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The Best Fuel Types for SHTF

The stockpiling of fuel is one of the most essential aspects of preparing for a long-term doomsday disaster. Unfortunately, so many preppers are doing it wrong – or at least not quite right based upon a lack of complete and accurate information.

There are six primary types of fuel all preppers should consider storing. Relying on just one, or even two fuel types, could cause the demise of the family.

  • Gasoline
  • Wood
  • Diesel & Bio-Diesel
  • Propane
  • Kerosene
  • Methane
  • Ethanol

These fuel types can heat the home, allow you to operate farm machinery, cook, purify water, and power generators – and help you with a host of other necessary tasks. Hydro-power and wind turbine power should not be overlooked as credible fuel sources on the survival retreat, but are not as dependable, generally, as the six primary fuel types noted above.

wood

Wood

Even if your survival retreat is designed to be entirely off grid or you are going to be bugging in at a rural locale, fuel will still be an issue. Wood=Fuel – and not all wood is created equal.

Wood is the cheapest form of fuel you can find. Sure, solar is completely free to harness, but you must purchase a generator to utilize it and batteries to store it for future use. Even if you are not living on a wooded retreat where you can harvest firewood at will, it can be purchased relatively inexpensively and stockpiled for use without a shelf-life.

Wood should be stored in a rack, shed, or at least with a tarp over it to prevent it from getting wet. Although wet wood is very difficult to get started and maintain a flame, as long as the wood has not gotten so moist it rots, it will dry out eventually and be prepped for use indoors or out once again.

Before buying a survival retreat or rural property, inspect the wooded area for not just an abundance of trees, but variety as well. If you already own your dream land for riding out the apocalypse, take a research hike to review what breeds of trees you own. Tie color-coded ribbons around trees to note their type and size and record you findings for future use when preparing to cut either firewood or timber for sale or woodworking and building projects.

Hardwoods

Firewood from these type of trees generate a higher heat output than softwoods. They also burn more slowly and are more likely able to sustain heat for a longer duration – like overnight in a wood burning stove that has the damper situated in a low position.

Hardwoods also churns out smoke than produces less odor than firewood made from softwood. Types of Hardwood:

  • Oak
  • Hickory
  • Poplar
  • Beech
  • Ash
  • Balsa
  • Teak
  • Mahogany
  • Walnut
  • Alder

Softwoods

Firewood from these types of trees will burn far too quickly to create a sustainable fire – and put out less heat than any of the wood varieties noted above. Softwoods also have a tendency to retain more moisture and rot far more quickly than hardwoods – and create a lot of excess ash during the burning process.

Types of Softwoods:

  • Cedar
  • Pine
  • Birch
  • Fir
  • Spruce
  • Redwood

All firewood should be seasoned for at least six months before it is used whenever possible. Seasoning the wood by chopping it, splitting it into usable logs, and then storing it under dry condition while keep it primed and ready for use. Firewood that has been seasoned for two years or more, depending upon your climate, will be very dry and will burn up far more quickly – almost like a softwood.

When firewood is not seasoned sufficiently, it will generate less heat and can create substantially ore creosote during the burning process. Creosote build-up in a fireplace or wood stove chimney can often cause fires or for the smoke to blow back into the home.

gas canister

Gasoline

Stockpiling gasoline for use during a short-term disaster really isn’t much of a problem. But, attempting to keep the fuel safe and usable for a long-term SHTF even requires planning, the addition of stabilizer fuel, and rotation of the storage containers.

Gasoline will disappear quickly during any type of disaster – with extensive price-gouging very likely to occur. The long lines at the pump we see on the nightly news any time a storm is predicted by the local weather guy gives a clear indication of exactly how extensive panic can spread rapidly and deplete all available sources of fuel.

Determining how much gasoline you will need to maintain essential functions at your survival retreat or home is the first step you should take when making fuel preparations for a doomsday disaster.

Top Gasoline Needs During a Survival Situation

  • Generator Fuel
  • Powering a chainsaw to get firewood
  • Fuel for the bugout vehicle

Gasoline will oxidize when it is exposed to air and alter its octane levels. The sludge created by the oxidation will clog up engines it is poured into – eventually destroying them. When gasoline gets too old, it basically becomes stale and won’t function properly, i.e. fuel a motor and give it the juice needed to turn over.

