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01-22-2013, 09:45 PM
Anyone know of a good design for a waste oil burner?

Randy H
01-23-2013, 09:25 AM
Did you mean used oil burner? Never label used oil as waste if it is not truly waste. The powers that be will can treat it as hazardous waste and then they can write tickets. Just a thought, I was lucking to get a warning at a job site once and not tickets.

01-23-2013, 09:44 AM
Mother Earth News had plans for a pot burner.

Here is another plan:


01-23-2013, 10:25 AM
The Nixon Fork mine received commendations a few years ago for recycling their used oil. EPA encourages recycling oil. In Alaska there's an obvious benefit as Nixon Fork realized by converting their 5000 gallon per year waste oil production into facility heat during winter.

The equipment and permitting can be the biggest factor. i.e. an approved burner as part of a mining plan.

For a small miner, an option would be to "incinerate" used oil in a burn barrel. As most already know, this type of heater is simply a 55 gallon drum with one end cut out. Wood, paper products and other items that can be burned can add to the mix. A 5 gallon steel grease or hydraulic oil bucket works well for warming up early and late in the season. This approach gets rid of spent oil and provides heat.

Design of a more formal oil burner becomes complex very quickly. Look at a typical oil burning stove control, for example. A typical oil burning stove is gravity fed. Some use a metering pump. The variability of used oil complicates things more. Oil becomes sludge when it gets cold. various types of oil burn with varying burn rates. No real answers here. Just discussion.

link: http://www.backyardmetalcasting.com/oilburners01.html

Kurt, is this for a boiler unit or area heater?

- Geowizard

01-23-2013, 11:33 AM
The burner will be primarily to heat water for underground thawing of muck and gravel. The best device would be one that we don't have to stop and feed regularly. One design I found uses a compressed air operated syphon to draw in and atomize the oil. There is a preheater and thermostatically controlled solenoid shutoff valves. A bit complex but doable.

01-23-2013, 05:53 PM

My bush hot-water heater (for domestic use only) is a burn barrel with a 35 gallon stew pot on a grate! Simple, cheap, no moving parts, non explosive. A hot water heater can become a "boiler" and an out of control boiler could make you an Alaskan urban legend! :)

You will be at the bottom of a hole with steam point in hand when you notice an orange fireball above your only exit. Hmmmm.

Let's think this over!

- Geowizard

01-23-2013, 08:03 PM
You will be at the bottom of a hole with steam point in hand when you notice an orange fireball above your only exit. Hmmmm.

Let's think this over!

- Geowizard

Pretty funny. Reminds me of years ago when I built a home-made boiler out of one of
the old heavy 55 gallon drums. I was pattin' myself on the back the contraption was working so well.
Down abt 15' in the shaft, steam point in hand, when all of a sudden... ka-booom!
I about had kittens. While there was no orange ball of fire, the noise and the incredible steam cloud at -35 was enough for me !

I quit building 55 gallon drum boilers and swore no more steam thawing if I was prospecting alone.

01-23-2013, 08:40 PM
A few years ago I made my first steam generator using a "hotsy" coil, an oil burner unit and a high pressure pump for the diesel. It worked. With a few additions by my partner who's a steamer from way back it has performed well and I'll probably use it this spring. But what we are thinking of fabricating is a unit for hot water thawing, not steaming. The unit will certainly have a thermostat to shut off the burner when the water gets to the proper temp and will also have a pop off valve for safety. In fact, as I sit here writing about the steamer, I'm asking myself why not use it to make the hot water? Should be no great problem to adjust the burner to keep the heat to the coil down. N'est ce pas?

01-24-2013, 09:17 AM

Great story! I wondered if anyone had ever tried that. Reading about these things may help others with similar ambition. :)

I am confident in Kurt's ability to design and build just about anything. Quality control of "critical" components and building a fail-safe boiler that would operate without supervision has me concerned. I earned all of my stripes that allowed me to get to be an old timer. Erring on the side of caution came after using up nine of my ten lives early-on.

- Geowizard

01-24-2013, 05:46 PM
Hey, Chuck,
Thanks for those kind words. As for the boiler/heater's supervision, my dear wife will handle those duties. I'm well aware of my propensity to cast caution to the wind and have also suffered innumerable times for my carelessness. But I, too, most times now wear the mantle of wisdom that comes with age and will proceed with discretion.

