What is Bio-diesel?
Bio-diesel is an alternative fuel produced from renewable plant sources such as canola (rapeseed) oil, soybean, corn and palm oil. Bio-diesel has similar properties to diesel #2. They both can be used in diesel engines. Since Bio-diesel is renewable and produced from processed green plant oils, it does not add new amounts of the green house gas carbon dioxide (CO2) into the carbon cycle when burned in diesel engines. This makes Bio-diesel combustion carbon neutral.
How is Bio-diesel made?
Bio-diesel fuel is produced by combining newly extracted or used vegetable oils or fats with an alcohol and a catalyst. The rather simple chemical process is called “transesterification.” The oils or fats are combined with methanol and a chemical catalyst, usually potassium hydroxide (KOH), to produce two end products: 1) mono alkyl esters (known as fatty acid methyl esters) and 2) glycerol (see Figure 1). Mono alkyl ester is just a fancy word for saying Bio-diesel.
Figure 1: The Bio-diesel Production Process
Is Bio-diesel the same thing as raw vegetable oil?
No! Bio-diesel is produced from fat or oil, such as soybean oil, through a refinery process, called transesterification. This process is a reaction of the raw vegetable oil with an alcohol and an alkali catalyst leading to the removal of a 3-carbon molecule called glycerol. Glycerol is the major waste product of bio-diesel production. Fuel-grade bio-diesel must be produced to strict industry specifications (ASTM D6751) to insure proper performance. Bio-diesel is the only alternative fuel to have fully completed the health effects testing requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments. Bio-diesel that meets ASTM D6751 and is legally registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is a legal motor fuel for sale and distribution. Raw vegetable oil cannot meet bio-diesel fuel specifications.
How much Bio-diesel is produced?
Since the late 1980s, worldwide production of bio-diesel has been steadily increasing to over 10.7 Million tons (3.26 Billion gal) in 2007. Bio-diesel production in the United States increased from a modest 500,000 gallons in 1999, to 500 million gallons in 2007. The 500 million gallons of bio-diesel produced annually is less than 1% of the total U.S. diesel market. For comparison: The annual U.S. Diesel consumption is about 50 Billion US gal per year. There are over 200 bio-diesel refineries in the U.S. and growing.
How much vegetable oil is there to make bio-diesel?
The U.S. produces about 2.9 Billion gallons (9.45 Million tons) of vegetable oil a year. Most of this oil comes from canola, soybeans and sunflowers. If all this oil could be used to make bio-diesel (instead of being used for food production), it would make about 1.95 Billion gallons. However, this seemingly high amount of bio-diesel would only be about 3.9% of the current U.S. diesel market. (See Table 1)
Table 1: Oil and Fat
What is Bio-diesel waste?
During the bio-diesel transesterification process the polyhydroxyalcohol glycerol is generated in large amounts as the major waste product. For every tonne (= metric ton) of bio-diesel generated by this process, about 100 kilograms (100 kg) of glycerol waste is produced. The glycerol produced is traditionally used in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, paints and other commercial products. The amount of glycerol in the U.S. market has increased because of bio-diesel production.
How much glycerol waste is there?
The current glycerol waste production in the United States averages more than 100,000 metric tons per year and in Europe glycerol production has tripled within the last ten years to about 600,000 metric tons per year. If all of this was converted to hydrogen it would be more than 14,000 metric tons of hydrogen. This is equivalent to roughly 14 million gallons of gasoline. There is a tremendous challenge in finding novel and profitable uses for this important bio-diesel production waste product.
What does SGT do with the glycerol waste?
SGT will produce on-site bio-hydrogen from glycerol to generate clean energy in the form of electricity and heat. This will be performed by SGT’s core product, the H2NECXT System™ (see Figure 2). The patent-pending process includes a patent-pending microorganism.
Figure 2: H2NECXT System™ Process
What does Bio-diesel have to do with me?
We all breathe the same air. Petroleum diesel fuel is not only a finite energy source but emissions from diesel engines account for a significant amount of particulate matters (PMs) and other harmful pollutants in our air. Bio-diesel is a cleaner burning fuel that helps preserve air quality and public health. Bio-diesel is also a sustainable resource. It is less toxic than table salt and biodegrades as fast as sugar. Since it is made in the USA, it will stimulates our own economy.