New Biodiesel Development Process Could Boost Production

It’s widely acknowledged that we need to find alternative fuels to the likes of oil and gas for the future. A team at Durham University has been focusing its efforts on biodiesel production and has found a new way to turn a variety of items into fuel.

Most importantly, this is a low-cost method, which means it could make access to biodiesel production much more widely available around the world than it currently is.

The researchers have created a new way to produce biodiesel, using low-grade ingredients, also known as feedstocks. Current production methods for biodiesel require these feedstocks to have no more than one to two per cent contaminants, but the new process developed at Durham University can use ingredients with up to 50 per cent contaminants.

This means that a much broader range of feedstocks can be used to produce fuel, which will in turn make it accessible to far more people.

With this new method, old cooking oil and agricultural waste can be used to produce biodiesel. According to the researchers, this process “could be particularly important in developing countries where diesel is the primary fuel for powering electricity generators”.

The new process uses an ultra-efficient catalyst developed by the researchers, which is how lower grade feedstocks can be used to produce fuel.

In addition, their new process can also turn food scraps and plastic waste into “high-value chemical precursors, which are used to make everyday products”.

A micron-sized ceramic sponge is the key to the new catalyst’s design. This is highly porous and contains different specialised ingredients.

The researchers also revealed that using this catalyst to make biodiesel from agricultural and household waste “requires little more than a large container and some gentle heating and stirring, so this low-technology, low-cost approach could advance biofuel production and reduce reliance on fossil fuel-derived diesel”.

Developing biodiesel for different uses is a focus in various industries at present. The Sustainable Aviation coalition in the UK recently wrote to the government urging them to provide financial support to the development of biodiesels that can be used by aircraft.

In their letter, the members of the coalition stressed the importance of developing new fuel plants that are able to produce biofuel that is of a high enough quality for use in the aviation industry.

They are calling on the government to provide targeted loan guarantees and capital grants to help deliver “first-of-a-kind fuel plants”. Sustainable Aviation is proposing that 14 such plants are created at various locations around the country by the mid 2030s.

This is a “once-in-a-generation chance for the UK to seize the opportunity to lead the world in delivering net-zero flight whilst enabling UK aviation to benefit from and support the UK’s economic recovery, through the high-skilled jobs, supply chain and expert benefits that investment now in new green aviation technology will bring,” the letter stated.

It also pointed out that the aviation sector is facing significant challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and this could be one way for the government to support jobs within the industry.

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