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Improving the cold temperature properties of tallow-based methyl ester mixtures using fractionation, blending, and additives




Elwell, Caleb, author
Marchese, Anthony J., advisor
Smith, T. Gordon, committee member
Windom, Bret C., committee member

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Beef tallow is a less common feedstock source for biodiesel than soy or canola oil, but it can have economic benefits in comparison to these traditional feedstocks. However, tallow methyl ester (TME) has the major disadvantage of poor cold temperature properties. Cloud point (CP) is an standard industry metric for evaluating the cold temperature performance of biodiesel and is directly related to the thermodynamic properties of the fuel's consituents. TME has a CP of 14.5°C compared with 2.3°C for soy methyl ester (SME) and -8.3°C for canola methyl ester (CME). In this study, three methods were evaluated to reduce the CP of TME: fractionation, blending with SME and CME, and using polymer additives. TME fractionation (i.e. removal of specific methyl ester constituents) was simulated by creating FAME mixtures to match the FAME profiles of fractionated TME. The fractionation yield was found to be highest at the eutectic point of methyl palmitate (MP) and methyl stearate (MS), which was empirically determined to be at a MP/(MP+MS) ratio of approximately 82%. Since unmodified TME has a MP/(MP+MS) ratio of 59%, initially only MS should be removed to produce a ratio closer to the eutectic point to reduce CP and maximize yield. Graphs relating yield (with 4:1 methyl stearate to methyl oleate carryover) to CP were produced to determine the economic viability of this approach. To evaluate the effect of blending TME with other methyl esters, SME and CME were blended with TME at blend ratios of 0 to 100%. Both the SME/TME and CME/TME blends exhibited decreased CPs with increasing levels of SME and CME. Although the CP of the SME/TME blends varied linearly with SME content, the CP of the CME/TME blends varied quadratically with CME content. To evaluate the potential of fuel additives to reduce the CP of TME, 11 different polymer additives were tested. Although all of these additives were specifically marketed to enhance the cold temperature properties of petroleum diesel or biodiesel, only two of the additives had any significant effect on TME CP. The additive formulated by Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) outperformed Evonik's Viscoplex 10-530. The MLA additive was investigated further and its effect on CP was characterized in pure TME and in CME/TME blends. When mixed in CME/TME blends, the MLA additive had a synergistic effect and produced lower CPs than the addition of mixing MLA in TME and blending CME with TME. To evalulate the cold temperature properties of TME blended with petroleum diesel, CPs of TME/diesel blends from 0 to 100% were measured. The TME/diesel blends were treated with the MLA additives to determine the effects of the additives under these blend conditions. The MLA additive also had a synergistic effect when mixed in TME/diesel blends. Finally, all three of the TME CP reduction methods were evaluated in an economic model to determine the conditions under which each method would be economically viable. Each of the CP reduction methods were compared using a common metric based on the cost of reducing the CP of 1 gallon of finished biodiesel by 1°C (i.e. $/gal/°C). Since the cost of each method is dependent on varying commodity prices, further development of the economic model (which was developed and tested with 2012 prices) to account for stochastic variation in commodity prices is recommended.


2017 Fall.
Includes bibliographical references.

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economic analysis


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