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Waste Vegetable Oil as a Diesel Fuel Replacement

Waste Vegetable Oil as a Diesel Fuel Replacement

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Published by: Composting in Santa Cruz County on Aug 03, 2010
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Waste Vegetable Oil
as a
Diesel Fuel Replacement
In the past, waste edible oils and fats were often used in the production of animal feeds. However due to links betweenBSE and this practice, the use of waste fats for animal feed is not as common as it once was and this has resulted insurplus quantities becoming available. This has led to significant disposal problems.
Waste oils and fats can be used as renewable fuel resources. Conversion of waste oils and fats to biodiesel fuel is one possibility but poses some difficulties such as in the use of toxic or caustic materials and by-product disposal. Conversionto biodiesel may also decrease the economic attractiveness of using waste oils as fuels.
An alternative to the use of biodiesel is the use of vegetable oils or rendered animal fats as a fuel.Using relatively unmodified oils or fats eliminates the problems associated with toxic and caustic precursor chemicals andresidual biodiesel alkalinity as the oil is used without altering its chemical properties.
This paper discusses the use of waste vegetable and animal oils and fats as unmodified fuels in compression ignitionengines.
Waste edible oils and fats pose significant disposal problems in many parts of the world. In the past much of these waste products have been used in the production of animal feeds. However due to possible links between BSE and this practice,the use of waste edible animal fats for animal feed is not as common as it once was, resulting in disposal problems. As itis often difficult to prevent the contamination of waste vegetable oil with animal products during cooking, waste vegetableoil often must be treated in a similar manner as is waste animal fats.
One possibility for the disposal of these products is as a fuel for transport or other uses. Conversion of waste oils and fatsto biodiesel fuel has many environmental advantages over petroleum based diesel fuel. However it is not commerciallyavailable in Australia and the µback-yard¶ production of biodiesel may present serious risks as the process uses methanol,a toxic and flammable liquid, and sodium or potassium hydroxide, both of which are caustic. By-product disposal may present further difficulties and environmental considerations may preclude production in sensitive areas.
An alternative to the use of biodiesel is the use of vegetable oil or rendered animal fats as fuel.Using unmodified oils not only eliminates problems such as residual biodiesel alkalinity by-product disposal, but alsoincreases the economic viability of using the oil or fat.
While the use of vegetable or animal oils and fats as fuels may be somewhat surprising at first, when examined in anhistorical context we can see that the compression ignition engine, first developed to a usable level of functionality by theFrench-born Rudolf Diesel near the end of the 19
century, was originally designed to operate on vegetable oil.
In 1900, Rudolf Diesel demonstrated his new compression ignition engine at the World Exhibition in Paris running on peanut oil. In 1911 he wrote ³The engine can be fed with vegetable oils and would help considerably in the developmentof agriculture in the countries that use it.´ [1]
It was about this time that new drilling technology and exploration techniques were developed and together these usheredin the age of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels. Consequently, the use of vegetable and animal oils and fats as fuels has only been used for a few special purposes such as in racing fuels or in environmentally sensitive areas where petroleum spillstend to cause more serious problems than do spills of animal and/or vegetable derived fuels.
After some one hundred years of using liquid petroleum fuels, we are now finding that there are unforeseen sideeffects, the foremost perhaps being the so-called Enhanced Greenhouse Effect.
In Australia, transport use contributes some 16% of Australia¶s greenhouse gas emissions. Of this, diesel fuel contributedabout 17% or 11,705,000 tonnes of CO
equivalent. An additional 1,622,000 tonnes is released from diesel fuel used for electricity generation. [2] On top of greenhouse gas emissions is the vexing question of how little ± or much ± is left.
However oils of vegetable and animal origin, unlike fossil fuels, have to potential to be produced not only on a sustainable basis but also could be greenhouse gas neutral, or at the very least, emit substantially less greenhouse gases per unitenergy than do any of the fossil fuels.
roperties of Triglycerides as Fuels
