Project: Adding value to lipid waste streams through a new production process for biodiesel

To date, the absolute majority of biodiesel EU is made from vegetable oil methyl esters. The high price of biodiesel (over double the price of diesel) mostly results from the high price of the feedstock. However, biodiesel can be made from other feedstocks, such as beef tallow, pork lard, yellow grease and tannery fats, which often represent an unpleasant waste. Currently there is no commercially viable process for converting such animal residues (tallow-fat) into biofuel. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, about 500,000 tons of animal fat ends up as waste from meat, food and tanning industry. The UK Rendering Association estimates that over 200,000 tons of tallow are derived from animal carcass rendering annually. This is in comparison to some 60 million tons tallow/fats globally. This material is either disposed of or sold as a low grade raw material for industrial application. The most common way to get rid of this waste fat is its incineration, which is charged. From this point of view, the production of biodiesel from this kind of waste fat is economically very profitable and provides an environmentally benign disposal route for this material. It will also fulfill the increasing demand of minimizing land occupancy, the worldwide problem of vegetable oils conventionally used for biodiesel production. Chemically, biodiesel represents a mixture of mono-alkyl esters of saturated or unsaturated higher fatty acids obtained by reesterification of their respective triglycerides. The reesterification reaction (methanolysis) is normally catalyzed by strong inorganic hydroxides; however, the catalytic action of the inorganic hydroxides is conditioned with practically zero content of free fatty acids in the original feedstock. Unfortunately, the chemical transesterification of low-quality animal fats is restricted by the high content of free fatty acids in this material. Chemical esterification of FFA liberates water which may cause hydrolysis and saponification of the fat feedstock, leading to the undesirable production of soaps. This will negatively affect the yield of the reaction and the recovery of the biodiesel product which generally eliminates the CO advantage of the feedstock - its low price._x000D_To make the waste tannery fat suitable for biodiesel production, it is necessary to remove water, reduce the ash content and, if possible, to reduce free acid content (acid number). To achieve that, the refining melting process is applied followed by the esterification reaction. Most esterification processes take place in acid conditions and are catalyzed by strong inorganic acid. Other way is esterification under higher temperature and pressure. _x000D_We used different and innovative approach - unlike the above mentioned methods, strong volatile organic bases in strong alkali conditions were used. As an example of such base we give tetramethylammonium hydroxide (TMAH). The CO advantage is that using TMAH for esterification practically eliminates undesirable side reactions. The reaction gives trimethylamine which is a gas and can be easily removed and reused for the production of TMAH. Being a strong organic base, the excess of TMAH catalyses the subsequent reesterification. _x000D_This project aims to provide technological proof for the biochemical conversion of low-grade tallow into tallowdiesel by strong organic bases as catalysts. It also intended to support the potential roll out of this technology via a techno-economic study (and initial LCA) to determine an economically beneficial conversion. The CO goals of the presented project are:_x000D_1) According to the existing laboratory results, the selection of suitable volatile organic base catalyst(s) will be worked out with optimal parameter combination - availability, price, transportation conditions, low environmental burden and their amount, degree of regeneration and efficiency in the respective reactions._x000D_2) Optimization of the refining melting method in order to achieve minimal content of water, ash and other undesirable components of the animal based fat feedstock._x000D_3) Optimization of reesterification process and separation of the glycerin layer with the use of indirect modeling so that the technology can be transferred and tested on industrial scale._x000D_4) By 2 years since the project termination a new factory will be established with daily processing capacity of at least 30 metric tons of animal-based fats from tanning, meat and food industry. The obtained biodiesel will be put on market together with the licenses to the technology._x000D_The consortium will consist of BLC, Northampton,UK (R&D performing SME), Radanal Ltd., CZ (R&D performing SME) and Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Faculty of Applied Informatics, CZ.

Acronym LIPIDIESEL (Reference Number: 4829)
Duration 01/06/2009 - 31/05/2012
Project Topic A new technology is introduced for the production of high quality biodiesel and glycerin from waste fats generated by tanning, meat and foot industries. The innovative approach lies in the use of volatile organic base catalysts and in the consequent regeneration and reuse of these catalysts.
Project Results
(after finalisation)
The CO result is the new technology for the production of quality biodiesel and glycerin from waste fats and oils with high content of free fatty acids.
Network Eurostars
Call Eurostars Cut-Off 2

Project partner

Number Name Role Country
3 BLC Leather Technology Centre Ltd Coordinator United Kingdom
3 Tomas Bata University in Zlin, Faculty of Applied Informatics Partner Czech Republic
3 RADANAL Ltd. Partner Czech Republic