Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tour of Loyola Biodiesel Lab

First off, hello all! My name is Britt and I am researching the potential for UIC to start processing their own waste vegetable oil into biodiesel. I found out that Loyola University is running their own biodiesel processing. What a great idea for an OS fieldtrip!

After a little under a 30 minute ride, I was impressed. It's one thing seeing biodiesel processing pictures and reading about it on the internet, but when you see them up close and personal...IMPRESSIVE! I was in awe of how orderly the entire set-up was and looked. So as promised I'll post some pictures below. Rich Anderson and Cindy Klein-Banai joined us and came out just as if not more excited than me about the biodiesel program. So far things are looking good in terms starting this program before the summer is over...I don't want to rush the program and come up empty handed but it would be nice to see an actual development from my research and a concrete solution. Anyways, here's some of the pictures I took today.

This is the tank that holds the WVO prior to processing. Before occupying the tank, the oil is filtered down to about 25 microns which is above and beyond what it really has to be for the purpose of making biodiesel. The WVO is heated to about 60 degrees celcius using the band heater attached to the 55-gallon stainless drum. To the right of the drum is the methoxide container where the lye and methanol are mixed together.

Here is the entire tank set up minus the WVO tank. From left to right we have the reaction tank where the methoxide is mixing in the the circulating WVO. The middle tank is the wash tank. The far right tank is the storage of the cleaned biodiesel. I'll explain what these all do in a little bit.

So how does this process work. EASY! Before anything is processed a sample of the 25 micron filtered WVO is taken. The WVO is titrated to see how much extra lye on top of the 3.5 grams should be added per liter of WVO to create the catalyst. Once the lye is prepared it is mixed with methanol. There should be anough methanol in the catalyst tankt o equal 20% of the WVO being used. For example, if 100 gallons of WVO is used, 20 gallons of methanol should be used. This amount is then added to the methoxide storage bin that is plumbed to the reaction tank via tubing and the "blue" pump.

Once the WVO isup to 60 degrees celsius in its storage tank,the sediments that drop down to the bottom of the bin are drained along with some water. Then it is pumped into the reactor tank. The WVO is maintained at 50 degree via a probe inserted into a t-fitting that contacts the WVO during the recirculation. See the picture below.

Once the WVO has been circulated enough the catalyst valve is opened and 80% of the methoxide to be pumped into the reaction tank still while the WVO is being circulated to completely mix the two liquids. This is the first reaction. Glycerin will begin to settle at the bottom of the tank. After about 2 hours the glycerin will be ready to empty. The WVO is then allowed to recirculated again where the other 20% of the methoxide is added. After completely mixing, the reactor is left to sit for 24 hours. The glycerin is then drained.

Once the operator is sure that all the glycerin is out of the crude biodiesel (CBD), the CBD is then pumped into the wash tank. Here tiny misters spray tap water into the tank where it will, because its dense, seep through the CBD grabbing contaminant on its way down. This process created waste water and soap. The water is left to settle and later drained. The drained water is tested and if it is basic, the biodiesel is washed again.

When the biodiesel is cleaned it is then "dryed". This is the cool part. Zach said that a water pump was connected to a piece of wood where the air comes out of the wood as "micro" bubbles which grab the contaminants left over after washing and rise to the surface where they pop and travel back down to the bottom of the container. 24 hrs later the waste water can be drained and the cleaned and ready to use biodiesel can be pumped into the storage tank and used within its 6 month shelf life!

And some random pictures:

Filter that sits in between the WVO and the reactor tanks that filters down to about 25 microns.

This is the valve system that controls what liquid is being pumped where. On the vertical tubing attached to the pump is the temperature probe and heating element.

Methanol is highly flammable and when it burns it creates a clear flame so every metal valve that methanol touches is grounded.

The final filter that filters the cleaned biodiesel to about 5 microns.

That's all for now!


jeffwend said...

It certainly looks like a better system than what I see in my friends diesel conversion pick up truck. How is the project working now, is it being implemented?

Office of Sustainability said...

Loyola's Biodiesel program is up and running - At UIC, we've been installing and refining the system. Test batches should be produced soon!

Chuck Burns said...

It is too bad that more people don't drive diesel powered vehicles. With the introduction of the Volkswagen Clean diesel TDI engine if more people drove a car like that there wouldn'r be an energy crisis. It would be as if energy production had doubled. The TDI diesel gets 40 MPG city and 40 MPG highway. At least that is what My TDI diesel gets for mileage. There is so much growth potential for Biodiesel. I am pleased to see that you are interested and will actually produce energy saving Biodiesel.