Feb 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm #1299098
I just got back from the EORA (Eastern Outdoor Reps Association) show in Greenville, SC. The most impressive thing I saw was a new fuel product called "Utility Flame". It is a diethylene glycol based gel that maintains a stable flame at about 1300 degrees F, is odorless, non-toxic, and water soluable , has an indefinite shelf life, does no evaporate or melt, and can be transported via commercial airline and by mail. It is a clear gel and the product of the combustion (besides CO2 and water) is a residual white crystalline silica material (like sand). It has apparently been used by the military for about 10 years but is only now being sold commercially. It comes in pouches, the largest of which weighs about 6 ounces and based on the demonstrations I saw could probably yield 10 – 15 or more cook sessions boiling 2 cups of water each time. This 6 ounce package has a screw cap and retails for around $8.50. It is more expensive than alcohol but with the other qualities, seems to be very very competitive with ethanol, esbit, etc. The demonstration used a simple 3" X 4" aluminum sheet under the material to hold the flame. I was pretty impressed with this product and you may want to check it out. http://www.utilityflame.com
I have no commercial or financial interest in this product – I was just blown away by it!Feb 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm #1952983
I didn't see anything on their website about how to order or where to buy. Why haven't we heard of this before…seems way coolFeb 10, 2013 at 3:40 pm #1952994
We bought some at the show but I'm sure if you used the contact info on their web site they would be able to help you. They just started to market this to the world so it has gotten no commercial exposure to date. I also meant to include that they have tried it at elevation (on top of Mt. McKinley) and saw no detrimental impact and have used it down to minus 23 degrees F with no problems.
Amazing stuff!Feb 10, 2013 at 3:50 pm #1952995
Chad “Stick” PoindexterBPL Member
@stickLocale: Hot & Humid Southeast....
Maybe it's just my (old) computer, but when I try to go to the site I get a warning screen. Anyone else get this?
Anyway, I saw some pics on FB of people standing at the booth with them…so I am interested to find out more about this…Feb 10, 2013 at 3:55 pm #1952996
David GardnerBPL Member
@gearmakerLocale: Northern California
Chad, it's not just your computer. I get the same warning that the site cannot be verified and may have been hijacked.Feb 10, 2013 at 4:11 pm #1952998
Sorry everyone, here is a different link that does not bring up that warning screen.
By the way that woman on Facebook next to the two Utility Flame guys is my wife – Judy Gross of LightHeart Gear and Excelsior Sewing.Feb 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm #1953000
Chad “Stick” PoindexterBPL Member
@stickLocale: Hot & Humid Southeast....
Marc, I still get the warning screen on that page too… And thanks for making the connection to you and Judy! I got it now. :)Feb 10, 2013 at 4:33 pm #1953001
Sorry Chad, my computer skills are not that great. Once I accepted that risk on the original URL, it may no longer give me that warning. The site has not crashed my computer (yet) so I think the site is not a risk. But taking the risk is up to you.
MarcFeb 10, 2013 at 4:38 pm #1953004
Diethylene glycol is not nontoxic. The published TD50 (dose at which 50% of people who ingest that amount show signs of toxicity) for DEG varies between about 0.1 mg to about 1 mg/kg body weight. This means that, if we're conservative, one ounce of DEG can sicken about 400 people (the LD50 is much larger).
DEG is cheap, and it has been substituted for glycerine in toothpaste and cough syrup by unscrupulous Chinese companies on at least five occasions since the 1970s. In Nigeria in 1990, 47 children died after taking DEG-contaminated tylenol syrup. Between 1990 and 1992, 340 people died in Bangladesh after taking DEG-contaminated tylenol syrup. In Haiti in 1995, 88 children died from taking DEG-contaminated tylenol syrup. In Panama in 2006, 1090 people died after taking DEG-contaminated cough syrup.
In Spain in 1985, five people died after using antibiotic ointment ON THEIR SKIN that contained DEG.
Undenatured ethanol (Everclear) is the only fuel I know of that is used for cooking by backpackers that is safe to ingest. The others are mildly toxic, but not as toxic as DEG. The TD50 for methanol is about 0.1 g per kg body weight. So DEG is approximately one hundred times more toxic than methanol.
I'm not just indulging in being alarmist, and I'm not saying that the toxicity of DEG necessarily rules it out as a fuel. I just have a special revulsion for companies that use deceptive advertising, particularly when it concerns toxicity. It's one thing to make a false claim about the function of a product, its another thing entirely to make a false claim about its safety.
