Continuous Hexane-free Biodiesel Production
Develop and demonstrate continuous processing technology for environmentally friendly and cost-effective production of diesel-grade biofuel from plants.
Sponsor: Thar Process, Inc. (formerly Thar Technologies, Inc.)730 William Pitt Way
Pittsburgh, PA 15238
Biodiesel production has increased in recent years, but inefficient processes using hexane continue to inhibit biodiesel from becoming a serious alternative to conventional petroleum diesel fuel. The production of biodiesel currently requires a multi-step process and the use of hexane, a toxic solvent that is also a hazardous air pollutant. Thar Technologies has proposed developing and demonstrating novel processing technology and equipment to produce diesel-grade fuel from plants without the use of hexane. Instead of traditional techniques using hexane for extraction of the oil from plants, Thar will use supercritical fluid extraction, a green chemistry process that uses physiologically compatible carbon dioxide and also requires less energy per unit of production. In addition, Thar's process will integrate several post-extraction steps into one continuous, efficient process for producing biodiesel. Once the new processes are developed in the laboratory, a pilot plant will be constructed and operated. The project involves considerable technical risk, including the separation of biodiesel from carbon dioxide under challenging conditions, and moving from batch to continuous processing. If successful, the technology will be a green process that can profitably produce biodiesel directly from oilseed feedstock while reducing energy consumption, eliminating environmental hazards and eradicating the need for production subsidies. The proposed technology also may be applied to other industries, such as food and pharmaceuticals.