01-24-2013, 07:06 PM
Hello Kurt; I have a question or two. Are you thinking on the same principal as a Pressure Washer but bigger scale? Well I was thinking,(here's where it all goes sour) LOL. If a guy pressure washed a grid pattern into the frozen muck face or shaft, lets say 2 or 3 feet deep, lets also say a rough 2x2 chunk surrounded by slots sticking out of the frozen face of the drift, a barring or wedging action might free up the muck into frozen semi round squares. I know you would have to ditch the water mud slurry from the pressure spray into a sump (lets say at the bottom of the shaft) where it could be sent topside through a wash plant, then settled out in a pond for reuse. The big blocks of frozen could be shipped topside via a ore bucket and then fed to the wash plant. I could see how a big heated water system could advance a fella deep into a drift and a days end clean up would let a fella know if is on or passing trough a pay streak. I really think you are onto something here. A small scale pressurized hot water and steam advancement system. Finely tuned by trial and error this could be the ticket to lots of feet of advancement over bedrock. I am sure when you shut down for the end of shift you would send all water slurry to the recovery system and the cold frozen ground would freeze up. Go in and wedge into the slots, maybe with a hydrolic jack breaking bigger chunks to be slushed back to the ore skip. The rest is all pick and shovel cleanup. Then fire up the Pressure washer for the next advance into the muck. It would be like Dredging and underground mining combined and the use of a little timber here and there and maybe a little powder to pop a big rock I think you would be cutting a fat hog in the ass. "V"

01-24-2013, 08:53 PM
Outlining blocks with a pressure washer is an interesting idea. I recently read a report that discussed the possibilities of high pressure water for thawing the gravel, but the idea of cutting blocks wasn't considered. I may pick up a 4000psi pump...it could just about dissolve rock...and give it a try. 2 foot square may be a bit too big...14 or 15" would be more manageable. Also, once I had pressure cuts made, my jackhammer should have an easy time breaking out large pieces of the block.

01-24-2013, 10:08 PM
to everyone thinking of driving points with steam, always use pop off valve, make sure you plump it high enough above boiler
so that if it pops you don't get steam in your face,learned that the hard way at 40 below, good idea to split supply to two points
in shaft because if pressure drops too low and your point dies it will suck mud into point and plug, need to keep drill bit in shaft
to unplug as wire will not work, with two points one can be opened fully, the other just low pressure, stick it in water to keep
from steaming up shaft, if other point plugs the pressure will go to point in the water and you won't blow the pop off valve loose all water in boiler and have to start over, Doug

01-25-2013, 12:08 AM
Good advice. I would add a guy should have 2 pop-off valves on any steam boiler.
My home made boiler had a pop-off valve that failed, or got plugged.

If this thawing is going to happen in the summer, why not use cold water? I've done that a number of times on muck spots that just did not want to thaw. 1.5" Honda pump had plenty of pressure for 6 points.
They used cold water thawing in the dredge fields quite a bit.

01-25-2013, 05:59 AM

It would be interesting to discuss a control system. Obviously you need a tank. Let's say we found a discarded hot water heater and we have a tank. We mount the tank horizontally on a frame with a burner beneath it. We need to control the operation of the burner and the water flow into the tank. The burner control involves monitoring the water temperature and tank pressure. We can get components from McMaster. So, let's discuss the nuts and bolts of the water heater.

- Geowizard

01-25-2013, 08:23 AM
As I have never actually done any steaming, I can't claim to have any expertise or sage words of advice on the subject. I've just read everything I have been able to find on my computer or in books. Dick, I'm aware of the extensive cold water thawing systems installed by the dredge crews. It must have worked but I'll bet a dollar to a donut if they could have used hot water, they would have, but the cost to heat that much water would have been prohibitive. I've never read of any underground operation using anything but steam or hot water, or explosives. Doug[driftminer] is for sure Alaska's foremost drift mining/steaming expert [and my partner] and I'm counting on him to guide me through the "minefield" of permafrost gravel thawing.
Chuck, I'm certainly willing to explore the nuts and bolts of setting up a tank type hot water system for thawing. Off hand it doesn't appear to be rocket science. I'm sure you can get a liquid type pressure switche for control of the pump and a thermostat to regulate the burner. Hot water heaters already come with a safety valve installed. Lots of choices...it'll be interesting to find out what works best.

01-25-2013, 08:26 AM
Left out the earliest form of thawing...fire.

01-25-2013, 09:55 AM
Left out the earliest form of thawing...fire.

Wood fires is all I use now, but that method has limitations. My ground for the most part in not over 25' deep. I don't drift, just prospect.

I do know even at 25' it can be hard to keep a wood fire going.

I am sure Doug has vast more experience and you're lucky to have his knowledge available.
My experience with cold water under pressure is it thawed almost as well as steam. Plus not near the hassle! I could sink points with cold water as fast as with steam.

