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Catalytic process cuts the cost of biodiesel fuel

By Gerald Parkinson |

Biodiesel fuel is being produced for under $2/gal from product wastes in a process commercialized by Ever Cat Fuels (Anoka, Minn.; www.evercatfuels.com). This is comparable to the cost of diesel fuel obtained from petroleum, says Arlin Gyberg, a co-inventor of the process and a chemistry professor at Augsburg College, Minneapolis. Ever Cat is a new subsidiary of SarTec Corp. (Anoka, Minn.; www.sartec.com), which scaled up the technology. The plant uses a continuous process to produce 4-million gal/yr of fuel from two 6-ft by 6-in.-dia reactors. The reaction takes about 6 s, versus about 6 h for a conventional batch process, says Gyberg. The feed is a mixture of waste corn oil from bioethanol plants and waste cooking oil, although about 40 feedstocks (animal fats and plant oils) have been successfully pilot-tested, he says. Preheated feed is introduced into the top of a catalyst-packed column and converted to biodiesel fuel under supercritical conditions at about 350°C and 200 psi. Conversion is practically 100%, says Gyberg, since the process performs transesterification of triglycerides and esterification of free fatty acids. He notes that conventional processes do transesterification, but convert fatty acids to soap. Glycerol,…
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