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Biodiesel Production Gets Simplified With New Method

Date:
April 30, 2005
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist may have found a way to remove a costly component of biodiesel production. Michael Haas, a biochemist with the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center's Fats, Oils and Animal Coproducts Research Unit in Wyndmoor, Pa., has developed a new approach to synthesizing biodiesel.
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Oil from soybeans is the usual starting material for biodiesel.
Credit: Photo by Scott Bauer

An Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientist may have found a way to remove a costly component of biodiesel production.

Michael Haas, a biochemist with the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center's Fats, Oils and Animal Coproducts Research Unit in Wyndmoor, Pa., has developed a new approach to synthesizing biodiesel.

Soybean oil is the prevalent starting material in the United States for biodiesel, and its relatively high cost results in a high cost for this renewable fuel.

The method developed by Haas and his colleagues eliminates the use of hexane, an air pollutant regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, from the production of soy oil for biodiesel synthesis. Hexane, a colorless, flammable liquid derived from petroleum, is traditionally used to extract vegetable oil triglycerides from the raw agricultural material before biodiesel production.

The new method eliminates the conventional oil extraction step. Instead, the oilseed is incubated with methanol and sodium hydroxide, which are currently used to process extracted oil.

The researchers found that the moisture naturally present in soybeans--as much as 10 percent in soy flakes--requires that a large amount of methanol be used in this reaction. However, using dried flakes greatly reduced the methanol requirement. Processing costs using dry flakes were estimated at $1.02 per gallon, which is $2.12 less than for biodiesel made from full-moisture soy flakes.

The researchers are refining their economic model to account for income from the sale of the lipid-free, protein-rich flakes left over from the biodiesel reaction for use as animal feeds, and to account for differences in the cost of the refined oil and flaked soybean feedstocks.

ARS has filed a patent application on the process, which might be useful in producing biodiesel from lipids remaining in the corn meal byproduct of corn-to-ethanol plants.


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The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Biodiesel Production Gets Simplified With New Method." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 April 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050421233819.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2005, April 30). Biodiesel Production Gets Simplified With New Method. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050421233819.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Biodiesel Production Gets Simplified With New Method." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/04/050421233819.htm (accessed May 28, 2015).

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