One thing I am wondering about, since I never used anything but steam or wood fire in a shaft. It seems just pumping hot water into a point(s) is going to make your hole awful wet !?

01-25-2013, 04:16 PM
There certainly would be a bit of water to contend with. And another option we're considering is nozzling water to the face...way more water! In either case, the water would be channeled down a covered drain to a sump near the shaft.
From there it would be pumped up and out. The nozzling idea came from a 1905 USGS Bulletin on placer mining in the Canadian and US arctic regions. Two side benefits of water thawing the article mentions is visibility and relative comfort in the drift. With steam it can be difficult to see hazzards developing and it is also more damp and clammy [remember, I've never been in these situations], but you and Doug know first hand the truth or falsehood of that statement.

01-25-2013, 05:08 PM
You might want to have a look at MIRL OF83-01 Waterjet Cutting

01-25-2013, 07:19 PM
I went away for a while and came back. Somewhere a long the line here, we went from waste oil burner to water jet cutting.

With reference to making a fire in a hole - don't do it. ALL of us know that a fire in a hole will burn until it starves the oxygen out of the air. The first man down the hole is a dead man. The second one that goes down the hole to save him meets the same fate. In a recent MSHA report - the second "man" was the man's wife. (sad)

The objective - IF I understand the objective - IS to melt ice in an underground drift. That requires "Energy". The most efficient way to transmit energy in a remote setting - IS steam! Cold water nope - there's no energy in cold water!

Steam energy is often measured in Horsepower. Imagine a 9000 horsepower steam generator! Imagine just a 200 horsepower steam generator and sending 200 horsepower down hole!

- Geowizard

01-25-2013, 07:29 PM
It gives the saying; "I'd rather have a V8!" a whole new meaning. :)

What IF? You could operate a V8 engine at the bottom of your hole - in the drift. Kick some butt with some energy to do the "Work".

It's all about "work" and the laws of physics say work requires "energy". No energy = no "work". So, if you need energy, yes, by all means, a waste oil burner can produce heat and heat can produce steam and steam can transmit energy to the working face in the drift.

- Geowizard

01-25-2013, 07:55 PM
there's no energy in cold water!
- Geowizard

Whoa Wiz.... you best rethink that statement.

Miners have been using the energy of cold water for a looong time and cold water
under pressure has incredible energy!
I guess you have never been on the working end of a hydraulic giant ?

01-25-2013, 07:58 PM
Just a few things I learned from Purington's 1905 report: A 12hp boiler can run 10 5' steam points. Placed about 3' apart, the points will, over the course of 10 hours, thaw approximately 35 cu yds of gravel. That's probably based on an average of experienced drift miners running the operation. If I run half that many points and thaw even 10 cu. yds. each shift, I'd be plenty happy. Mucking 10 cu. yds. could easily take 10 hours with the system I plan to employ. I'll be using a Pullmaster PL2 hydraulic hoist to operate a self dumping bucket that will easily handle 200-300 lbs per trip.

01-25-2013, 08:06 PM
I understand what Chuck is saying...cold water on it's own has basically no thermal energy...well just a little as it is warmer than 29 degree ice. With 300' of head it has tremendous energy.

01-26-2013, 06:46 AM

You're right about Hydraulic Giants. Actually, I have done hydrauliking and have two Giants at Ophir although they are in pieces and not used for mining. Hydrauliking is great for above ground without ice. I have worked ground with ice and it's a waste of time unless you know you have high pay gravels and very little overburden. This isn't the subject, though.

I have never seen or heard of using a Hydraulic Giant underground in a drift mining operation. The energy comes from a pump and the nozzle design constricts the flow and increases pressure with velocity. A great tool for certain applications! :)

Two years ago, mining at Ophir unearthed two boilers. The boilers were set aside to preserve them. Out of curiosity, I looked on ebay and found an interesting reference on Steam boilers - more later.

- Geowizard

01-26-2013, 06:56 AM
So, the reference is "Steam Its Generation and Use", authored by Babcock & Wilcox Company. It's the Thirty Fifth edition, Copyright, 1913. It covers practically every aspect of boilers from early history, requirements of a perfect steam boiler, properties of water, heat and its measurement, steam, the theory of steam making, solid fuels, liquid fuels, gaseous fuels, fuel combustion, operation and care of boilers, and other topics. This isn't "rocket science" but there are important details to consider.

As Kurt said - It can be done!