Typically, when stored properly an not exposed to even a pinhole size hold impacts the container, gasoline can last about two years, tops. The general rule of thumb is not to expect gasoline to maintain its useful qualities past 6 months.

Adding gasoline stabilizer will help extend the life of the fuel, but there are no guarantees as to how long the gas will remain at quality levels. Even with the addition of gas stabilizer, the fuel is not likely to produce optimal results and resist sludge build up after one year.

Gasoline will have a substantially short shelf life without the addition of a fuel stabilizer. Rotating the gasoline in your fuel stockpile regularly and having at LEAST one backup option is highly recommended.

Top 7 Tips for Storing and Stockpiling Gasoline Properly

1. Stabilizer must be added at the regular interviews noted on the container to extend the shelf life of the fuel. Adding it just once during the 12 months the gas is stored will not be enough to keep the fuel from deteriorating. So, stockpiling gasoline stabilizer must be worked into your prepping budget as well.

2. Rotate your containers of stored gasoline every six months by pouring fuel from the containers directly into your vehicles, generators, or power tools.

3. Take the time to do a little math and factor how much gasoline you will need to power essential vehicles, generators, and tools for 12 months. Purchase approximately 25 percent more than what you think you will need and store enough of it at your home to get you to the bugout location and the rest on-site at the survival retreat.

4. Store gasoline containers in a cool dry space, preferably in a garage or shed so it remains out of sight and under roof at all times. Gas is extremely flammable and should not be kept in a structure attached to a dwelling if at all possible.

5. If exposed to extreme fluctuations in temperature or moisture levels, the fuel will likely deteriorate at a far greater rate. The containers of gas should remain at least 50 feet away from any potential ignition source, such as furnaces, pilot lights, etc. Gas vapor is far heavier than air, allowing fumes from the fuel to travel at floor level and towards possible ignition sources.

6. To prevent gas vapor leak, ensure your approved containers are properly sealed at all time.

7. Always keep OPSEC in mind when both buying and storing gasoline and other types of fuel. Just like ammo, food, and water, fuel will become a prime type of currency during a long-term SHTF disaster! Some municipalities have restricted the amount of fuel you can store at your home or business. Learn local laws and keep these regulations in mind when buying and storing fuel.

Diesel Fuel

Diesel fuel may last a whole lot longer than gasoline and has a lower ignition point, making it safer to store for extended period of time. Unfortunately, diesel fuel does not necessarily last as long as it used to. Due to federal government regulations, the components in the fuel have at least been slightly altered and caused a possible reduction in longevity.

In past decades, both military officials and farmers would proudly proclaim they were able to “get years” out of their store diesel fuel. The diesel of today possesses a significantly low level of sulphur an has a hot of lubricants added to the mix.

Stabilizers similar to those in gasoline are now often used by commercial suppliers to extend the life of diesel fuel in their tanks and recommend the same practice for farmers who routinely stockpile diesel fuel for their agricultural equipment.

Nitrogen blanking diesel fuel has become a fairly common practice. This process involves the injection of nitrogen from an external source directly into fuel storage tanks. The nitrogen is regularly injected into the diesel storage tanks when the levels both increase and decrease due to use and when seasonal temperature changes occur. The nitrogen blanking injections effectively fill the vacant space in the tanks an help to stabilize the fuel and its beneficial properties to maintain optimal quality.

The removal of empty air space helps to deter the growth of fungus that can thrive in the water and oxygen created in the tank when the diesel fuel levels fluctuate.

Diesel Fuel Storage Tips

1. To maintain the shelf life of diesel fuel, it should be stored in a secure container that gets not hotter than 70 degrees.

2. Diesel fuel can be stored in tanks placed either above or underground. Once again, current laws dictate what is permissible and may vary by location. A tank that is positioned with at least 10 percent of its bulk below grade is considered an underground storage tank by government regulatory agencies. State laws governing precautions which must be taken to avoid diesel fuel tank leaks and corrosion also exist and vary.

