De-Acidification of Feedstocks for Low Cost Biodiesel Production

Period of Performance: 01/01/2014 - 12/31/2014


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Compact Membrane Systems, Inc.
Principal Investigator
Firm POC


The United States, led by the USDA (as well as the Department of Energy) has taken major initiatives to develop renewable energy sources. Development of these renewable energy sources is desirable based on (1) reduced production of greenhouse gases and (2) reduced dependence on the volatile supply of oil from abroad. One of the cornerstones of renewable energy is biofuels and more specifically biodiesel. While the concept of using high quality feedstocks such as vegetable oil as feeds for manufacture of biodiesel is interesting, there have been significant problems. These problems include the relatively high cost of quality feedstocks such as soybean oil, and independently relatively low prices for petroleum based diesel. Low-quality feedstocks such as waste greases and inedible tallow are available at much lower price compared to that of high quality feedstocks. Also, newly developed potentially low cost algae oil typically has higher levels of free fatty acid. However, because of their higher free fatty acid content, low-quality feedstocks are less suitable for biodiesel production.Compact Membrane Systems, Inc. (CMS) has identified a novel membrane separation process to reduce the feed fatty acid content of low-quality feedstocks. This novel membrane separation process will be extremely energy and capital cost efficient compared to other low-quality feedstock pre-treatment technologies. These cost savings offer significant improvement in overall economics of biodiesel production. Because of these improved economics, biodiesel will likely be competitive with the fossil fuels.In the current program, CMS will demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of reducing the free fatty acid content of low-quality feedstocks. Influence of various operating parameters on the membrane separation performance will be studied. Chemical stability and anti-fouling tendency of the proposed membranes will also be studied to demonstrate the long-term performance.