Technology for Enhanced Biodiesel EconomicsEPA Contract Number: EPD07052
Title: Technology for Enhanced Biodiesel Economics
Investigators: Kittrell, J. R.
Small Business: KSE Inc.
EPA Contact: Manager, SBIR Program
Project Period: March 1, 2007 through August 31, 2007
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2007) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: SBIR - Agriculture and Rural Community Improvement , Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
Because of the relatively high cost of biomass feedstocks compared to fossil fuels, biomass conversion processes must be highly efficient to provide a near-term contribution to the U.S. energy balance. Biodiesel is recognized as an important potential fuel, which is obtained by relatively simple esterification of fats or seed oils (soybean, rapeseed, etc.). The production of each gallon of biodiesel produces about one pound of byproduct glycerol. If biodiesel is produced to meet only three percent of the U.S. diesel fuel demand, over 1.8 billion pounds of glycerol will be coproduced. For comparison, the current annual worldwide demand for glycerol is only 0.5 billion pounds. Not only will biodiesel economics thereby be depressed, but also the physical disposition of byproduct glycerol becomes a challenge. Hence, to fully exploit the potential of biodiesel, an effective glycerol upgrading technology is needed, the subject of the current proposed research.
The overall goal of this SBIR Phase I project is to establish the technical and economic feasibility of an innovative process technology to enhance the economics of biodiesel production by upgrading the byproduct glycerol to a fuel product that (a) is widely used today, (b) has an existing distribution system, (c) can accommodate the large volumes of byproduct glycerol, and (d) has attractive economics to support the biodiesel production.
The Phase I project entails the development of new catalyst compositions for the glycerol conversion reactions; laboratory studies demonstrating the performance of the technology, including catalyst activity and selectivity; and economic analyses and life cycle assessments to demonstrate economic feasibility. It is anticipated that the application of the technology will significantly improve the economics of biodiesel production, and provide an economic disposition for the major quantities of byproduct glycerol, thereby facilitating the rapid introduction of low-cost biodiesel manufacturing operations.