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Improvements to the biodiesel process

Slinn, Matthew (2008)
Eng.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester, FAME) is a renewable diesel fuel made from vegetable oil and methanol. The two main problems with the process are disposal of waste streams and product purity. This thesis studies biodiesel process improvements, especially glycerol conversion to hydrogen and improved mass transfer to increase ester yield.

Experiments on steam reforming with glycerol and waste water over a platinum alumina catalyst were used to convert the combined waste product streams of a biodiesel plant. Mass spectroscopy with internal standard was chosen to measure reformer gas yield and conversion. The glycerol steam reforming was shown to depend on several reaction variables. Therefore a solid oxide fuel cell was used as a sensor to measure the effects. The results showed that good syngas yield, conversion and reformer life could be obtained using this process.

The purity of the biodiesel product was examined using real-time optical microscopy and gas chromatography to fit the FAME standard EN14214. It was observed that droplet size had a major influence on reaction end point and that the reaction was mass-transfer limited. This observation was confirmed by developing a mass-transfer based reaction model using the data from the batch reactor which agreed with results from other researchers. The model predicted better conversion with more mixing intensity. Finally, on the basis of these results, a high mixing intensity continuous reactor was developed which achieved the 96.5% standard with high flow rate and short reactor length.

The conclusion was that significant cost effective improvements could be made to the conventional FAME process.

Type of Work:Eng.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Kendall, Kevin (1943-)
School/Faculty:Schools (1998 to 2008) > School of Engineering
Department:Department of Chemical Engineering
Additional Information:

The Appendix contains the following papers:

Matthew Slinn, Kevin Kendall, Christian Mallon, James Andrews, Steam reforming of biodiesel by-product to make renewable hydrogen, Bioresource Technology, Volume 99, Issue 13, September 2008, Pages 5851-5858, ISSN 0960-8524, 10.1016/j.biortech.2007.10.003.

Kevin Kendall, Matthew Slinn, John Preece, Formulating liquid ethers for microtubular SOFCs, Journal of Power Sources, Volume 157, Issue 2, 3 July 2006, Pages 750-753, ISSN 0378-7753, 10.1016/j.jpowsour.2006.01.061.

Matthew Slinn, Kevin Kendall, Developing the reaction kinetics for a biodiesel reactor, Bioresource Technology, Volume 100, Issue 7, April 2009, Pages 2324-2327, ISSN 0960-8524, 10.1016/j.biortech.2008.08.044.

Subjects:TP Chemical technology
Institution:University of Birmingham
Library Catalogue:Check for printed version of this thesis
ID Code:675
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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