I think this might be a practical competitor for esbit, actually. Gelled DEG fuel has been discussed on Whiteblaze and other backpacking forums, and it is available on Amazon and from many other sources as PyroPac, MilPack, ReadyFuel, and other names. You don't need to buy it from the makers of Utility Fuel.Feb 10, 2013 at 4:57 pm #1953011
Bob BankheadBPL Member
@wandering_bobLocale: Oregon, USA
Re: warning screen
I got the following warning from Norton Anti-Virus 2012 when I tried the supposed good URL.
"There is a problem with this website's security certificate. The security certificate presented by this website has expired or is not yet valid. Security certificate problems may indicate an attempt to fool you or intercept any data you send to the server."Feb 10, 2013 at 5:26 pm #1953017
Chris WBPL Member
Their SSL cert expired on the 3rd and someone forgot to renew it. Not really a big deal and happens all the time.Feb 10, 2013 at 5:29 pm #1953018
John S.BPL Member
I figure the toxicity statement is more aimed "possibly" at the fumes, but those probably are too. Everclear not toxic?..lol. I know what you mean. I would not be surprised if DEG has similar toxic damage, if ingested, as ethylene glycol (antifreeze).Feb 10, 2013 at 5:31 pm #1953019
– -K.T.- –BPL Member
Can't blow it out and pack up a partial burned cube like Esbit. How do you know the exact amount to squeeze out? Seems like a lot of potential waste, which I'm sure the manufacturer is fine with as that equals more sales.
Been using gelled alcohol for lighting fireplace fires for decades. So not so new.Feb 10, 2013 at 5:37 pm #1953022
"Gelled DEG fuel has been discussed on Whiteblaze and other backpacking forums, and it is available on Amazon and from many other sources as PyroPac, MilPack, ReadyFuel, and other names. You don't need to buy it from the makers of Utility Fuel."
I did a search on PyroPac and their website also claims non-toxicity (and they call it 'green'). Interestingly, they also provide a link to an MSDS report, which does report on the toxicity. Weird.Feb 10, 2013 at 5:50 pm #1953025
Colin, please don't try to school me about Di-ethylene glycol. As an experienced (now retired) chemical engineer, I spent most of my career working with DEG. I designed, helped construct, commissioned, and managed a world scale Ethylene Oxide and Ethylene Glycol plant making over 80 million pounds per year of DEG in Pasadena, Texas. I think I know something about DEG. I am quite familiar with its toxicity, TLV, and details of its MSDS.
One does not base the toxicity of a compound on the components that are used in the reaction. The final products may be quite different. You will note that I said a Di-ethylene Glycol based material – not DEG itself. I am quite familiar with the unscrupulous efforts of some to even blend DEG into wine which caused numerous deaths in the 80's. But this material may be different than Pure DEG.
Yes, I trust the manufacturer when their MSDS shows that the materal is safe unless large amounts are ingested. I don't plan to eat any of it but the products of it's combustion are no more toxic than SDA or pure ethanol. By the way,ethanol is toxic at some level also (alcohol poisoning). I would also state that your example of antibiotic ointment may have had other possible actors in the equation. I have had numerous skin contacts with DEG, and although my twitch and bulbous tumors remain, I am more or less unscathed. :)
If it is not new that is fine, I was. just unaware of it although I am aware that has been used in Sterno as we sold DEG into that application. If you don't trust manufacturer's MSDS, that is your prerogative.
MarcFeb 10, 2013 at 6:32 pm #1953032
Marc, I'm surprised that you bristled. You seem a bit flappable for a person of such humbling credentials and "world scale" experience.
"…don't try to school me about Di-ethylene glycol…I think I know something about DEG…"
It's clear that you don't think that concern about DEG toxicity is warranted. That's fine. We can discuss it and ultimately agree or disagree. People on these forums express concern about the toxicity of methanol, and DEG is much more toxic than methanol, so my conclusion that the toxicity of DEG will be of interest to some BPL members seems pretty reasonable.
Expounding upon your expertise, and declaring that I shouldn't dare attempt to "school" a man of your experience is an embarrassing stoop. Announcing your merits should only be necessary if your point is so badly presented that others need to be assured of your credibility. When I reread your post, I see why you thought it was necessary.Feb 10, 2013 at 9:00 pm #1953060
I think that's where the difference lies.
My understanding here (and I'm quite certain someone will correct me if I'm wrong…) is that the gel has DEG as a component, but is not straight-up DEG to be burned as fuel.
This is not a small difference in terms of chemical compounds.Feb 10, 2013 at 9:15 pm #1953066
Yes, the DEG might just be the gellant. That would be better from a toxicity standpoint than just DEG, but it doesn't change my point about the use of the term "non-toxic".
Most sources describe methanol as toxic. The CDC describes methanol as "…a toxic alcohol that is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide, and alternative fuel source."
If DEG is two orders of magnitude more toxic than methanol, then it would have to be present in extraordinarily small (trace) amounts in a product for that product to be called non-toxic.
