Campus Biodiesel Project: Design Report (v3.0, 1 Sept 06)

Lynn Bresnahan, Matt Burnham, David Camerota, Chris Czech, Nathan Korey, Jeff Marquis, Fred Moore, Mark Roberts

This report details the current state and direction of the RPI Campus Biodiesel Project with an emphasis on process design. The overall goal of the campus biodiesel project is to produce a fuel that can be used in the campus shuttles. The main feedstock in the reaction is used cooking oil to be provided from the campus dining halls. An added bonus is in the fact that it will reduce the amount of waste oil the campus must dispose of. The intent of the project is not only to experiment with future energy systems but also to serve as a learning tool for high schools and to provide a valuable educational and research tool for Rensselaer students.

The current direction of the project is being focused around the production of biodiesel using a standard alkali catalyzed reaction. This reaction is a transesterification process in which sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is dissolved in methanol and then mixed with waste vegetable oil to produce biodiesel and glycerol. This technique was chosen because of its simplicity and cost-effectiveness compared to other biodiesel production techniques.

A 200-gallon batch process is going to be constructed in Blaw Knox. The reactor will be a dual tank design that will implement circulation mixing. Waste vegetable oil will be stored in an adjacent room and pumped into the reaction vessel. The process will be laid out to allow the greatest number of production and processing techniques, and to maximize experimental possibilities. Waste vegetable oil and finished biodiesel will be transported to and from Blaw Knox by the campus hazardous waste disposal service.