New Cost-Effective Continuous Flow Technology with Solid Catalyst for Converting Algae Oil to Biodiesel
Chemists at United Environment and Energy LLC have developed an energy-efficient, high throughput continuous flow fixed-bed reactor technology for cost-effective algae oil biodiesel production. A report on what they termed “the first economical way to produce biodiesel from algae oil” was presented at the 237th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City, Utah.
One of the problems with current methods for producing biodiesel from algae oil is the processing cost, and the researchers say their process is at least 40% cheaper than that of others now being used.
A key advantage of the new process, according to lead researcher Dr. Ben Wen, vice president of United Environment and Energy LLC, is that it uses a proprietary solid catalyst developed at his company instead of liquid catalysts.
One benefit of the solid catalyst is its reusability. It also enables the continuously flowing production of biodiesel, compared to a conventional transesterification method using a liquid catalyst. That latter process is slower because it requires the purification of the biodiesel by neutralizing the base catalyst by adding acid. No such action is needed to treat the solid catalyst.
A related benefit from the use of the solid catalyst is that there is no wastewater produced to cause pollution.
This is the first economical way to produce biodiesel from algae oil. It costs much less than conventional processes because you would need a much smaller factory, there are no water disposal costs, and the process is considerably faster.—Ben Wen
Wen says that his firm is now conducting a pilot program for the process with a production capacity of nearly 1 million gallons of algae biodiesel per year. Depending on the size of the machinery and the plant, he said it is possible that a company could produce up to 50 million gallons of algae biodiesel annually.
Wen also says that the solid catalyst continuous flow method can be adapted to mobile units so that smaller companies wouldn’t have to construct plants and the military could use the process in the field.
The work was funded by the National Science Foundation.
ACS 237 ENVR 178 Continuous flow fixed-bed biodiesel production from algae oil