How To Make Diesel: From The Frontline of a Besieged Syrian Town

Supply cutoffs limit the essential resources people need to operate as a community every single day, and when there’s a war zone on the doorstep there isn’t going to be a resupply anytime soon. This is where skills such as how to make diesel come in handy, applying ingenuity, resourcefulness and a dash of innovation to keep a community functioning.

I came across this video below some time ago from Middle Eastern reporting agency Aljazeera, and I was quite impressed at how these citizens from Ghouta, a town in Syria that has been besieged since 2013, has managed to survive through resourcefulness.

While this post is about the process they undertake to make diesel fuel in a terrible situation, it does not detract from the struggle the 400,000 residents of Ghouta have been going through. Not only is there restrictions on people entering or leaving the area, but supply routes are also greatly limited which has caused endless issues from medical and surgical supplies and an inability to treat diseases, starvation, fuel shortages and no electricity. That’s just to name a few.

And then there’s the chemical attacks and fighting due to the town’s position as a gateway to Syria’s capital, Damascus. Eastern Ghouta has been shelled, struck and leveled as a result of the fighting between rebel and government forces since 2013 and still continues to this day. For the citizens who live there, survival is breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

As a result of the limitation to supplies, making their own diesel is a crucial method to supply the area’s transport and generators, and there’s no resupply coming soon, so making that diesel has to be a sustainable and long-lasting method.

Here’s how to make diesel in a town that has been under a ruthless war zone siege for five years. For all of you science enthusiasts out there, the process is called thermal depolymerization, and yes, it actually works.

How to make diesel with limited resources

1. Collect any plastic you can get your hands on

First, collect any plastic you can find. The first place to start is any rubbish sites from bins, to skips and later on, public tips. Anything plastic can be used such as plastic bottles, grocery bags, DVDs and food containers.

How to make diesel

A Syrian gathering plastic in Ghouta. Getty Images

2. Burn the plastics

This doesn’t just mean light a fire and start burning anything you can get. In this specific process, you need to get the burning temperature to an ideal state between 300 – 400 degrees Celcius (570-800 Fahrenheit).

To get that sort of temperature you need to make an oven that can reach incredibly hot temperatures with an internal cooking pot.

3. Tap the vapor and let it settle as a fuel

You need to tap the vapors that arise out of superheating the plastics. Ideally, the vapors that rise out of the burning of the plastics are filtered into canisters through piping that can cool the vapor.

This is similar to how you would filter out a biogas, only these vapors would settle and condense into a canister it will become a liquid fuel form which should be light brown in color.

That light brown liquid tapped off from the condensing process is fuel.

Making your own diesel

Vapors from the cooked plastic settles in these canisters. Getty Images

How well does it work?

In this manner of generating fuel it is more so a desperate measure of creating a fuel substance for older engines. As a last resort, and because the people of Ghouta have no other option, this type of fuel generation is a necessity.

However, in a different environment, there are some considerations to look at such as the fuel residue may clog up engines as it is not synthetically cleaned in a lab or throgh a filtration process and working around burning plastics can be extremely detrimental to your health as well as the environment. There may also be safety concerns in storing your own fuel as the whole process is working with extremely flammable goods and using an accessible fire to burn the plastics, so separation of the processes is quite important.

The biggest practical problem is that if you were to rely on this type of fuel for repeated use in any sort of vehicle engine or generator, it may clog up and limit the lifetime of the engine.

This same process is being done as a method of waste management in areas already as you can see in the video below. For these processes, to address the western world’s waste count, many garbage disposal areas are separating plastics to recycle or create fuels from in a matter to address sustainable concerns and increase the reusability of waste in largely populated areas.

How To Make Diesel: From The Frontline of a Besieged Syrian Town
How To Make Diesel: From The Frontline of a Besieged Syrian Town


  1. Firas Nusire

    January 8, 2018 at 4:11 pm

    Few illustrations;:
    Ghouta is comprised of numerous towns and is a vast suburb of Damascus.
    It is known for its fertile soil and agricultural production.
    The residents at first sided with Islamists (Alqaeda, ISIS and Anusara et al), then regretted quickly after being robbed of the food supplies and food assistance by the militants.
    It’s really not a siege by SAA, but imprisonment by the militants.

    • vocalpatriot

      January 9, 2018 at 1:16 am

      Firas Nusire,
      It is maddening for me To hear these comments. Especially in light of how the democrats here in America fawn over these criminals like they are saviours.

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