Unfortunately, the tree possesses invasive characteristics that allow it to overrun and easily displace native foliage in an uncontrolled environment. Despite its attractive appearance and valuable oil content, many regions have placed restrictions on the distribution of the tree, as it has invaded areas throughout the southeastern United States. Since the production of biodiesel from Triadica sebifera requires harvesting the oil-rich seeds, steps can and must be taken to prevent the spread of the seeds offsite.
Initial extractions have yielded between 40% and 45% extractable material. Gas chromatography with flame ionization detection has revealed that the oil from Triadica sebifera contains over 50% palmitic fatty acid, along with some oleic, linoleic and linolenic fatty acids. These fatty acids can be transesterified and processed to form biodiesel.
A study of the esterification reaction kinetics of converting the Chinese Tallow tree oil into biodiesel will be performed to determine the overall reaction order and rate constant. This information is necessary to engineer a biodiesel production facility that uses the seeds from the Chinese Tallow tree as a feedstock. Factors to be considered in the kinetics study include reaction temperature, mixing speed, ratio of methanol to oil, and reaction time. Also, the resulting biodiesel will be tested for compliance against the appropriate ASTM standards. If the biodiesel does not meet specifications, a study will determine the feasibility of blending the Chinese Tallow tree biodiesel with biodiesel from other feedstocks in order to make the resulting blend meet specifications.
Making biodiesel from Chinese Tallow oil would accomplish two major goals. The invasive Chinese Tallow tree would become a useful, commercially viable crop. Also, the biodiesel produced from Chinese Tallow would allow the United States to decrease its dependence on imported energy by displacing foreign petroleum with a domestic source of biodiesel that would not increase the necessary crop acreage.