TITLE Development of an Alternative Greener Process Using a Novel Solid Catalyst for Simultaneous Production of Glycerin and Fatty Acid Methyl Esters for Biodiesel Fuel Use
(Joint Program to Promote Technological Development with the Private Sectors)
ABSTRACT The main objective of this research is to develop an alternative, environmentally benign chemical process of simultaneous production of Biodiesel fuel (BDF) and glycerol, based on the novel solid catalyst. BDF is defined as long chain fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) derived from vegetable oils for use in diesel engines.

Especially in 2006, the last year of this three-year project, we carried out the scale-up synthesis of the catalyst composition developed in 2005, and the construction of the bench scale plant to prove the designed process correct, to get a material balance, and to evaluate qualities of acquired samples of Palm BDF.

(1) Catalyst
An optimization of the preparation method and a scale-up experiment of the highly durable solid catalyst, named "ECVO catalyst", developed in 2005, were carried out. As a result, 30 liters of production of ECVO catalyst to be used in bench scale experiment was achieved.

(2) Transesterification process
By the highly precise simulation model of the reactor, the operation condition which was the most suitable to satisfy the specifications of BDF in EU(European Union) was clarified and verified by an experiment in the laboratory.

(3) Isolation and Purification process
The process of separations and purifications in the bench scale plant was designed as a result of the optimization of a process condition of continuous separation of FAME phase and glycerol-phase by the experiment with a continuous phase-separation-device on a laboratory scale and of the optimization of recovery condition of surplus methanol. The BDF sample prepared in the laboratory experiment based on that condition of reaction and separation satisfied the specifications in EU.

(4) Process design for the bench-scale test
The bench scale plant was constructed in our Tsukuba site. To the best of our knowledge, it is the first device in the world with a fixed bed reactor in which Palm Oil is used as an oil source. The samples of BDF and glycerol were acquired continuously by the experiment in the plant, and the BDF sample satisfied the specifications in EU and the purity of glycerol as by-product was more than 98%. With these results, we consider that the technical establishment of the process with a fixed bed reactor using our original solid catalyst was almost achieved.
After this project we are going to examine the solutions for some technical problems which were found in this bench scale experiment, and have to brush up our process.