Methanol as feedstock for biodiesel fuel
The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) sets the renewable fuel standards for automobiles and is increasing the amount of biofuels that must be blended into gasoline and diesel fuel. Methanol provides the simplest solution for converting triglycerides found in vegetable oils, animal fats, and recycled greases into fatty acid alkyl esters, commonly referred to as biodiesel. Biodiesel can be blended into diesel fuel or used in dedicated biodiesel fueled vehicles. Compared to conventional diesel, biodiesel provides reduced emissions with little impact on operating performance.
Biodiesel fueled vehicles reduce greenhouse gases, even though biodiesel combustion produces carbon dioxide, because the amount of carbon dioxide is offset by the amount absorbed when the organic feedstock was grown (most commonly soybeans, rapeseed, and palm oils). By reducing the amount of NOx emissions to almost nonexistent, selective catalytic reduction (“SCR”) technology helps biodiesel meet emission standards.
While there are other alcohols that can be feedstock for the production of biofuels, methanol is the simple and most commonly used solution. Problems with water content and lack of glycerin separation from the biodiesel end product are found when using other alcohols instead of producing biofuels with methanol through a process called transesterification.
As of 2013, in the U.S. there were 124 operating production facilities and another 255 facilities in operation in Europe.