REPORT #13 1998

Produced by the Belize Development Trust

There is a quiet technological revolution going on, in northern areas of Belize. Grayson at Belmont Butane in Corozal and Hassan in Orange Walk are leading the way with converting gasoline cars, trucks and generators to run on Mexican Gas ( Butane).

The engines are fitted with a manifold type fitting, that looks like a thick gasket, that sits between the carburator and intake and has what looks like a regulator sticking on the side. This butane conversion of gasoline, 4 cycle engines, does not work on diesel motors. Some sort of manifold vacuum regulates the amount of fuel.

Two basic factors are driving this engine conversion business of cars, trucks and generators to butane power, instead of gasoline, in northern Belize. The first reason is lower operating costs. The second reason is longer lasting engine life by many multiples.

In the USA, such vehicles have been around for years and fork lift trucks have nearly always been run this way. In Mexico, due to the proximity of the oil fields at Villa Hermosa just across the Yucatan peninsular; this makes low cost Mexican Butane gas in Belize very viable. In the past, this use has been almost exclusively for cooking stoves. Now the Mexican technology of vehicle gasoline engine usage of Butane is taking hold in the northern Belize districts.

Butane powered engines suffer a loss of 20% of equivalent power due to lower btu's.. But if you have overpowered cars, or generators, then this loss is only seen in added costs as a fuel bill. Even with this loss, Butane is still cheaper to use than either gasoline, or diesel. It works out that Butane fuel costs are $2.10 per gallon. If you add the 20% loss of power to the cost, or .42 cents, then Butane vehicle engine fuel costs are $2.62 a gallon. Gasoline on the other hand is $5 a gallon and diesel is $3.65 a gallon.

For the person operating their automobile, or truck, on the basis of 12 gallons of fuel consumption per week, the cost would be $60. By Butane fuel, the same 12 gallon per week cost would be $31.68 per week. The cost of a Butane operated motor is just about half of what it costs to run by gasoline.

There is a bigger impact on cost other than fuel cost. Butane is environmentally clean. It is a gas, and it burns almost 100% cleanly. Gasoline engines on the other hand are notoriously dirty, have many hydrocarbon emissions and pollute the atmosphere.

Another added benefit to Butane fuel is that the engine runs cleaner. This translates into less wear and tear. A vehicle that requires an oil change to clean out the dirt every 2000 miles, does not need an oil change until 15,000 miles. An automobile engine that has a life cycle of 100,000 miles will now last one million miles before requiring overhaul, or replacement. That means your automobile, electrical generator, or truck is going to give you ten times the life expectancy.

Would a change over to Butane fueled electrical generators pay? On the private level the answer is a resounding yes? The noise is a little louder though. On the BEL government level, there are other factors, such as tax exemptions of fuel costs to consider. Certainly the maintaince cost and life cycle of generators would be increased by ten times.

For business people, simply tired of the last forty years of blackouts, power shedding and other notorious electrical supply problems throughout the rural productive areas of Belize; the purchase of a portable electrical generator and conversion to Butane fuel consumption could make the difference between going bankrupt, expanding the business, or just simply getting in a proper day's work. The biggest drawback is the cost of storage tank for the butane. This can run around $2000.

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