- Geowizard

01-26-2013, 09:56 AM
So, a practical size steam boiler/generator would be on the order of 15 to 20 Horsepower.

The burner could be constructed from a 55 gallon ballel - a barrel stove using the barrel stove kit and stove pipe. Used oil should be conditioned but could be burned in an ash bed within the stove. I found that diesel oil burns longer when it is poured into an ash bed. The ash provides a uniform burn rather than a flare-up with fast burn of the fuel.

In a water tube boiler design, the stove would have pipe coiled in a spiral inside the firebox.

- Geowizard

01-26-2013, 10:16 AM
Keep in mind if deciding to use steam that you now have a preassure vessel that has requirements all on its own. 10 yards mucking a day will be quite a chore. Guess I'm Lazy.

01-26-2013, 11:21 AM
Lazy miners require more horse-power! :)

How much horse-power in a Birch Tree? Willow tree? Pine tree?

Here goes...

Birch contains 8586 btu per pound. Willow 7926 per pound and Pine 9153 btu per pound.

One killowatt = 3415 btu per hour.

745.7 watts = 1 horse-power. :)

Crunching the numbers, 20 horse power would require 5.9319 pounds of Birch wood per hour. (assuming 100 percent heat efficiency in a perfect world).

- Geowizard

01-26-2013, 11:31 AM
Burner makes steam as follows:

From Babcock and Wilcox copyright 1912 (reference above)

“Let us take for example one of the 240 horse-power Babcock and Wilcox
boilers here in the university. The height of the columns may be taken at 4 1//2 feet,
measuring from the surface of the water to about the middle of the bundle of tubes
over the fire, and the head would be equal to this height at the maximum of circulation.
We should therefore, have a velocity of 8 x square root (4.5) = 16.97, say 17 feet per
second. There are in this boiler fourteen sections, each having a 4 inch tube opening
into the drum, the area of which (inside) is 11 square inches, the fourteen aggregating
154 square inches, or 1.07 square feet. This multiplied by the velocity, 16.97 feet,
gives 18.16 cubic feet mingled steam and water discharged per second, one half of
which, or 9.08 cubic feet, in steam. Assuming this steam to be at 100 pounds gauge
pressure, it will weigh 0.258 pound per cubic foot. Hence, 2.54 pounds of steam will
be discharged per second, and 8,433 pounds per hour. Dividing this by 30, the
number of pounds representing a boiler horse-power, we can get 281.1 horse power,
about 17 percent, in excess of the rated power of the boiler.”

- Geowizard

01-26-2013, 01:53 PM
That is quite a formula for boiler hp! Think I'll save it for future reference. When I discovered Babe Creek and found the boiler, one lung engine and hoist along with the carrier, bucket and gin pole [with all cables still hangin' on] my bent for restoration clicked in. I've begun the work to put the engine, hoist and carrier back into working condition...boiler is shot as it the big iron bucket. So I'll be keeping my eyes open for an old but certifiable boiler [won't be easy to find]. Bucket and gin pole are easily replaced. The folks at DNR who know of my plans for the system are eager to see it all working again. Way too cool! I would love to be able to get a grant to aid in the restoration and implementation of the old stuff. Anyone know how that might work?

01-26-2013, 03:10 PM
Maybe I missed something here. I thought Kurt was talking about pumping hot water into points for thawing in a drift. NOT steam.

My point was, I would not dismiss the idea of using cold water as opposed to hot.
Heating water before pumping into points cost money.

Cold water under pressure has tremendous energy, either above ground or below.

01-26-2013, 03:38 PM
Hey, Dick
I'm probably going to try a number of different approaches to thawing/mining...see which one works best. If I use high pressure cold water it will be to accomplish what Idaho Hick suggested and that is to cut slots to form large blocks[let's say, 15"x15"] that can be either wedged out from the face or easily broken apart with my 40lb jack hammer [and, by the way, I've already figured out a device to hold my jack hammer in a horizontal position, easily raised and lowered]. I'm actually hoping the latter process works best of all. I'm pretty convinced that jack hammering into frozen gravel will be exceedingly tedious and time consuming unless you have gaps[made by the 4000 psi pressure washer] to break the block into.
On the other hand, I think steaming would be relatively easy on the body and very effective. Maybe I could even be mucking out thawed gravel while the steam points are thawing out another block. Doug would know about that. Yes, it would be more expensive...if you used diesel but that brings us full circle to the waste oil heater. That fuel costs nothing but the time it takes to collect [it's everywhere] and filter it.

01-26-2013, 04:24 PM

You are right about the cost. Part of the design question is the choice of fuel based on "bang for the buck".

