Getting Technical

As the biodiesel industry grows, so too will the technologies and peripheral sciences that support it. Sharing these advancements with biofuels advocates around the world is a crucial part of Biodiesel Magazine's mission.
By Ron Kotrba | December 01, 2005
In any fast-growing industry, it is common to see emerging products and technologies compete with tried-and-true technological staples. The biodiesel industry is no exception, and when new, competitive ways of producing biodiesel rival companies whose primary focus is making, selling, providing or servicing the proven and established equipment, materials or intellectual properties used in current production processes, what's new is seldom accepted with open arms. Nonetheless, as an independent magazine with a mission to objectively relay the latest industry information, Biodiesel Magazine is committed to exploring and relaying these breakthroughs whenever possible. The publication's 2005 coverage of process technology and science illustrates this mission.

Accessing quality, providing quality
In early 2005, shortly after the American JOBS Creation Act of 2004 went into effect, Biodiesel Magazine published, "The Right Stuff," an article summing up the offerings of several biodiesel process technology vendors, from equipment suppliers to those selling turnkey process technology systems-a sort of "Who's Who" of biodiesel process technology and equipment. In this February feature, 13 different equipment and technology providers were squarely summed up. "The Right Stuff" contains valuable synopses laying out which companies offer what-including contact information. For a group looking to get into the biodiesel production business, Biodiesel Magazine's February 2005 issue is a place to start.

Moving from providers of quality equipment and process technology to providing quality fuel, BQ-9000 was in focus last spring. The April/May issue of Biodiesel Magazine featured "Getting with the Program," an article on the National Biodiesel Accreditation Commission's quality control program, BQ-9000.

Peter Cremer North America in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the first certified BQ-9000 biodiesel producer, and the only producer able to tout the BQ-9000 certification label when the article was written. Since then, only one other biodiesel producer, Ralston, Iowa-based West Central, has gained BQ-9000 bragging rights.

Adsorbent biodiesel purification, glycerin talk
In March, The Dallas Group's trademarked Magnesol process was profiled. It's a magnesium silicate treatment using an adsorptive purification process that's quick and inexpensive. "Trademarked by The Dallas Group, the Dry Wash method has generated a large amount of interest from producers utilizing all types of feedstocks and in all parts of the world," said Bryan Bertram, The Dallas Group's industrial sales director. "Perhaps the most often cited advantage of the Dry Wash method using Magnesol is the ease of use and speed of the treatment cycle."

Glycerin markets and technologies were interesting topics for the August/September article in Biodiesel Magazine, titled, "The Glycerin Factor." Associate editor Dave Nilles laid out the current scenario with glycerin-market saturation and low prices, yet so many uses in play and under development for the glycerin molecule. The article covered new and common uses for glycerin, some of which include researchers and companies manipulating glycerin to make antifreeze, omega-3 fatty acids, succinic acids, succinic salts and hydrogen via aqueous phase reforming. The quality of glycerin--both crude and refined-is key to standardizing the processes needed to refine or use the abundantly practical material.

Alternative process technology
Over the past year, Biodiesel Magazine featured two articles on potentially revolutionary-and soon to be, if not already, competitive-technologies for the production process of refining biodiesel.

As stated in "The In Situ Method," published in Biodiesel Magazine's June 2005 issue, USDA biochemist Michael Haas' mission has been to reduce biodiesel production costs. The idea behind his in situ conversion is utilizing virtually any lipid-bearing material to make biodiesel, rather than using oils and an expensive hexane extraction step.

In June, only one small feed trial had been run using the feed meal left over after the in situ conversion, proving the nutritional worth of these meals is important for economical feasibility. "We seek collaborators to help test any of the meals exiting the in situ reaction," Haas recently said. "What we need is funding to support that work and to help pay for running the meals through the in situ process." Anyone interested in supporting this groundbreaking work is urged to contact the USDA Agricultural Research Service's Eastern Regional Research Center.

"A Catalyst for Change," printed in the August/September issue, brought pioneering catalysis for biodiesel production to the forefront. As an alternative to using sodium methoxide, heterogeneous catalysts would help in separating the catalyst from the reaction product and eliminate sodium deposits in the fuel. A worthwhile find would be the development of a solid catalyst that could handle both acidic and basic functions, taking both the free fatty acids and the triglycerides to methyl ester-hood. Lastly, the article looked at Axens' Esterfip-H solid catalyst, which is going commercial after years of research. The heterogeneous catalyst will be used in a 50 MMgy biodiesel plant under construction in Sete, France, for Diester Industries. n

Ron Kotrba is a Biodiesel Magazine staff writer. Reach him at rkotrba@bbibiofuels.com or (701) 746-8385.

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