How is Bio-diesel Produced from Plant Oils?
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Did you know? Straight Vegetable Oils (SVO) cannot be directly used in diesel engines.
The major problem associated with the use of pure vegetable oils as fuels for diesel engines is caused by high fuel viscosity (Viscosity – from Physics Hypertextbook) in compression ignition. The vegetable oils are all highly viscous, with viscosities ranging 10–20 times those of no. 2 Diesel fuel. Amongst vegetable oils in the context of viscosity, castor oil is in a class by itself, with a viscosity more than 100 times that of no. 2 Diesel fuel (MSDS of No.2 Diesel Fuel – PetroCard). Due to their high viscosity and low volatility, they do not burn completely and form deposits in the fuel injector of diesel engines. Furthermore, acrolein (a highly toxic substance) ( Acrolein – from EPA) is formed through thermal decomposition of glycerol (Glycerol – from Info Please).
Dilution, micro-emulsification (Emulsions & Emulsification – from Wikipedia), pyrolysis ( Pyrolysis Definition from AFR) and transesterification are the four techniques applied to solve the problems encountered with the high fuel viscosity. Amongst the four techniques, chemical conversion of the oil to its corresponding fatty ester is the most promising solution to the high viscosity problem. This process - chemical conversion of the oil to its corresponding fatty ester, and thus biodiesel - is called transesterification.
Did you know? Biodiesel is produced from plant oils by the transesterification process.
What is transesterification?
· The process of converting vegetable oil into biodiesel fuel is called transesterification, and is fortunately much less complex than it sounds.
· Transesterification refers to a reaction between an ester (Ester – from Wikipedia) of one alcohol and a second alcohol to form an ester of the second alcohol and an alcohol from the original ester, as that of methyl acetate and ethyl alcohol to form ethyl acetate and methyl alcohol ( see also interesterification – Interesterification – from Cyber Lipid) . Chemically, transesterification means taking a triglyceride molecule or a complex fatty acid, neutralizing the free fatty acids, removing the glycerin and creating an alcohol ester. This is accomplished by mixing methanol with sodium hydroxide to make sodium methoxide (Sodium Methoxide – from Great Vista Chemicals, Sodium Methoxide MSDS – JT Baker) . This liquid is then mixed into vegetable oil. The entire mixture then settles. Glycerin is left on the bottom and methyl esters, or biodiesel, is left on top. The glycerin can be used to make soap (or any one of 1600 other products) and the methyl esters is washed and filtered.
· Transesterification is not a new process. Scientists E. Duy and J. Patrick conducted it as early as 1853. One of the first uses of transesterified vegetable oil was powering heavy-duty vehicles in South Africa before World War II.
Did you know? Transesterification is a simple process that can even be done at home!
More Links on Transesterification
- Transesterification of Rapeseed Oil
- Biofuels Library
- Transesterification of Vegetable Oils – A Review (PDF)
- Transesterification & Hydrolysis
- Research Notes for Biodiesel – Rick Pelletier
- Kinetics of Palm Oil Transesterification – from Journey to Forever (PDF)
- Biodiesel - History & Production – from Cyberlipid.org
- Transesterification Information – from Biodiesel Process
- Transesterification of Rapeseed Oil
- Biodiesel Preparation Info from North Dakota State University
- Understanding Transesterification – from Planet Diesel
- Biodiesel Handbook from Cytoculture
- Biodiesel Production – from Wikipedia
- Transesterification can be Fun – from IndyMedia
- Transesterification – the Solution for Biodiesel – from Business Line, India
- Transesterification of Crude Rice Bran Oil - from World Energy (PDF)
- Bio-diesel Production Info – from Green Trust
- Production & Testing of Ethyl & Methyl Esters
- Biodiesel from Vegetable Oils Via Transesterification in Supercritical Methanol
- Transesterification of Vegetable Oils Employing Ethanol (PDF)
- Transesterification Equipment Info – from Petrogas
- Production Process of Biodiesel from Vegetable Oil
Biodiesel Manufacturing Equipment
Other Methods of Producing Bio-diesel
Other than transesterification, the other methods that have been considered to reduce the high viscosity of vegetable oils are:
· dilution of 25 parts of vegetable oil with 75 parts of diesel fuel
· microemulsions with short chain alcohols (e.g. ethanol or methanol)
· thermal decomposition, which produces alkanes, alkenes, carboxylic acids and aromatic compounds
· catalytic cracking, which produces alkanes, cycloalkanes and alkylbenzenes
However, when compared with the above, the transesterification process appears to be the best choice, as the physical characteristics of fatty acid esters (biodiesel) are very close to those of diesel fuel, and the process is relatively simple. Furthermore, the methyl or ethyl esters of fatty acids can be burned directly in unmodified diesel engines, with very low deposit
More Bio-diesel Production Links
The following web sites provide more inputs on the various methods to produce bio-diesel, including the transesterification process.
· Biodiesel Basics (PDF)
Some interesting sites:
- Energy & Oil Related Questions at Billion Dollar Questions:
- Plant Oils Database – provides resources and links for over 200 different plant oils and related plant extracts
- BDPedia – The Biodiesel WWW Encyclopedia
- Reference on Energy & Alternative Energy – from Oilgae – Oil from Algae - Energy Industry Breakthroughs, Alternative Energy Portal
BDPedia.com, the Biodiesel WWW Encyclopedia, provides links, provides directory and web links resources for the biofuels, biodiesel. It is intended to be useful for research and information as well as for buyers, sellers, manufacturers, traders, suppliers, producers, exporters and importers. It will make an effort to provide biofuel feedstock, plant oil feedstocks, vegetable oil info and link, details on oilseeds, bio-fuel, bio-diesel, bio-fuels, plant oils production and uses, and biofuels trade & market resources, data, statistics such as price, prices, demand-supply for buyer, seller, manufacturer, trader, supplier, exporter and producer
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