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Heterogeneous Catalyst Reactor Technology Produces High-Quality Biodiesel with No Aqueous Waste Stream; Lower Capital and Operating Costs

Yellow Diesel’s heterogeneous catalysis process. Click to enlarge.

A spin-off from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), Yellow Diesel B.V., is commercializing a reactor technology based on heterogeneous catalysis for the production of high-quality biodiesel plus a cosmetics/food grade glycerol, with practically no waste streams. The biodiesel specifications are better than required by the European norm EN14214.

The Yellow Diesel process eliminates all the aqueous waste streams that stem from using the conventional homogeneous acid/base catalyst technology. Due to the novel catalyst and integrated process design, the process saves up to 40% of the capital costs and 30% of the operating costs compared to a conventional plant, according to the company.

Yellow Diesel Biodiesel Specs (Rapeseed oil feedstock)
 Yellow DieselEN14214
Ester content 99.5% >96.5%
Density at 15 °C 0.8740 0.860 - 0.900
Flash point >120 °C >120 °C
Methanol content 0.02% <0.2%
Monoglyceride 0.57% <0.8%
Diglyceride 0.19% <0.2%
Triglyceride 0.15% <0.2%
Analysis by independent laboratory NofaLab.

Yellow Diesel has produced the biodiesel in its continuous micro plant, and is now scaling up the process to pilot-scale. This process can be adjusted to various types of feedstock, including low-quality oils, waste oils and fats.

Conventional biodiesel processes use homogeneous catalysts, such as sulphuric acid, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxides or alkali methoxides, with the concomitant requirements of neutralization, washing, separation and recovery operations. It also results in salt waste streams, with ecological and economical penalties.

Yellow Diesel uses only heterogeneous (solid) acid/base catalysts. This eliminates the salt waste streams, and simplifies the downstream processing.

The solid acid catalyst is used in the esterification of free fatty acids, while the solid base catalyses the main transesterification step of the triglycerides. Yellow Diesel notes that this approach is particularly suitable for treating waste oil feedstocks, including triglycerides with up to 90% free fatty acids (FFA), such as frying oils, animal tallow, tall oil from paper manufacturing and various types of organic waste.

A typical process design of the chemical reaction section may include a fixed bed reactor, a reactive distillation column (the integration of chemical reaction with distillation in one unit), or a combination of both. Yellow Diesel develops optimized process alternatives for its clients, matching the characteristics of raw materials and the required product specifications.

In January, Yellow Diesel, the University of Amsterdam and Solarix BV received a €1 million subsidy for developing new biofuels from the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, as part of the EOS KTO program (short term energy research).

Yellow Diesel B.V. is a spin-off company of the UvA Holding B.V., the holding company of the University of Amsterdam.



Promising, if economically scalable.


Sounds very similar to the Mcgyan process, which is already being commercialized;

Initial production is slated at 3m gallons/year and scaling to scaling to 33m gallons/year over the next 3 years.

Henry Gibson

It is likely that much of the oil that is used as feed to this project is able to be cleaned and processed into human and animal food. I have not yet heard that all the people in the world have a satisfactory caloric intake as reccomended by professionals trained at respected medical schools. It is also likely that the mud cakes prepared by many in Haiti could be substantially enriched in calories by these oils proposed as fuel sources for Hummers. It might even be likely that with considerable effort the poisonous qualities of jatropha oils can be adequately reduced to make them fit for animal consumption.

In any case, the world with its existing farms and forests are not large enough to provide fuel in the amounts now used and supplied by fossil fuels. The projects now in operation have induced the deforestation of many areas. The use of corn ethanol in the US and many other places actually increases the amount of CO2 going into the air as opposed to growing large trees in the same fields and just using a bit more fossil fuels. A similar benefit of the use of trees for CO2 capture can likely be expected with bio-diesel fuels. The fuel saving gains of lower speed limits can exceed any gains through the use of biofuels. The gains from almost any type of hybrid or just the use of smaller engines, can far exceed any energy gains from bio-fuels. In case people have forgotten, ethanol is just empty calories, but empty calories keep people warmer if eaten than if burned because of Hummers. ..HG..


The fact is that the oil used as feedstock for this process was "not" being used as a food source for anyone; it was being disposed of as waste. The cost and energy required to process this "waste" into edible food supplements and to ship it to the poor countries named by the author would be prohibitive.

We live and work in industrial societies that need such power things such as diesel powered mass transit (not a lot of Hummers in Europe). Any and all cost effective solutions that can turn waste into fuel should be pursued.

Carlos Fandango

Get the long distance heavy goods on electrified rail.

Develop effective rail heads. Electric dray trucks around population centers.

Use biomass to produce electricity if you have to.

Save the biodiesel for extreme remote operations.

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