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Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  Transactions of the ASAE. 42(5): 1203-1210. (doi: 10.13031/2013.13285) @1999
Authors:   M. Canakci, J. Van Gerpen
Keywords:   Diesel, Fuel, Oilseed, Pollution, Vegetable oil

Vegetable oils and animal fats can be transesterified to biodiesel for use as an alternative diesel fuel. Conversion of low cost feedstocks such as used frying oils is complicated if the oils contain large amounts of free fatty acids that will form soaps with alkaline catalysts. The soaps can prevent separation of the biodiesel from the glycerin fraction. Alternative processes are available that use an acid catalyst. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of process variables on acid-catalyzed transesterification. The molar ratio of alcohol, reaction temperature, catalyst amount, reaction time, water content, and free fatty acids were investigated to determine the best strategy for producing biodiesel. Food grade soybean oil was used to prepare esters using excess methanol and sulfuric acid as a catalyst. To compare the effect of different alcohol types on ester formation, methanol, ethanol, 2-propanol, and n-butanol were compared. The American Oil Chemists Society Method Ca 14-56 was used to measure the biodiesels total glycerin amount as an indicator of the completeness of the reaction. It was found that acid catalysis can provide high conversion rates but much longer times are required than for alkaline catalysts. The acid catalyst also requires the concentration of water to be less than 0.5%, which is about the same as is required for alkaline catalysts. Water formed by the esterification of free fatty acids limited their presence in the oil to 5%.

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