The production of fatty acid isopropyl esters and their use as a diesel engine fuel

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Abstract

Biodiesel is an alternative fuel for diesel engines that consists of the monoalkyl esters of vegetable oils or animal fats. Currently, most biodiesel consists of methyl esters, which have poor cold-flow properties. Methyl esters of soybean oil will crystallize and plug fuel filters and lines at about 0°C. However, isopropyl esters have better cold-flow properties than methyl esters. This paper describes the production of isopropyl esters and their evaluation in a diesel engine. The effects of the alcohol amount, the catalyst amount, and two different catalysts on producing quality biodiesel were studied. Both sodium isopropoxide and potassium isopropoxide were found to be suitable for use in the transesterification process. A 20∶1 alcohol/TG molar ratio and a catalyst amount equal to 1% by weight (based on the TG amount) of sodium metal was the most cost-effective way to produce biodiesel fuel. The emissions from a diesel engine running on isopropyl esters made from soybean oil and yellow grease were investigated by comparing them with No. 2 diesel fuel and methyl esters. For nitrogen oxide emission, the difference between the biodiesel produced from soybean oil and yellow grease was greater than the difference between the methyl and isopropyl esters of both feedstocks. The other emissions from using isopropyl esters were about 50% lower in hydrocarbons, 10–20% lower in carbon monoxide, and 40% lower in smoke number when compared with No. 2 diesel fuel.