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Biodiesel is a mixture of fatty acid alkyl esters made from vegetable oils, animal fats or recycled
greases. Biodiesel can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form, but it is usually used as a
petroleum diesel additive to reduce levels of particulates, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and air
toxics from diesel-powered vehicles.
Biodiesel Feedstocks
In the United States, most biodiesel is made from soybean oil or recycled cooking oils. nimals
fats, other vegetable oils, and other recycled oils can also be used to produce biodiesel,
depending on their costs and availability. In the future, blends of all kinds of fats and oils may be
used to produce biodiesel.
Biodiesel Production
Key Reaction. !he main reaction for converting oil to biodiesel is called transesterification. !he
transesterification process reacts an alcohol "like methanol# with the triglyceride oils contained in
vegetable oils, animal fats, or recycled greases, forming fatty acid alkyl esters "biodiesel# and
glycerin. !he reaction re$uires heat and a strong base catalyst, such as sodium hydroxide or
potassium hydroxide. !he simplified transesterification reaction is shown below.
!riglycerides % &ree &atty cids "'()# % lcohol **+ lkyl esters % glycerin
Pretreatment Reaction. Some feedstocks must be pretreated before they can go through the
transesterification process. &eedstocks with less than () free fatty acids, which include
vegetable oils and some food-grade animal fats, do not re$uire pretreatment. &eedstocks with
more than () free fatty acids, which include inedible animal fats and recycled greases, must be
pretreated in an acid esterification process. In this step, the feedstock is reacted with an alcohol
"like methanol# in the presence of a strong acid catalyst "sulfuric acid#, converting the free fatty
acids into biodiesel. !he remaining triglycerides are converted to biodiesel in the
transesterification reaction.
!riglycerides % &ree &atty cids "+()# % lcohol **+ lkyl esters % triglycerides
cid Esteri!ication. ,il feedstocks containing more than () free fatty acids go through
an acid esterification process to increase the yield of biodiesel. !hese feedstocks are filtered
and preprocessed to remove water and contaminants, and then fed to the acid esterification
process. !he catalyst, sulfuric acid, is dissolved in methanol and then mixed with the
pretreated oil. !he mixture is heated and stirred, and the free fatty acids are converted to
biodiesel. ,nce the reaction is complete, it is dewatered and then fed to the
transesterification process.
Transesteri!ication. ,il feedstocks containing less than () free fatty acids are filtered
and preprocessed to remove water and contaminants and then fed directly to the
transesterification process along with any products of the acid esterification process. !he
catalyst, potassium hydroxide, is dissolved in methanol and then mixed with and the
pretreated oil. If an acid esterification process is used, then extra base catalyst must be
added to neutrali-e the acid added in that step. ,nce the reaction is complete, the ma.or co-
products, biodiesel and glycerin, are separated into two layers.
"et#anol reco$ery. !he methanol is typically removed after the biodiesel and glycerin
have been separated, to prevent the reaction from reversing itself. !he methanol is cleaned
and recycled back to the beginning of the process.
Biodiesel re!inin%. ,nce separated from the glycerin, the biodiesel goes through a clean-
up or purification process to remove excess alcohol, residual catalyst and soaps. !his
consists of one or more washings with clean water. It is then dried and sent to storage.
Sometimes the biodiesel goes through an additional distillation step to produce a colorless,
odorless, -ero-sulfur biodiesel.
&lycerin re!inin%. !he glycerin by-product contains unreacted catalyst and soaps that are
neutrali-ed with an acid. /ater and alcohol are removed to produce 01)-21) crude
glycerin. !he remaining contaminants include unreacted fats and oils. In large biodiesel
plants, the glycerin can be further purified, to 33) or higher purity, for sale to the
pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries.
!he one and only alternative fuel that can be used directly in any diesel motor, without
re$uiring any type of modification is the Biodiesel. !oday, this motors re$uire a fuel that being
sub.ected to the different conditions in wich it operates, remains stable and on the other hand
clean when being burned.
4ossessing similar properties with the petroleum diesel fuel, both can be mix in any
proportion, without generating problems at all.
!he biodiesel is an ideal fuel for its low emissions, in the marine areas, national parks and
forests and mainly in the big cities like for example United States that uses it in its different
mixtures for the public transportation.
!he great strength that the Biodiesel represents as a fuel resides in its possibility of being
generated starting from cultivations that are abundant in our country as the soya and the
sunflower among other, generating an yield for the agricultural sector and conse$uently a descent
of the unemployment.