Birch is plentiful in Alaska. It's a renewable resource. The cost of a cord of dry birch wood can de found by making a few phone calls. Then you can figure the number of pounds of fuel provided and the BTU the wood will provide.

The numbers to keep in mind are 20 HP = 50,931 btu per hour. With all of the above caveats.

How many BTU's are contained in Waste oil? Diesel? Avgas? Maybe Jet-A has the best cost vs BTU production.

Crude oil (average) = 20,000 BTU per pound.

Diesel oil = 19,300 BTU per pound.

In summary, one gallon of diesel will operate a 20 HP burner for about an hour.

- Geowizard

01-26-2013, 05:58 PM
I am figuring diesel weighing about 6 lbs per gallon and based on that, I figure a gallon of diesel would operate a 20hp burner for about 2.5 hours.

01-26-2013, 06:31 PM
How much is a ton of coal in local Alaska? I used to buy it for $80.00 a ton in Colorado I also used to go dig it myself on a fellas ranch out of Durango for a Fifth of Glen Levith's scotch for a longbox pickup load heaped to a peak. Are there some coal seams right around babe creek? Is coal into steam worth the sled loads a fella could haul in over a winter? An efficient furnace should produce good heat even from a poor coal, just more clinkers to move more often.

01-26-2013, 06:37 PM
Well this is interesting. However the use of high pressure (2000-4000psi) water presents a slight hazard. It is called the secondary missile effect. Literally the material you blast off the frozen face becomes high speed projectiles.

You might wanna think about sand-blasting shielding. My pressure washer only goes to 1500psi and it sends crud sailing for 20 feet or more. The crud is mostly grease and low density, ergo low ballistic coefficient. Were it sand and gravel, things might get interesting.

01-26-2013, 07:03 PM
Vance, No coal anywhere near Babe/Vault
Eric, Good thought about projectiles and a shield. Will look into that.

01-26-2013, 07:14 PM
For sure OTE I would design a cone that almost touches the muck face or a shield with an old tank window, pressure cleaned by water on a relay. Or shut it down occasionally and see what its doing... maybe have to learn how to advance by sound and feeling the pressure jet advancement with a gauge of some sort. That maybe a simple as throw a valve and peak out a hatch, adjust equipment, go through a checklist, turn valve back on... Join the "MudStormMiners"...our Motto is "We look like s##t but we're wealthy". "V"

01-26-2013, 08:21 PM
As I would most likely be using a typical pressure washer wand with a trigger on/off, that would make the observation of the progress in the cut a simple matter. I can envision a rectangular shield of 1/4" hdpe plastic covered with a layer of 1/2" natural latex rubber. Like you say, Vance, work by feel. Cut a little, check, cut some more. It doesn't have to look pretty.

01-27-2013, 06:00 AM
Everyone agrees - it's about safety and economy. The problem is transmitting energy from a power source on top to a place of work underground. It isn't trivial!

David is correct in the horse-power calculation vs cost at 100 percent conversion of BTU's. The age-old problem of efficiency affects the result. Efficiency is probably 50 percent or less for a steam burner. When you throw in waste oil and the variability of the quality of burn of waste oil, it affects efficiency more.

- Geowizard

01-27-2013, 08:00 AM
(Please note: this further discussion is intended as follow-up on the original topic.)

The burner has to burn the oil efficiently. We all get that part. :)

A firebox has a place to insert or inject a controlled amount of fuel (fuel charge) , a place for a controlled amount of air to enter (the draft) and a place for the burned fuel to exit (a chimney) and a manner of controlling the exhaust (a damper).

This gets interesting pretty fast. Oh... yes, there's (contained) boiling water on the stove and downhole...

Could there be a problem?

- Geowizard

01-27-2013, 08:36 AM
For a hot water or steam source I am still liking my big "hotsy" coil with my waste oil injected burner creating the heat. I will be able to control the water pressure to the coil which should also allow me to regulate the water temp exiting the coil. There will also be a valve downstream from the coil to control steam pressure if that's what I want. If I want to run high pressure water, either hot or cold, I will have a bypass valve downstream from the steam pressure gauge that will direct the water to my high pressure pump. The steam/water lines from the coil will me metal pipe so I'll be able to reenter the pressurized water into the piping system down into the drift. Where the steel pipe ends and the rubber steam hose begins I'll need to make another junction where a high pressure flex hose will carry the water to the wand. I don't purport to be an engineer so this whole thing will take some real thinking on my part...maybe a good job to do today on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Doug's probably rolling his eyes at my wild hair brained ideas.