Saturday, 15 March 2014

Fuel4 Bio Ethanol Gel Fuel Review

I've already done a review of the Bio Ethanol spirit produced Fuel4, which although performance wise is not a great improvement over Methylated Spirit, it is around the same price and friendlier to the environment, which is a great positive. I decided I would also take a look at their gel based fuel. I've used Green Gel Fuel in the past and wondered what this variation would be like.
 
I've already watched a video of the Fuel4 gel being used, which can be found here:
 
 
The review is pretty good and shows the water being heated to what looks like pretty much a boil, although a fully rolling boil I'm not quite so sure. There are bubbles, but not to the level I would expect from a gas stove or similar.
 
As I don't have the Fuel4 X system to test the gel in, I decided to use a more basic standard stove. To be honest, I didn't want to replicate the test done already, but instead something a little more real world, as in the kit used with the gel for anyone else, like myself, without the X system. I also picked up an M71 military gel stove off ebay to use as a comparison.
 
The Tests
 
The test was carried out at home, in the kitchen, where there was no wind or other weather conditions that could affect the test in any way. The equipment used was a titanium stove normally used with solid fuel and an Alpkit MytiMug.
 
Since I wasn't using the X System, I decided I would load up the stove with what I guesstimated from the information available the right amount of gel to do the job. Because I would have no way to store any remaining gel in the stove used, I had to make sure I didn't use too much more than needed, else this would become an expensive system. I put half a litre of water in the mug, lit the gel and put the mug on the stove.
 
 
 
 
The flame from the gel was not what I would call ferocious, more steady eddy. And unfortunately this did tell in the test.
 
 

 
As you can see from the image, at around 43 minutes I eventually got some bubbles and steam. I had a lid on the mug and checked every couple of minutes to check the status of the water. The very steady flame said it all I believe. Shortly after this photograph was taken the gel burned out. So it burns for a long time, which can be a negative point in some circumstances.
 
 
 
 
I followed this up with a test of M71 military gel stove with a more ferocious flame and considerably different results.
 
 
 
 
 At a little over 10 minutes I was at the same state as with the Fuel4 gel, small bubbles with steam.
 
 
 

The downside of the M71 is that it creates soot, which can be seen on the underside of my MytiMug which has now lost the really nice patina it was developing from my gas stove.
 
 
 
 
Conclusion
 
Looking at what I did and the M71 military gel stove I fell that the Fuel4 gel took so long because of one primary factor. The consistency of the gel in the M71 is very thick and means that the gel is in a very broken state on it's surface. This increased surface area means there is more fuel available to burn and creates a more aggressive flame which is hotter for a shorter period of time.
 
With the Fuel4 gel, I used what I felt was the amount needed in terms of duration, which only gave a small surface area of gel to burn. Hence the very steady flame. If I had filled the stove, then I think a substantial enough flame would have been generated to do the job more in line with the M71 and the online test on Youtube. But on the downside, I would have had quite a large amount of unused gel left in the stove. The amount I used lasted for around 45 minutes, which is very impressive.
 
So in conclusion, while I cannot write the Fuel4 gel off as a source, I would have to consider very carefully how I was going to use it myself. The Fuel4 X-systems may well be the way to go, and does look good in reviews. But to be honest, how many different stove systems do I want when I have more than enough already. If you haven't quite got into the alcohol stove systems yet, I would take a serious look, as this may be the way to go. If you have, it will depends I think on the type of stove you use, or whether you want to buy another.

More information here:
 
 
Remember, this was one test, not many. So others results may differ. If your results do differ, feel free to comment and make suggestions for improvement by all means.