As I said before, I would use a DEG-based gel as a fuel, and I think it might be an interesting alternative to esbit. And it is clearly wrong to call a DEG-based product non-toxic.Feb 10, 2013 at 9:18 pm #1953070
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
I GOOGLED Utility Flame and also got a warning from my ESET NOD 32 antivirus (bettter than Norton, et al.) and it said the security certificate had not yet been issued.
So I went to YouTube and watched two demos.
1. This stuff is HOT. It can boil faster than ESBIT
2. The gel pack last only about 4+ minutes
3. Utility Flame gel is likely heavier than ESBIT (for a 10 minute burn time).
I'll stay with ESBIT until Utility Flame can be made in a solid form that is, for equal burn time, as good or better than ESBIT weight wise.
And then too, how much does it cost??
P.S. I don't mean to sound like a grumpy old man because I am patiently waiting for a hotter open flame fuel than Esbit. So I congratulate the Utility Flame folks for trying.
But their fuel may be better for chaffing dish fuel than backpacking if it weighs too much. I think we need a gram/BTU/minute comparison for backpackers to make informed decisions.
Roger?Feb 10, 2013 at 9:58 pm #1953085
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Jennifer: My understanding from reading their materials and the MSDS is that it is majority DEG with sand added.
Marc: Two chemical engineers debating a topic very quickly gets tedious for the participants and immediately boring for everyone else, so I'm not going to start.
Colin: I think you are right to be concerned about the toxicity of DEG (or any other component of material you use). However, the toxicity of DEG is similar to that of methanol and ethylene glycol – two other ways to blind or kill a mammal (and the only first aid situations I recommend oral ethanol for), and many of us burn methanol in concentrations from 5 to 50+% in alky stoves.
My take: This stuff is spendy. $8.50 for 6 ounces (which includes some sand) is, ballpark, $200/gallon of gasoline equivalent. So be glad your car doesn't take this as fuel. Gelled fuels are also low output compared to liquid-fueled or canister stoves. It IS handy for fire starting in a pinch. It IS handy if you want to warm a can of beans when the power is out. It is NOT a new concept – I was selling "Fire Ribbon" 30 years ago in a BPing store, but not to ULers. It's marketed to start a wood/charcoal fire, but we'd suggest it for priming your Svea 123 or Optimus 8R more neatly than spilling liquid white gas all over. It's still available, as is Coghlan's "Fire Paste" (probably just a relabeling) through Amazon, True Value, etc.
What's new with this stuff is that the vapor pressure must be low enough that they can ship common carrier and on airlines. That's a big plus in a few cases, say if you go backpacking on a 737 into a place with no stores. I might be the only one on this site that does that very often (e.g. Adak in the Aleutians last October). But on the jet to Kauai last month – I'd skip it and just be prepared to use 1-pound propane bottles or suck it up and use Sterno – which just as low performance as these gels, but available cheaper and locally (all of this because I couldn't find butane canisters anywhere on island). But when I'm flying in on a DeHallivand Otter or a Cessna 207, the pilot doesn't care if I have propane, butane, white gas, pepper spray, guns, and knives. They'd kind of wonder if I didn't.
Back to the toxicity – No, don't eat it. Try not to breath the flumes. That's true of everything we burn (wood, tobacco, gasoline, charcoal, etc). It's more true for these low-temperature, low-efficiency flames. This isn't a pre-mixed burner like a butane, propane, white-gas BPing stove or the natural-gas stove you have at home. Therefore there are more unburned fuels in the exhaust gases. Would I use it? Yes. I'd try to stay upwind. I'd only use it in a pinch. But it is helpful to be reminded that some options are still around decades later.
Do their weasel words "designed to be non-toxic" rub me the wrong way? Yeah. I studied and graduated in ChemEng, but I've spent decades cleaning up after my former classmates. "Less toxic than Botox, more toxic than dirt" – I'd rather they bracket it than gloss over it.Feb 11, 2013 at 7:33 am #1953158
I am decidedly NOT a chemical engineer, just someone who would really like to use esbit or similar but really just can't abide the odor. Blech, I do kinda like how the alcohol stove smells, tho..,
So I guess I won't get excited about this. Stiff, sniff.Feb 11, 2013 at 2:17 pm #1953283
Hikin’ JimBPL Member
@hikin_jimLocale: Orange County, CA, USA
Thanks, Dave, for putting things into perspective.Feb 11, 2013 at 5:19 pm #1953331
Thanks, David. Your reasonable and well-informed input is appreciated on these forums.Feb 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm #1953367
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
>"Thanks, Dave, for putting things into perspective.:
Oh, Jim, you're just happy I worked "Svea 123" and "Optimus 8R" into a post about something else entirely!Feb 11, 2013 at 7:10 pm #1953377
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