Research Finds Real-Time Biodiesel Analysis

John Davis

Biodico logoNew research shows a way to conduct quality analysis in real-time. Biodico’s VP of Research and Development, Trey Teall, presented the results of a five-year research project at the recent American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS) Annual Meeting & Expo in San Antonio, Texas that focused on the use of Fourier Transform Near-infrared Spectroscopy (FT-NIRS) to provide real-time in-situ analysis of the biodiesel production process as an alternative to conventional ASTM biodiesel methodology.

TreyteallASTM 6751 protocols require the use of techniques that are relatively time-consuming and provide data about the state of the biodiesel reaction kinetics after the fact. For example, the use of gas chromatography to determine mono, di and tri glycerides, and free glycerin will take a trained technician over 45 minutes. It requires that a sample be drawn, reacted (silylated) and run through the GC; and the results indicate what the reaction state was instead of what it is in real time. In contrast, Teall’s research has shown that the use of FT-NIRS can be conducted with sensors imbedded into various production process streams and provide highly accurate near-instantaneous data about the state of the reaction. It can also detect low level contaminants to ensure that finished biodiesel meets the requirements of ASTM D 6751 for finished biodiesel.

The research is continuing and is funded by grants from the California Energy Commission and is in collaboration with the Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center, California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo, University of California Santa Barbara, and Marquette University.