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New Method Simplifies Soy Biodiesel Production

1 April 2005

Scientists at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are exploring a simplified process for soybean biodiesel production that eliminates the use of an air-polluting chemical and that may eventually reduce the overall cost of production.

Soybean oil—the feedstock for soy biodiesel—is normally produced by extracting it from the bean with chemical solvents. Hydraulic presses are not used much because of the expense and lower yields.

In conventional soybean oil production, the beans are prepped, cut into flakes, and immersed in a solvent, usually hexane. Hexane is a colorless, flammable liquid derived from petroleum, and is an air pollutant the release of which is regulated by the EPA.

The resulting oil then undergoes transesterification using alcohol (methanol or ethanol) and a catalyst (usually sodium hydroxide). Transesterification is the process of cracking of the vegetable oil molecules into fatty acid chains (which ultimately are used for fuel) and glycerin.

The ARS eliminated hexane from the process simply by skipping the conventional oil-extraction step. Instead, the researchers directly immersed the soybean flakes in the methanol and sodium hydroxide. Transesterification occurs directly in the raw soy flakes (“in situ”) containing the oil.

The initial passes at the process worked, although the researchers noted that the new method used considerably more methanol than typically needed, driving up the cost. Without even accounting for the soy flakes or soy oil, a gallon of biodiesel produced by their new process was estimated to cost more than $3.00—versus $0.38 per gallon if produced by the conventional process.

The team reasoned that the moisture naturally present in soybeans, as much as 10% in soy flakes, could be the reason behind the high methanol requirement. They discovered that by drying the flakes before starting the biodiesel synthesis, they could greatly reduce the required methanol volume. As a result, the estimated cost went down to $1.02 per gallon.

Lead researcher Michael Haas and his colleagues are presently refining their economic model to account for income from selling the lipid-free, protein-rich flakes left after the biodiesel reaction for use as animal feeds and to account for cost differences between refined-oil and flaked-soybean starting materials.

ARS has filed a patent application on the process. Haas is exploring use of this new method to produce biodiesel from the lipids in corn co-products from ethanol plants that use corn as a starting material. He’s also investigating the suitability of canola seeds and meat and bone meal.

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April 1, 2005 in Biodiesel | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (3)

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference New Method Simplifies Soy Biodiesel Production:

» Cleaning Up Soy Biodiesel from sustainablog
This post from Green Car Congress is a bit technical, but gives a nice overview of soy biodiesel production (which traditionally involves some nasty chemicals). [Read More]

» New Energy Currents: 04-22-2005 from Winds of Change.NET
Spring is in full bloom in the NYC, and the energy bill season is in full swing - a great time to be alive, in other words. As different technologies begin to compete in earnest for the public's attention, acceptance, and tax dollars, New Energy Curre... [Read More]

» New Energy Currents: 04-22-2005 from Winds of Change.NET
Spring is in full bloom in the NYC, and the energy bill season is in full swing - a great time to be alive, in other words. As different technologies begin to compete in earnest for the public's attention, acceptance, and tax dollars, New Energy Curre... [Read More]

Comments

sir
It is very good if we develop a technology to make biofuels without much poisonous chemicals like Methyl alcohol and catalysts but can we apply colloidal solution of this jatropha oil and is there any method to convert into biofuels?
It is tough but very interesting and far reaching ends?
S.A.Alagarsamy
India

I would suggest contacting Michael Hass at ARS—he and the researchers are investigating other feedstocks. mhaas@errc.ars.usda.gov

One would think that the size of the "flakes" would have a direct bearing on the thoroughness of the trasesterification process. If one could mill the flakes to very, very tiny sizes, they would also be able to dry out faster before processing. Would be interesting to see results of various flake sizes.

WE are developing new patented technology for the tapping into and obtaining electrical output from the vast energy in space (all space). Have one of your staff look at U.S. patent 5,018,180.

We do not feel this enormous space energy because the energy is the same inside and outside of our bodies, ergo, no energy gradient. Dr. Hal Puthoff is one of those who have published about this enormous energy source.

There is enough energy in a quart volume, if it could be turned to thermal energy, to boil the Atlantic Ocean.

I would be pleased to share more information with you or your staff.

Thank you for being one of the few to address this important issue!

Regards, Hal Fox, Ed. Journal of New Energy

P.S. I would be pleased to send you a copy of the Journal if you will provide me with the address that you would like to use.

We have heard about the proposed biodiesel plant that is to open in Mexico, MO. How would a person go about investing in this project? Your reply would be appreciated.
Thank you,
Jan Watts

sir i want tolearn about the biodiesel

I am interested in the patented process that makes biodiesel from soy or corn flakes. It is more simple and faster than the original two-step method.

Carroll Godwin

Purely on running cost basis, probably supercritical fluid extraction particularly SCO2 with CO2 recapturing & recycling mode method would probably be the best one-step universal method for any organic oil extraction.
The key to the success would be, however, in optimizing the capital cost of such high-pressure extractors by manufacturing them in real huge volumes & adapting these for ALL - repeat all organic oil sources - seeds, barks, leaves, whole body mass of organic substances etc.
This method also appears to be safest for the environment as there are no harmful discharges, CO2 neutral & to top it all the initial requirement of large volume of CO2 may also be trapped from the current fossil-fuel based industrial CO2 emitters thereby probably benefiting from accruing carbon-credit advantages as well.

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