European researchers are developing more sustainable biofuels using water-free techniques.
Scientists at the University of Porto are currently developing water-free methods to produce biodiesel using waste vegetable oils, animal fats and fatty wastes derived from industrial processes.
Traditional methods of biodiesel production use large volumes of water to remove impurities or “soaps” in order to meet stringent quality standards.
Current production processes do not always deliver the full potential of biofuels
IChemE chief executive David Brown
The Porto University researchers are instead using catalysts to pre-treat and target impurities such as calcium ‘soaps’ in the biodiesel.
The impurities can then be removed by absorption into resins or by passing through ceramic membranes.
Using this technique, the researchers claim they were able to produce good quality biodiesel from both virgin vegetable oil and waste oils used for frying.
“Current production processes do not always deliver the full potential of biofuels to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and there are continuing challenges including economic and environmental ones,” said Institution of Chemical Engineers chief executive David Brown.
“But demand for biofuels is clearly increasing and advancement in chemical engineering processes, such as the use of heterogeneous catalysis and water-free methods using membranes, are very welcome to consolidate biofuels as a globally accepted and sustainable source of renewable energy.”