Saturday, November 21, 2009

Biodiesel Production from Algae Oil

From last post, we know Algae can be produce become bio diesel oil. Here, I will share how to make Bio Diesel Fuel from Algae. One of process name for that, usually called Transesterification. Algae yields around 100,000 gallons of algae oil per year. In contrast, one acre of soybeans only produces about 50 gallons of soybean oil a year, while one acre of corn yields about 29 gallons of oil per year. The largest benefit to date is that the Algae farms can be built virtually anywhere.

Algae oil is highly viscous, with viscosities ranging 10–20 times those of no. 2 Diesel fuel. The high viscosity is due to the large molecular mass and chemical structure of oils which in turn leads to problems in pumping, combustion and atomization in the injector systems of a diesel engine. Therefore, a reduction in viscosity is important to make high-viscous oil a suitable alternative fuel for diesel engines.

There are a number of ways to reduce vegetable oil's viscosity. These methods include; transestrification, pyrolysis (Pyrolysis Definition from AFR), micro Emulsion (Emulsions & Emulsification – from Wikipedia), blending and thermal depolymerization. One of the most common methods used to reduce oil viscosity in the Biodiesel industry is called transesterification. It involves chemical conversion of the oil into its corresponding fatty ester.

Other methods of producing Bio-diesel from Algae Oil, other than transesterification, that have been considered to reduce the high viscosity of vegetable oil or algae oil are:
  • Dilution of 25 parts of plant / algae oil with 75 parts of diesel fuel
  • Micro emulsions with short chain alcohols (e.g. Ethanol or Methanol)
  • Thermal decomposition, which produces alkanes, alkenes, carboxylic acids acids and aromatic compounds
  • Catalytic cracking, which produces alkanes, cycloalkanes and alkybenzenes

However, when compared with the above, the Transesterification process appears to be the best choise, as the physical characteristics of fatty acid esters (bio diesel) are very close to those of diesel fuel, and the process is relative simple. Furthermore, the methyl or ethyl esters of fatty acids can be burned directly in unmodified diesel engines, with very low deposit.
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