3. Diesel fuel can become infected with microbes that infiltrate the tank via tiny air vents or exposure to air during the delivery process. The tiny microbes grow and live in the vacant space above the fuel level where air and water molecules create by moisture, occur. The microbe waste create a fungus that will plug up fuel filters after the fuel is dispensed.

4. When infested diesel fuel is dispensed, the microbe and their waste is transferred into the very equipment you want powered. The sludge can cause an engine to max out well below full power or to shut on completely after plugging the fuel filter with moldy fungus. Changing the oil filter to ride the tank of as many microbes and their waste as possible will be necessary, possibly more than once depending upon the contamination level of the fuel. Stockpile a multitude of fuel filters to ensure the money you spend on the diesel reserves is not wasted.

5. You should also invest in microbe testing pads. The relatively inexpensive pads are dipped into a container of diesel fuel taken from the bottom of the tank to determine if an infestation problem exists. After being expose to the fuel, the pads are place in a dark area and let alone for five days to allow any microbes present in the tank time to grow.

6. Once a microbe infestation is determine, a biocide must be added to the tank to kill it. If any of the tainted fuel is already inside a vehicle, power tool, or generator, those tanks will also likely need treated as well and fuel filters cleaned or replace. Running the fuel through a filtration system before it goes into a storage tank for poured from a container and into an engine, is highly recommended.

Bio-Diesel

You can make bio-diesel fuel at home for use in diesel engines and multi-fuel generators. It performs almost identically to commercially manufactured diesel fuel.

Bio-diesel fuel is most often made by using recycled frying or cooking oil, soybean oil, cottonseed oil, animal fats, canola oil- and even algae! It typically costs less than about $1.50 per gallon to make bio-diesel fuel.

tallow- candle

The alternative fuel should last at least six months before losing its potency and falling victim to organic microbes. It may last longer, but testing the fuel before pouring it into a car engine is highly recommended.

The oil being used to make the bio-diesel fuel must be heated and sustain 130 to 135 degree temperatures during processing – our you will end up with a useless and messy sludge and not an alternative fuel.

The acidic content of the oil is tested buy using the titration process – the factoring involved typically takes only a couple of minutes and does not require an advanced degree in either math or science to accomplish.

A catalyst of some type is then added to the bio-diesel mixture. Potash or lye are popular choices for the catalyst. Methanol is also a prime ingredient in bio-diesel fuel.

Kerosene

Stored kerosene can be used to generate heat, light, and as a fuel source for cooking. It also have a lot higher ignition point than gasoline, making it potentially safer to stockpile and use during a doomsday disaster when calling the fire department for help will not be an option.

Unlike gasoline and some modern grades of diesel fuel, kerosene can be stored for multiple years without any substantial decrease in quality. Because of its dense nature, kerosene contains approximately 50 percent more energy than propane fuel.

Kerosene Storage and Stockpiling Tips

1. As long as the temperature does not dip below 120 degrees, kerosene will never freeze. It will however, get thick when left in intense cold for an extensive period of time.

2. Spend an extra few dollars and purchase a couple of manual hand siphon pump for getting the kerosene out of the 5-gallon barrels it is regularly sold in. You can pour the kerosene without the pump, but are liable to waste a lot of it due to spilling when lifting a nearly full barrel.

3. The typical shelf life of kerosene stored in an airtight container is approximately five years – at least. Some folks have successfully used kerosene that has been stored for up to 20 years.

4. Like straight diesel fuel, kerosene can grow microbes inside a container during the storage process. Fuel cleaner specifically for kerosene fuel does exist and should be added to the list of fuel preps as well. The organic microbes tend to grow more rapidly when the fuel is stored in cold temperatures. Purchase some fuel filters to run the kerosene through before use if it has been store either a long time, in the severe cold – or both.

5. Keep several carbon dioxide detectors in your preps, and a lot of extra batteries, for use when a kerosene heater and/or kerosene lamps are used indoors. Using a kerosene heater inside a camper or similar bugout vehicle could cause death if there is not adequate ventilation inside the structure or vehicle.

