink: Yes, faintly present stink but simultaneously a faint bit of methanol sweetness is present too.
    Warmup/Blooming: Rapidly comes to a bloom with blue flames
    When hot: Burns moderately with blue flames with slightest bit of red to orange without the pot.
    Cost: 70% of HEET
    Notes: Still somewhat of a failure for trying to find something that is below 1:1 to reduce odor. Likely will require 1:1 or some number between that and greater than 1.2:1 ratio wise.
     
  8. Marc

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    I just burn straight HEET. No mess on the pans, no issues. Don't drink it and I try not to breathe the fumes when filling or burning it. Even though my Trangias are by far my most used stove, the cost of fuel compared to the amount used is very minimal, and not worth the trouble of experimenting with other options. Gas for my car, I'd be looking at percentage points!
     
  9. Doc Mark

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    Hummmm.... Well, CA is a strange land, for sure, with lots of needless bans and regulations on this and that, including Meths fuel. But, you can still walk into any REI and buy as many quarts as you like. Yes, the price is higher than it used to be, but hey, it was always higher than some other fuels. Burns clean, works perfectly in any and all Meths stoves. I'm not interested in experimentation with fuel combinations, when I can still buy it. Just my take....

    Doc
     
  10. Reflector

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    The closest REI to me is about 30-40 minutes away and $0.25/oz it loses to the gallon of methanol shipped as race fuel.

    Regardless I just post my findings as on a less related matter I found a MSR Whisperlite Universal could be rejetted to run on alcohol around close to a decade back. I believe that the findings I post could become useful one day to someone else and just post them for that purpose. For all it matters, it may actually be helpful for ethanol users as it seems ethanol causes a bit of sooting unless water is added (which lowers energy density) and perhaps adding some mix of methanol into the fuel mix (or otherwise using a methanol-ethanol mix) could yield the same effects minus as steep of a hit of fuel density.
     
  11. snwcmpr

    snwcmpr SotM Winner Subscriber

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    Good for those interested.

    But, for those reading this later... the MSR bottle is not designed to hold alcohol. Other makers bottles would solve that problem.
     
  12. Jim Lukowski

    Jim Lukowski United States Subscriber

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    As I was reading this, I too was thinking Walmart clearance, but then you mentioned southern California, so yeah, less likely to have Heet or windshield de-icer. However, if they do carry windshield de-icer in your area, it's a spray can which sprays a stream and here on the opposite coast, on clearance, an 11 oz can goes for $.50 to $.75. Of course, you'd want to spray it into a bottle so as not to get it on you or in your eyes.

    I've got to ask, if REI in California can carry denatured alcohol, why couldn't a marine store be allowed to carry it for boat stove use? Or can they?
     
  13. Reflector

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    When I did it I used a coated Optimus bottle and it seems isopropyl does not have the corrosiveness of methanol in experience. I have some filled Optimus bottles that have sat (forgotten) for some years with an isopropyl-ethanol-methanol mix in them without harm. It also seems like a small amount (less than 20%) in MSR bottles when mixed with kerosene, white gas and charcoal lighter fluid does not cause harm within a few months but YMMV as a precaution.

    My original intent was to try to get a fuel that isn't as noxious for the fumes on shutdown for potential cases of less than stellar ventilation (open windows and such) in an indoor environment as the hot stove with an inverted bottle lets out a decent amount of fumes still at shutdown. It also helps for outdoor usage especially if the stove can just run on ordinary rubbing alcohol. It was a personal experiment in seeing if I could get a Simmerlite and Whisperlite Universal to run on isopropyl alcohol (commonly available, excellent BTU/$ ratio before the pandemic) and it worked. I further tested this on other stoves and found that based on the design of the thermal feedback they can run from between 70% to needing 91% or even 91% with some denatured alcohol.

    In regards to the MSR bottle
    Busybody bureaucrats aside, denatured alcohol is a "solvent" and as such is regulated as a "volatile organic compound" whereas if it is hypothetically sold as fuel and fuel only it doesn't get into trouble. Unfortunately Walmart doesn't even bother to carry it as a fuel like they used to in the camp section and it is a concerted effort to try to actually obtain any form beyond the HEET bottles. Furthermore Amazon and most of the online sources refuse to ship the quart cans to California now; much like the state banned direct shipment of butane canisters to the home due to cannabis oil extraction operations going up in fire (butane is used as a solvent from my understanding) so I'm left with driving over 30 minutes out of the way (or more, depending on traffic) to get it or otherwise will have to pay for online sources where the pricing is fairly high.
     
  14. SveaSizzler

    SveaSizzler United States Subscriber

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    Be very wary of Dollar Store fake Heet. [Even in a yellow bottle.] About 5 years ago I tried it, and was lucky for the first 2 bottles. Worked just like Yellow Heet. Then the next 2 bottles had some kind of additive to make even burning it unpleasant. Kind of a real fishy, dead-mackerel scent. Also had a visable grey slurry to it. I poured it in my Esbit [Trangia clone] without thinking. Didn't burn well, but it sure stank. Took several flushes with clean denatured alcolhol and a hot soapy water flush to get it clean.
    Yellow Heet is cheap enough, not to take chances with offbrands.
     
  15. Jim Lukowski

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    I don't know enough about denatured alcohol, but would have thought that the one listed as clean burning fuel would only contain a bitterant so you wouldn't drink it, versus the non fuel one that actually contains poison(s). I don't know how one could tell the difference, but wouldn't have thought that both would be banned in California. But then, I'm on the opposite coast and we have no ban on it.
     
  16. ArchMc

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    You can buy “alcohol stove fuel” in California.

    You can buy “bio ethanol fireplace fuel” in California.

    You can no longer buy “denatured alcohol” in California.

    Is this stupid? Yes, at some level it is.

    Does this mean you will pay more for stove fuel? Yes. Also that suitable stove fuel may no longer be available at your local hardware store. But it does not mean you can’t find fuel for your stove.

    The idea is to reduce the amount of volatile organic compounds being used in painting and such. If you need a solvent, you can ask the hardware clerk for “the replacement for denatured alcohol”, and they will point you to it. But don’t try to burn this stuff in a stove.

    ….Arch
     
  17. Jeopardy

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    I wouldn't worry about removing the water if you are diluting with enough methanol / heet. Trangia recommend adding 10% water to reduce the sooting when using methylated spirit / denatured alcohol.
    If you tried 90 - 100% isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol I suspect you'd get much more soot even with the added methanol. Don't forget that as you add more methanol you are effectively diluting the water content as well.
    Regards
    John
     
  18. Tony Press

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    @Jeopardy

    I’ve often heard the statement about adding 10% water to ethanol for use in the Trangia burner, but always thought it was bushwalkers’ lore. Is there Trangia paperwork that points to it?

    Cheers

    Tony
     
  19. Lemming

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  20. Jeopardy

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    @Tony Press I'm sure I read it on the yellow bag that came with my T27 best part of 40 years ago. I still have the bag but the writing has long since faded.
    @Lemming thanks for confirming.
    Regards
    John