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Biodiesel Process and Control

Joseph Pearson, Simon Huang, and Danah Hashem. Chemical Engineering, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 02375

Biodiesel Process and Control: Benchtop Model

1- Introduction

1-1 Background. As the prices of gas and oil skyrocket, it is becoming increasingly evident that an alternative energy source must be found quickly. Biodiesel presents a cost-efficient and effective solution to this rising problem.

1-2 Biodiesel. Biodiesel is a less costly and more environmentally friendly alternative to diesel. It reduces SO2, a major component of acid rain, by almost 100%, CO2 by 80-100%, and smoke particulates up to 75%. Pure biodiesel is biodegradable and breaks down as fast as sugar. Biodiesel breaks down four times faster than regular diesel, with most of a spill broken down only 28 days later. It also has excellent lubricity characteristics and functions very well as an alternative to diesel.

1-3 Process Challenges. Currently the biodiesel industry is a fairly new field and the best methods and systems have not yet been decided upon. For this reason, the biodiesel production process is often varied and not necessarily functioning to its full potential, even in industry settings. Different catalysts, methods, and equipment can be found on almost every single industrial processor. This illustrates the need for further research into the biodiesel field in order to determine the optimal production process.

1-4 Automation. Almost 50% of industrial biodiesel processors today are run manually. This increases the time to produce biodiesel, the money, and the manpower. Automating the biodiesel process would greatly increase the feasibility of having biodiesel as an every day energy source and would take some of the stress off of the petroleum-based energy sources.

1-5 Benchtop Model. In order to experiment with different process and automation techniques, a benchtop model has been designed and constructed. The scaled down production process allows for testing of different methods and automation systems that would be much more difficult on a full-sized industrial processor. The benchtop model can be run and monitored by a computer program based off of LabView and can also be used to test different types of feedstock for production potentials.

2- Goal

The goal of this research is to increase the feasibility of biodiesel as an alternative energy source by furthering research in the field of biodiesel production and automation of the process.

3-Experimental Design

1. Oil Feed Stock: Oil was drew from the oil feedstock to the primary reactor by primary reactor pump.

2. Potassium Hydroxide Addition: Potassium Hydroxid powder (KOH) was added to the metal screen basket manually.

3. Methanol Addition: Methanol was drew from the methanol feedstock to the methoxide reactor by the methoxide reactor pump.

4. Methanol Circulation: Methanol and potassium hydroxide react and circulated for fifteen minutes.

5. Methoxide Transfer: Methoxide was transferred to the primary reactor to be mixed with the initial inputted oil.

6. Oil and Methoxide Circulation: The primary reactor pump circulate the methoxide and oil for two hours, glycerin and biodiesel is formed.

7. Drain Glycerin: Since glycerin is denser than biodiesel, it settles at the bottom of the primary reactor. Valve was opened and gravity drained glycerin into the glycerin reservoir.

8. Biodiesel Transfer: Biodiesel was transferred to the distillation flask by the primary reactor pump.

9. Distillation and Condensation: Biodiesel was circulated with primary reactor pump and distillated by spearing the biodiesel at the opening of the distillation flask to increase the surface area. Methanol vapor appeared at the top of the distillation flask and go through the methanol condenser. The condensed methanol liquid went to ventilation.

10. Soap Adsorption: The methanol free biodiesel went to the soap adsorption for fatty acid removal. The process takes thirty minutes.

11. Pure Product: The finished biodiesel was stored into the finished fuel tank.

4- Results

The benchtop model has provided a wonderful basis for research in this field. Our results are not yet solidified as the testing continues in the effort to find the optimal automation system.

5- Conclusions

Automating the biodiesel production process would decrease costs and increase efficiency of processors across the nation, allowing biodiesel to take the position of an important energy source in America. As an environmentally friendly and cost-effective fuel source, the biodiesel production process is of utmost importance in today's economy and industry.