56 It comes from a renewable resource.
56 It7s bio-degradable.
56 It7s less polluting than the mineral gasoil.
56 It reduces particles "smoke# in more than 01) and the emissions of 8,9.
56 It is sulfurate, ben-ene and perfuming potentially cancerigenic free.
56 It possesses derived products of the residual of its process as glycerine and organic fertili-ers.
56 !he biodiesel production is encouraged with important incentives and fiscal exemption at
national and international level..
56 !he :yoto 4rotocol finances the investment granting ;<=credits of carbon;< to those who
are able to reduce the emissions of 8,9.
56 It gives independence to the unavailability and variation of prices of the fossil diesel oil.
56 It is less polluting than the mineral gasoil.
56 It is a sure fuel in its handling and storage.
56 It uses the same facilities that the ones employed for the diesel oil..
56 It facilitates its own production in complete cycle "harvests of oleaginous-pressed of oil-
biodiesel production# reducing costs and middlemen.
56 !he commerciali-ation of its by-products ">xpeller of soya, sunflower, etc. as origin for
Balanced &ood for livestock ? @licerol 31) 4urity# it constitutes an accessory, profitable
business and it diversifies risks.
Mechanical benefits
56 It increases the efficiency and it duplicates the durability of the motor, improving its ignition
and lubricity.
56 Aigh &lash point approx. BC1 5D8-"Eiesel fossil approx. F1 5D8#.
56 It possesses an important lubricant power, reason why it can be considered a preservative to
improve the lubricity. lso, the gasoil without sulfur loses lubricant $ualities and to replace this
flaw, preservatives should be used.
Blends of 91) biodiesel with 21) petroleum diesel can be used in unmodified diesel
engines. Biodiesel can be used in its pure form but many re$uire certain engine
modifications to avoid maintenance and performance problems.
It was stated that about half of the biodiesel industry can use recycled oil or fat, the other
half being soybean, or rapeseed oil according to the origin of these feed stocks.
Biodiesel is nontoxic, biodegradable. It reduces the emission of harmful pollutants
"mainly particulates# from diesel engines "21) less 8,9 emissions, B11) less sulfur
dioxide# but emissions of nitrogen oxides "precursor of o-one# are increased.
Biodiesel has a high cetane number "above B11, compared to only (1 for diesel fuel#.
8etane number is a measure of a fuelGs ignition $uality. !he high cetane numbers of
biodiesel contribute to easy cold starting and low idle noise.
!he use of biodiesel can extend the life of diesel engines because it is more lubricating
and, furthermore, power output are relatively unaffected by biodiesel.
Biodiesel replaces the exhaust odor of petroleum diesel with a more pleasant smell of
popcorn or &rench fries.
H lternati$e !uel !or diesel en%ines
H "ade !rom $e%eta+le oil or animal !at
H "eets #ealt# e!!ect testin% ,C-
H emissions/ )i%# !las# 0oint ,1233F-/ Sa!er
H Biode%rada+le/ Essentially non4to5ic.
H C#emically/ +iodiesel molecules are mono4alkyl esters 0roduced usually !rom
tri%lyceride esters
H Biodiesel is made from the combination of a triglyceride with a monohydroxy alcohol
"i.e. methanol, ethanolI#.
H /hat is a triglycerideJ Kade from a combination of glycerol and three fatty acidsL
/hile actually a multi-step process, the overall reaction looks like this
8A9,,MB catalyst 8A9,A
? ?
8A,,M9 % C8AC,A C8AC,,Mx % 8A,A
? ?
8A9,,MC 8A9,A
Triglyceride 3 Methanols Biodiesel Glycerin
MB, M9, and MC are fatty acid alkyl groups "could be different, or the same#, and depend
on the type of oil. !he fatty acids involved determine the final properties of the biodiesel "cetane
number, cold flow properties, etc.#
&irst step, triglyceride turned into diglyceride, methoxide "minus Na# .oins freed & to
make biodiesel, Na .oins ,A from water "from methoxide formation# to make Na,A.
,ther A .oins the diglyceride.
A , A
? ? ?
A8,MB A A8, A ,
? ? ? ? ?
A8,,M9 % A8,Na


8A,,M9 % A8,MB % Na,A
? ? ? ?
? ? ? ?
A , A ,
Triglyceride + Methoxide + H2O Eiglyceride % Biodiesel % Na,A