The majority of biodiesel synthesis processes in the U.S.
can make biodiesel from fresh oil sources (~ <5% free
fatty acid). State-of-the-art process enhancements have
allowed for biodiesel containing between 5% and 10% free
fatty acid to be synthesized in a few processes around the
country. However, only one or two processes in the world
are capable of producing biodiesel that meets the fuel quality
specifications from feedstock, which are as high as 15%
free fatty acid.
Until now, there has been no commercially available biodiesel synthesis
process in the world that can convert feedstocks having
greater than 15% free fatty acids. As a result, there is
not a robust chemical process currently available to convert
the estimated 600 million gallons of low quality oils and
rendered fats produced annually in the U.S.
Exciting Advances—Production Costs Reduced
Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) applied advanced engineering and process
chemistry principles to biodiesel synthesis and developed
an innovative synthesis process specifically targeted towards
processing low value, high free fatty acid feeds for the
production of biodiesel and high quality glycerol byproduct.
The biodiesel synthesis process developed by the INL is
a continuous, heterogeneous catalytic reaction, which uses
a solid catalyst that is not solubilized into the reaction
medium. Feed oil and alcohol are solubilized in a proprietary
solvent system and then passed over the catalyst bed before
final product separation.
Advantages of Proprietary Solid Catalyst Synthesis
By employing a continuous, heterogeneous catalytic system,
process limitations associated with initial batch methods
- Use of a continuous flow system will provide higher throughputs.
- Use of a heterogeneous catalyst that is not consumed
in the reaction reduces process costs and generates less
- Use of the proprietary solvent creates a single reaction
phase and overcomes mass transport limitations imposed
by multi-phase liquid-on-liquid systems.
- The tunability of solvent properties allows for efficient
- The proprietary solvent limits the amount of water,
which can contaminate the reaction, and serves to drive
the reaction equilibrium by removal of glycerol.
- The proprietary solvent is preferred over liquid solvents,
like toluene and benzene, because it is non-toxic, non-flammable,
non-hazardous, unregulated under RCRA, fully recyclable,
and does not impart any negative qualities to the products.
- The proprietary solvent is inexpensive and commercially
available in very large quantities.
- The solvent system allows for high loading of oil and
fatty acids and can be utilized as a pre-treatment step
for feedstock of extremely low quality to selectively
strip out the desired reaction components and leave behind
Texas BioDiesel holds the worldwide exclusive right to commercialize this technology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Idaho National Laboratory (INL), and our cooperative research and development agreement with them ensures we will continue to be the world leaders in biodiesel technology development.
Texas BioDiesel will build modular 30-million-gallon-a-year continuous flow solid-catalytic biodiesel process plants, initially in Texas. The pilot plant will be brought into production in 2006, and the company will evaluate, test, and improve the plant to optimize the manufacturing process. Once online, subsequent plants will leverage heavily from the initial plant design and will be built and operational within a few months from ground-breaking.
EnviroQuest Research is working in research, development,
and commercialization of cost reducing, process improving
biodiesel production technology. In addition, the company
is researching new potential non-food energy crops for use
as feedstock in biodiesel conversion, along with used cooking
oil to improve the overall economics and to improve its
cost competitiveness with petro-diesel.
The company is also working with the nation’s rural
and urban communities’ enterprise zones to help them
achieve true economic sustainability through adoption of
renewable resource strategies for fuel and other consumables.
Renewable Fuels Operating Services Company (ROSCO)
furnishes operating personnel for all of Texas BioDiesel's plants.
Forming a separate, partnered operating company encourages concentrated expertise and allows ROSCO to easily share information among facilities regardless of facility ownership.