Feasibility Study to Produce Biodiesel from Low Cost Oils and New Catalysts Derived from Agricultural & Forestry Residues

EPA Contract Number: EPD09031
Title: Feasibility Study to Produce Biodiesel from Low Cost Oils and New Catalysts Derived from Agricultural & Forestry Residues
Investigators: Keith, Lawrence H
Small Business: Down to Earth Energy (formerly Mountain Creek Enterprises)
EPA Contact: Richards, April
Phase: I
Project Period: February 1, 2009 through July 31, 2009
Project Amount: $70,000
RFA: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) - Phase I (2009) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) , SBIR - Emission Reductions and Biofuels


This research will develop and demonstrate the feasibility of preparing reusable and recoverable solid, porous acid and base catalysts for biodiesel production using activated carbon generated from agricultural and forestry residues (i.e., a sustainable biomass).  These new catalysts will greatly reduce amounts of waste pollutants that are generated compared to current methodology that uses sodium and potassium hydroxide and generates more pollutants than biodiesel product.  The new catalysts also will enable biodiesel to be made from low-cost oils that contain 5 percent or more of free fatty acids, such as animal fats.

Free fatty acids that are prevalent in low-quality fats and oils (e.g., yellow grease and/or rendered fat) will be converted to their methyl esters using an acidic, immobilized solid-phase reusable catalyst made from pyrolytic char that is derived from waste agricultural and forestry biomass (e.g., peanut hulls, pecan shells, and pine chips).  In addition, current transesterification technology using homogeneous base catalysts such as sodium hydroxide in stoichiometric amounts will be replaced with an alkaline, immobilized solid-phase reusable catalyst made from waste agricultural and forestry biomass.

Representative low-quality fats and oils also will be converted to biodiesel using the new catalysts.  The catalysts will be recovered and reused to determine if catalytic decay occurs.  The quality of the biodiesel produced from the reactions using the new biomass catalysts will be measured using key analytical methods specified in ASTM D6751 standard specification for biodiesel fuel.  The results will determine if a biodiesel process based on the synthesized catalysts is feasible and provide a basis for scale-up.

Supplemental Keywords:

small business, SBIR, EPA, biodiesel, low-cost oil, new catalyst, catalyst, reusable catalyst, agricultural residue, forestry residue, biodiesel production, sustainable biomass, waste pollutants, sodium, sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, animal fats, free fatty acids, low-quality fat, low-quality oil, yellow grease, rendered fat, methyl ester, solid-phase, pyrolytic char, agricultural biomass, forestry biomass, peanut hulls, pecan shells, pine chips, transesterification technology, homogeneous base catalysts, immobilized, reuse, catalytic decay, synthesized catalysts,

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report
  • SBIR Phase II:

    Commercialization of Solid Acid and Base Catalysts Derived from Biochar Optimized to Produce Biodiesel from Low Cost Oils  | Final Report