Development of a Recyclable Heterogeneous Catalyst for Biodiesel Synthesis Utilizing Waste Grease as Feedstock

EPA Grant Number: SU834322
Title: Development of a Recyclable Heterogeneous Catalyst for Biodiesel Synthesis Utilizing Waste Grease as Feedstock
Investigators: Halaweish, Fathi , Mercer, Erin Jo
Institution: South Dakota State University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2009 through August 14, 2010
Project Amount: $9,970
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Materials & Chemicals , P3 Awards , Sustainability


As fuel consumption continues depleting nonrenewable energy sources and environmental health concerns heighten due to its use, a movement toward sustainable alternatives is necessary for the stewardship of future generations. Biodiesel (BD) is one renewable resource being developed, as its similarities to petro-diesel allow for distribution by available infrastructure and direct use in diesel engines. Though current production results in a benign product, the transesterification process itself is not environmentally favorable due to multiple washing and separation steps and resulting by-products.


Our objective is to develop a heterogeneous catalysts for biodiesel synthesis, 1.)That reacts a broad range of feedstock so as to best utilize recycled oil and grease resources available locally within individual communities, and 2.)Whose optimal catalytic conditions are environmentally benign.


Initial studies of titanium niobate nanosheets, a strong acid catalyst reported effective in the esterification of acetic acid and ethanol, are underway for application in transesterification for BD synthesis. Synthesis of the catalyst is according to Hervieu et al., and optimal conditions for catalyst activation are being studied in our lab. Our initial work utilizing soybean oil feedstock shows up to 80% conversion to BD, achieved in one hour in an open system. Reacting used Burger KingĀ® grease has achieved conversion in preliminary trials as well. Optimizing variables of time, temperature, pressure, and stir-rate is necessary in continuing development of recycled feedstock use. Quantitative analysis of progress is by NMR and final analysis will be according to ASTM D 6584 in comparison with current methods of BD production by sodium methoxide. Continued research at the bench top level is essential for determining if catalytic conditions on a larger scale could be both economically and environmentally feasible. As a renewable fuel providing up to 92% energy content relative to conventional No. 2 petro-diesel, BD has the potential to decrease dependency on nonrenewable sources and reduce contributions to global warming from toxic exhaust emissions. Development of a large production facility utilizing the heterogeneous catalyst would enhance the economy of the community serviced by generating a market for local oil and waste grease resources, creating jobs in its business endeavors, feedstock sales, production process and resale, and providing an ecologically benign end product whose production is environmentally favorable as well. Ultimately, an efficient means of producing the alternative could permit an existing BD industry to expand and a subsequent rise in manufacturing and consumption of bioenergy.

Expected Results:

Quality Assurance will be followed based on the EPA guidelines for analytical methods and research plan and data validation.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 3 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Sustainable development, innovative nanotechnology, renewable alternative, waste reduction, environmentally conscious manufacturing,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report