Propane

Next to firewood, propane is likely the cheapest source of ready-made fuel you can find. In addition to being inexpensive, propane burns cleaner than kerosene and has long-term storage staying power.

Propane gas is a byproduct create by the refining of both natural gas an oil. Once compressed into a liquid form at a fairly low pressure, it is then converted into a vapor that can be burned as a fuel.

It can be purchased in portable tanks designed to power campers and backyard grills, in small individual canisters for camping portability, and can be pumped into large stationary tanks connected to a home utility system. An empty portable tank weighs close to 40 pounds when it is full and about 20 pounds when it is empty.

Propane Storage and Stockpiling Tips

1. Propane can is an extremely versatile type of fuel. It can be used for heating a dwelling, fueling a home stove and oven, and to power portable heaters, lanterns, and camping cook stoves.

2. Unlike the fuels mentioned above, propane has never been known to need any type of stabilizer to maintain quality or to deter the growth of organic microbes.

3. Propane is extremely flammable. Storage tanks should never be stored inside the home.

4. Propane gas, unlike natural gas, is heavier than air. It is actually 1.5 times more dense than air. If exposed to air while not burning, propane vapors will sink to floor level and pool. If a propane gas leak does occurs, simply opening a door or ground-level vent, will help eliminate the presence of the gas in the room and cause it to disperse. If a cloud of propane appears in the room during a leak, it can (and likely will) ignite due to even a slight spark or the presence of static electricity.

Methane – Biogas

This type of fuel is create from the decomposition of livestock manure or other types or organic waste. Methan gas (CH4) can be created out of your compost bin. It produces zero odor, but is flammable, like most other forms of fuel. It is one of the primary ingredients in natural gas.

When organic matter in animal waste or a compost pile decompose due to a lack of oxygen, both carbon dioxide and methane are produced. Homemade small-scale methane generator plans are readily available online.

When creating a compost bin with plans for future methane production in mind, attempt to fill it with as much soft matter as possible, like human and livestock manure and plant matter. Methane can be made out of “woody” material, but the process does not typically generate top quality results.

Methane Fuel Collection and Usage Tips

Methane generating ingredients are typically in large scale supply on homestead and cost nothing but a little manual labor to garner for the fuel-making process.

The collection of manure for methane production leaves pastures far more clean and can cut down on the growth of bacteria, worms, and other pathogens the livestock can ingest and become ill.

The residue left during the methane-making process leaves behind usable fertilizer for growing crops.
Methane can be use as a heat source, in most multi-fuel generators, to use in gas-powered lanterns an lights, diesel (and some say even gas) engines, and possibly in place of propane in appliances to run on that particular type of fuel.

A batch of methane placed in a “digester” system should be processed for a minimum of two weeks up to a maximum of two months.

A biogas or methane digester uses water to create a slurry to prompt the breakdown of the organic matter. A storage container holds the methane as it is being produced and then piped out (the setup up resembles a beer keg system) for use as a fuel.

Typically, folks who create this type of fuel leave the organic material in a digester for one month. The anaerobic digestion of the matter happens properly only when the temperature is between 32 to 95 degrees. Keeping the mixture between 85 to 95 degrees throughout the process is optimal.

The methane digester should be placed outdoors in a well-ventilate area so any gas that leaks out of the digester is allowed to escape and not become trapped and build up to increase the chances of an explosion on a small to large scale.

The biogas processing system should be situated away from any flame source or electrical equipment to reduce the chances of a large explosion if a leak or accident occurs. Do not use any tools which could create a spark (including cellphones that could generate static electricity) when working on or around the methane gas digester.

Ethanol

You can make ethanol at home in a still and use it to power most internal combustion engines. The fuel is made by either fermenting or distilling corn, sugar cane, sorghum, potatoes, barley, switchgrasss, sugar beets, molasses, wheat, straw, cotton, and sunflowers, for example. In the United States, most commercially manufactured ethanol comes from corn.

Ethanol Production Tips

1. The collection of steam (pure ethanol) during the distilling process creates the fuel. Moonshiners always pitch the “head” and the “tail” of their runs to avoid ingesting ethanol, which can be deadly or cause blindness when consumed.

