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- SVO vs Biodiesel
- Biodiesel and Engine Life
- Testing Small-Scale Biodiesel Quality
- Preparing Feedstock for Biodiesel Production
- Beef Tallow and Hydrogenated Oils
- Methanol Vapors in BioPro Biodiesel Processors
- Glycerin Layer in Biodiesel Production
- Storing Biodiesel
- Cold Weather Biodiesel Washing
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Here at Springboard Biodiesel, we hear a lot of questions and erroneous information about what type of feedstocks can be successfully turned into biodiesel. The following “1000 words or less” should hopefully clear up a little bit of that. Note that the following post does not take into account impurities such as water and FFA content of various feedstocks.
To begin with, the primary stuff that feedstock is made from is triglycerides. These triglycerides are composed of three long fatty acid chains attached to a glycerol molecule. Note that as shown in the figure below, the glycerol is only a very small part of the triglyceride molecule. Most of the bulk of the molecule (as well as the energy contained therein) is in the long hydrocarbon chains called fatty acid chains that are attached to it. As long as an oil or fat has this basic structure, it is a good candidate for being turned into biodiesel.
Are there any oils that don’t have this structure?
Sure! Take a look at some of the medley of things that you might find in petroleum diesel fuel.
Because the biodiesel reaction primarily happens at the points where the fatty acid chain meets the glycerol, the molecules shown above would obviously not be able to be turned into biodiesel.
Therefore, the primary factor of an oil or fat that determines if it can be turned into biodiesel is if it was initially composed of triglycerides. There are some natural oils such as orange oil that are not composed of triglycerides. Typically though, these are only found in trace quantities. Most natural oils that can be found in bulk are triglycerides. The following are some commonly asked questions that relate to this fact and further explain its ramifications.
The more highly unsaturated a fat is, the lower the gel point typically is. Therefore, unsaturated fats are excellent for cold weather biodiesel production and use. The downside of unsaturated fats is that they will often be more prone to oxidation and rancidification than their saturated counterparts. Typically, biodiesel made from highly unsaturated fats will require an oxidative stabilizer to be used safely as fuel.
–Daniel Bowen, Senior Chemist at Springboard Biodiesel
Springboard Biodiesel LLC, incorporated in 2008, is a biodiesel equipment manufacturer that is leading the way in developing a vibrant, small-scale biodiesel production industry.