The goal of this investigation was to initiate the development of a continuous process for the production of Biodiesel, by investigating possible heterogeneous catalysts. Currently there are many processes to produce Biodiesel that are implemented industrially around the world. These processes are varied and are usually batch processes making it difficult to determine which process is the most viable. The question one must ask is why are these processes operating in a batch manner? Any process engineer understands that a batch process is inferior to a continuous process. Currently the processes operate in a batch manner, as the catalysts are homogeneous. If a continuous process was developed for the production of Biodiesel then all other processes would be rendered inferior. Therefore the goal is to investigate heterogeneous catalysts to allow the development of a continuous process.
How does the discovery of an active heterogeneous catalyst allow the development of a continuous process for Biodiesel production? A heterogeneous catalyst that is non- soluble in the reaction mixture could be used in a continuous packed bed reactor. A continuous packed bed reactor could form part of a continuous process that would not rely on novel reactor designs and therefore would be highly viable.
The literature survey uncovered only one paper that had evidence of a heterogeneous catalyst that may be suitable for a packed bed reactor. This catalyst is CaCO3. This investigation confirmed CaCO3 as an active catalyst and a possible heterogeneous catalyst for a packed bed reactor used to produce Biodiesel.
Other heterogeneous catalysts were investigated and 5 other catalysts were found to have even higher activity than CaCO3. These catalysts include: Valfor (Sodium alumina silicate), MCM- 41, Zeolite Y, Beta Zeolite and ZSM5.
This investigation screened the catalysts using a 300 ml batch reactor at the same initial concentration, reaction temperatures and pressures, to determine their relative activities. The final result is that this investigation has provided evidence that there are at least six catalysts that have the potential to be used in a packed bed continuous reactor for the production of Biodiesel. This result will initiate further research into the development of a continuous process for Biodiesel production, rendering other processes inferior.