This presentation outlines the evaluation of design alternatives for the construction of a small-scale biodiesel processing facility on the campus of Villanova University. The facility is intended to convert used cooking oil obtained from the campus dining services kitchens into biodiesel fuel to be used by campus maintenance and grounds keeping vehicles. The motivation for this project was the initiation of the Year of Sustainability at Villanova University.
Biodiesel is most commonly derived from the transesterfication of fats and oils with a low molecular weight alcohol to produce fatty acid esters that can be used as a replacement for petroleum-based diesel fuel. Depending on the chemistry selected for the transesterfication reaction, and whether or not the conversion of free fatty acids present from the thermal breakdown of the used cooking oil is desired, there are a number of process designs for biodiesel production. The presentation begins with an overview of these options. Principle consideration is given to the safety, operability, and waste generation of the process for this facility. These issues are critical for a facility that will be located on a college campus and operated by student volunteers. The ability to also operate the facility as a research pilot plant was also considered as a design criterion. A brief discussion of the experimental validation of the selected chemistry and process design options is then presented. The final design criteria and an evaluation of the facility in operation closes the presentation.