A large amount of research has gone into examining Diesel¶s dream of using raw vegetable oils as fuels and when onespeaks of growing crops for liquid fuels it is often assumed that the oil will be used after only basic extraction andfiltering. [3,4,5]Work has been conducted to examine these oils as fuel replacements or additives. For example in the late 1970¶s and early1980¶s, research was undertaken at Murdoch University (Perth, Australia) into the use of eucalyptus and other plant oilsas a fuel component. [6] In New Zealand, there are considerable problems with the disposal of surplus tallow from the processed meat industry and a large amount of work was conducted in the early 1980¶s on the use of tallow as a fuel. [7]
Experience has shown that the use of unsaturated triglyceride oils as a fuel may cause significant problems thatcan affect the viability of their fuel use. [8] But this is not always the case and in many circumstances these problems can either be dealt with or are acceptable to the user.
While power output and tailpipe emissions using plant or animal oils are in most cases comparable with those whenrunning on petroleum diesel fuel, the main problem encountered has due to the higher viscosity of the triglyceride oils andtheir chemical instability. These can cause difficult starting in cold conditions, the gumming up of injectors and thecoking-up of valves and exhaust. [3]
The viscosity of plant and animal fats and oils varies from hard crystalline solids to light oils at room temperature. In mostcases, these µoils¶ or µfats¶ are actually a complex mixture of various fatty acids triglycerides, often with the variouscomponents having widely varying melting points. This may give the oil or fat a temperature range over whichsolidification occurs, with the oil gradually thickening from a thin liquid, through to a thick liquid, then a semi-solid andfinally to a solid.
High melting points or solidification ranges can cause problems in fuel systems such as partial or complete blockage asthe triglyceride thickens and finally solidifies when the ambient temperature falls. [3] While this also occurs with petroleum based diesel, particularly as the temperature falls below about ~ -10 to -5
C for µsummer¶ formulations and ~ -20 to -10
C for µwinter¶ diesels, it is relatively easy to control during the refining process and is generally not a major  problem.
Many vegetable oils and some animal oils are µdrying¶ or µsemi-drying¶ and it is this which makes many oils such aslinseed, tung and some fish oils suitable as the base of paints and other coatings. But it is also this property that further restricts their use as fuels.Drying results from the double bonds (and sometimes triple bonds) in the unsaturated oil molecules being broken byatmospheric oxygen and being converted to peroxides. Cross-linking at this site can then occur and the oil irreversibly polymerises into a plastic-like solid. [9]
In the high temperatures commonly found in internal combustion engines, the process is accelerated and theengine can quickly become gummed-up with the polymerised oil. With some oils, engine failure can occur in aslittle as 20 hours. [10]The traditional measure of the degree of bonds available for this process is given by the µIodine Value¶ (IV) andcan be determined by adding iodine to the fat or oil. The amount of iodine in grams absorbed per 100 ml of oilis then the IV. The higher the IV, the more unsaturated (the greater the number of double bonds) the oil and thehigher is the potential for the oil to polymerise.
While some oils have a low IV and are suitable without any further processing other than extraction and filtering, themajority of vegetable and animal oils have an IV which may cause problems if used as a neat fuel. Generally speaking, anIV of less than about 25 is required if the neat oil is to be used for long term applications in unmodified diesel engines andthis limits the types of oil that can be used as fuel. Table 1 lists various oils and some of their properties.
The IV can be easily reduced by hydrogenation of the oil (reacting the oil with hydrogen), the hydrogen breaking the double bond and converting the fat or oil into a more saturated oil which reduces the tendency of the oil to polymerise. However this process also increases the melting point of the oil and turns the oil intomargarine.As can be seen from Table 1, only coconut oil has an IV low enough to be used without any potential problemsin an unmodified diesel engine. However, with a melting point of 25
C, the use of coconut oil in cooler areaswould obviously lead to problems. With IVs of 25 ± 50, the effects on engine life are also generally unaffectedif a slightly more active maintenance schedule is maintained such as more frequent lubricating oil changes andexhaust system decoking. Triglycerides in the range of IV 50 ± 100 may result in decreased engine life, and in particular to decreased fuel pump and injector life. However these must be balanced against greatly decreasedfuel costs (if using cheap, surplus oil) and it may be found that even with increased maintenance costs that thisis economically viable.Table 1 Oils and their melting point and Iodine Values [11]
il Approx. melting Iodinepoint
Coconut oil 25 10
Palm kernel oil 24 37
Mutton tallow 42 40
Beef tallow 50
Palm oil 35 54
Olive oil -6 81
Castor oil -18 85
Peanut oil 3 93
Rapeseed oil -10 98
Cotton seed oil -1 105

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