What is Biodiesel?
Biodiesel is a renewable and environmentally friendly alternative to conventional diesel fuel that can be produced from a variety of feedstocks. The most common feedstocks used for biodiesel production are vegetable oils, animal fats, and used cooking oils. The process of converting these feedstocks into biodiesel involves a chemical reaction known as transesterification.
How is Biodiesel Made?
Using methanol and a catalyst, chemical reactions convert oils and fats into biodiesel through a process that includes pretreatment, transesterification, washing, and drying. Each step can include chemical solutions that enable and/or improve the process.
Methanol: Used in the chemical reaction to convert oils & fats into biodiesel.
Catalyst: Can include sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide flake, sodium methylate, or potassium methylate.
Oils & Fats (triglycerides): Can include tallow, distiller’s corn oil, soybean oil (vegetable oils), yellow grease (restaurants), brown grease, or other animal fats.
Pretreatment (Esterification): Converts free fatty acids (FFAs) into esters while consuming sulfuric acid, caustic, and phosphoric acid.
Transesterification: The chemical reaction that converts triglycerides into biodiesel (methyl ester).
Separation: Emulsion breaking using citric acid, acetic acid, or polysorbate.
Washing: Water used to separate methanol, FFAs, and soaps from the biodiesel. Dissolved air filtration (DAF) units are used in many plants with polymers, peracetic acid, or acid/Bases for pH control.
Drying: Includes many different unit operations (evaporators, distillation columns, etc.)
Biodiesel: Requires a stabilizer.
How are Chemicals Used in Biodiesel Production?
Due to the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) fuel producers are required to demonstrate RFS compliance by consuming designated volumes of biofuels, referred to as renewable volume obligations (RVO). This includes conventional renewable fuels, advanced biofuels, cellulosic biofuels, and biomass-based diesels. To meet this demand, biodiesel is produced across the United States with continued investment in improving this environmentally-friendly alternative fuel.
The production process includes a variety of steps that require or benefit from the use of chemicals. Below are system functions and chemical solutions Hydrite provides to the industry:
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