What Is Biodiesel and its production methods?
Biodiesel is a fuel made from vegetable oils and alcohols (Methanol / Ethanol / ISO-Propanol) utilizing a chemical process called Transesterification. The resulting Mono-Alkyl Esters have an acceptable viscosity and can be used interchangeably with petroleum diesel, thus biodiesel production made.
What Is Transesterification?
The major components of vegetable oils and animal fats are Triglycerides. To obtain biodiesel, the vegetable oil or animal fat is subjected to a chemical reaction termed transesterification.
In that reaction, the vegetable oil or animal fat is reacted in the presence of a catalyst with an Alcohol (usually methanol) to give the corresponding Alkyl Esters (or for methanol, the methyl esters) of the fatty acid mixture that is found in the parent vegetable oil or animal fat.
Biodiesel Materials / Biodiesel Feedstock:
- Vegetable Oils
- Cotton seed
- Rape Seed / Canola
- Animal Fats
- Waste Oils
- Used Frying oils
Biodiesel is often blended with petroleum diesel to produce a fuel that is compatible with diesel engines. Biodiesel blends reduce harmful emissions. Biodiesel blends will become more common as drivers are made aware of the many benefits.
- B2 – 2% Biodiesel and 98% Diesel
- B5 – 5% Biodiesel and 95% Diesel
- B20 – 20% Biodiesel and 80% Diesel
Note: These blends with Petro diesel are not Biodiesel.
Advantages Of Biodiesel:
- Derivation from a renewable domestic resource, thus reducing dependence on and preserving petroleum
- Reduction of most exhaust emissions (Exception NOx)
- Higher flash point leading to safer handling and storage
- Excellent lubricity
Disadvantages Of Biodiesel:
- Inherent higher price
- High expensive Feedstock’s
- Increased NOx exhaust emissions due to reduced excise taxes
History of Biodiesel
Built in the 1890s by inventor Rudolph Diesel, the diesel engine seems to have become the engine of demand for power, reliability and high fuel savings, globally. The French government and Dr. Rudolph Diesel teamed, whom foreseen that pure vegetable oils can really power first prototypes of diesel engines for agriculture in rural parts of the world where petroleum wasn’t really accessible at the moment, were among the pioneer researchers on vegetable oil fuels.
Advanced biodiesel fuel, formulated by turning vegetable oils into compounds known as methyl esters of fatty acids, may have its origins in research made in Belgium in the year 1930.
Earlier Developments in Diesel Engines
There were complicated injection systems in the early diesel engines and they were designed to operate on several different fuels, from kerosene to coal dust. It was only a matter of time unless someone recognized that vegetable oils would make excellent fuel because of their high energy content.
The first public demonstration of diesel fuel based on vegetable oil was the “World’s Fair” in the year 1900, when the French government commissioned Otto to develop a diesel engine to operate on peanut oil. As a domestic fuel for their African colonies, the French government was interested in vegetable oil.
Rudolph Diesel later did extensive work on vegetable oil fuels and became a prominent supporter of such an idea, claiming that the supply of their own fuel could help farmers. It would however take nearly a century before such a concept became a popular fact. The diesel engine design was modified to fit the properties of petroleum diesel fuel, with the invention of petroleum being available abundantly and sold cheaply.
An engine that would have been fuel efficient and also very powerful was the result. Diesel engines will become the industry norm for the next 80 years, where power, economy and reliability were mandated.
Invention of Modern Biodiesel Fuel
Despite the increasing popularity of petroleum diesel and its low cost, biodiesel-based vegetable oils have not received much publicity, even during the periods of high price and shortages of fuel. During t he World War II and the oil shortages in the year 1970s saw a short interest in fueling diesel engines using vegetable oils.
Unfortunately due to the much higher viscosity of vegetable oil compared with traditional petroleum diesel fuel, new concept of diesel engines does not work on conventional vegetable oil. There was a way of reducing the viscosity of vegetable oil to a certain degree that could burn it properly inside the diesel engine.
Several strategies, namely pyrolysis, the solvent blending and also the fuel emulsification with water and alcohol, have been suggested to conducted this job, none of which offered the required solution. In 1937, a Belgian inventor, who proposed that vegetable oils can be converted into fatty Alkyl Acid esters using a transesterification process and used them as an alternative to diesel fuel.