2. If making ethanol via the fermentation method, the organic matter, old and rotting fruit can also be used, is placed inside of a large trash can or barrel until it is one-third of the way full. The mixture is then stomped and yeast added. While any type of yeast can work, “ethanol-tolerant” or distiller’s yeast purchased from a wine supply store, works the best.

3. The barrel or trash can is then covered and the sugar content checked daily with a hydrometer. It takes about 10 days for the sugar content to be reduced to almost zero. The ethanol mixture is then place into a reflux still. This should be done as soon as the sugar content has evaporate to prevent organic microbes that could ultimately ruin an engine, from growing in the fuel mixture.

4. After the distillation process is completed by following the manufacturer’s instructions, it is time to filter the ethanol mixture to remove even the smallest impurities from the water that remains inside.

5. A fuel filter designed for this purpose is readily available from online retailers and at brick-and-mortat stores that sell distilling products. The fabric filters permit the molecules of ethanol to pass through into a storage container while trapping the water.

6. Store ethanol in an airtight container until needed for use. It is flammable, so do not store indoors or near a flame or potential flammable or spark-emitting materials.

7. If gasoline is going to be added to the fuel mix, it is done after the filtering process. Most home brewers of ethanol that do not use only a pure version of the alternative fuel favor a mixture of 85 percent gasoline and 15 percent ethanol.

8. The federal government regulates home brewing of ethanol and has deemed it illegal to run a vehicle on 100 percent ethanol. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms controls and supervises the permit process.

9. Ethanol can be used alone as a fuel or combined with other types of fuel, like gasoline I reducing air pollution is a concern. How well a vehicle can tolerate running on ethanol long-term varies widely by make and model. Mult-fuel or flexible-fuel vehicles are capable of running on a blend of gasoline and ethanol if the mixture contains 20 percent ethanol.

10. Combing the homemade fuel with gasoline could help stretch you gasoline stockpiles a lot further. Ethanol is approximately 30 percent less powerful than commercially manufactured gasoline.

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About Tara Dodrill

Tara Dodrill

Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.

7 comments

  1. I am not trying to pick at you or your work but you should do more research on the information before you write about it even more so when passing on information about petroleum products. FYI as I do not think you mentioned it there has been and still are thousands of vehicles operating on propane. You probably also should have pointed out that any propane tank must be stored in a upright position because if stored on it side and filled in cold weather when temperatures come back up the bottle will vent pressure and instead of venting vapor it will vent liquid which will become vapor creating a very large vapor cloud.
    One more thing 5 gallons of fuel stored for long periods is normally stored in a “5 gallon bucket” not a 5 gallon barrel unless that was one of several typo’s and it was a 55 gallon drum you were referring to and even then it is a 55 gallon drum. A lot of people make that same mistake because crude oil is traded by the barrel and to make that a little more complicated it is a 42 gallon barrel.

    • I am not trying to pick on you either but the plural of “typo” is “typos”, not “typo’s”. “Typo’s” is posessive

    • Brian,

      Ample research, as well as personal experience stockpiling fuel went into this piece – but additional information to benefit readers can always be valuable. Taking your points one at a time, no information about running a vehicle on propane was shared, feel free to post some links in the comments section so folks interested in going that route, can learn more. Secondly, I felt how to position a propane canister or tank was basic common sense – and noted clearly on the label of said containers. Third, in our neck of the woods, fuel is routinely stored in barrels, buckets with lids, and drums. How to store fuel basically comes down to adherence to local laws, following common sense safety protocols, and personal preference.

    • If the typos bother you that much just go through the document, if you save it, and correct them. It only takes a few minutes. And yes Brian you are correct, a few of the sentences were not properly structured but I am sure that was due to providing usable information vice “long winded” sentences. Also, Brian I don’t see you producing this type of information.

  2. Since air pollution regulations will not be an issue during SHTF; use 100 ll in your storage. It never goes bad.

  3. Thanks for putting all this information in one spot. Most of it is common sense to myself BUT not my wife or kids which is why I copy/paste to word, save as a pdf (for memory stick reference) and print it out and place it into my “information binders”.

    Keep up the great work and thanks again.

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