Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) Basics for Biodiesel

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If you’re in the biodiesel industry or are considering entering the industry, you may have heard of the Renewable Fuel Standard (also known as RFS2). It is important to understand this federal program since most biodiesel producers are required to participate in it, except for small or new …

Safe Chemical Handling in Biodiesel Production


Biodiesel is a relatively safe product. It is considered nonflammable and biodegradable. However, the components to make biodiesel can be hazardous in some situations. Biodiesel is made by reacting vegetable oil or animal fat with an alcohol (methanol or ethanol) and a catalyst (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide). Sulfuric and hydrochloric acids are also used in biodiesel production. Methanol, the catalysts, and the acids are toxic chemicals.

Methanol is colorless and tasteless and can cause blindness or death if …

Reactors for Biodiesel Production


Three general types of reactors are used for biodiesel production: batch reactors, semi-continuous-flow reactors, and continuous-flow reactors.

The batch process is inexpensive, requiring much less initial capital and infrastructure investment. It is flexible and allows the user to accommodate variations in feedstock type, composition, and quantity. The major drawbacks of the batch process include low productivity, larger variation in product quality, and more intensive labor and energy requirements.

The semi-continuous process is similar to the batch process except that …

Handling Strong Bases in Biodiesel Production

Sodium and Potassium Hydroxides/Methoxides

Used to catalyze the transesterification reaction, sodium and potassium hydroxide are extremely corrosive.

The hydroxides are dry flakes or pellets and must be dissolved in methanol, which produces “methoxides” concentrated in methanol. The dust from the hydroxides is an airway irritant and will burn unprotected skin and eyes, especially when handled manually. Dissolving the hydroxides in alcohol is an exothermic reaction and can generate a considerable amount of heat. Stirring the liquid in an open container …

Handling Strong Acids in Biodiesel Production

Sulfuric and Hydrochloric Acids

Acids may be used in treating high free fatty acid (FFA) feedstocks, neutralizing base catalyst and splitting soaps in the washing process, and/or in treating the crude glycerin by-product. Acids are colorless and can be extremely damaging to all body tissue. Acids cause rapid tissue destruction and serious chemical burns. Their vapors can cause eye, nose, and throat irritation; shortness of breath; pulmonary edema; or other serious ailments. Workers should wear acid-resistant protective clothing and gloves, …

Handling Alcohols in Biodiesel Production

Methanol and Ethanol

Methanol is the driving force behind the transesterification reaction. Methanol is colorless and tasteless, with a mildly sweet odor, and is a toxic chemical. It can enter the body through inhalation, direct skin contact, or accidental swallowing. It can cause blindness or death. Because it is eliminated from the body slowly, it is considered a cumulative poison, and repeated exposure could present long-term health hazards.

Personnel working with methanol should wear protective clothing (pants, long sleeves, coveralls) …

Introduction to Biodiesel

Mobile biodiesel processing trailer.Biodiesel is a diesel fuel substitute made from a variety of oils, fats, and greases.


Biodiesel, a diesel fuel substitute that can be made from a variety of oils, fats, and greases, is of interest to farmers for a number of reasons: It can provide an additional market for vegetable oils and animal fats; it can allow farmers to grow the fuel they need for farm machinery; and it can decrease U.S. dependence on imported oil since fuel feedstocks …