University of Ottawa receives biodiesel funding

By Anna Austin | July 14, 2008
Sustainable Development Technology Canada has selected University of Ottawa researchers to receive $8 million of $57 million in federal grants being awarded to 19 sustainable energy projects in Canada. Just over half of the university's award will be granted to a project to boost the effectiveness of solar cells; the remaining $3.5 million will fund the development of a pilot plant which will demonstrate a biodiesel membrane reactor technology developed by University of Ottawa chemical engineering professors André Tremblay and Marc Dubé. A membrane reactor is a device for simultaneously carrying out a reaction and membrane-based separation in the same physical enclosure.

The technology developed by Tremblay and Dubé may significantly reduce production costs "by the fact that purification/separation and reaction occur in one vessel," Dubé said. "The result is a guarantee of high quality (meeting ASTM and EN standards) biodiesel product that requires little downstream processing." Dubé said the nature of the process entails little or no water washing to remove excess alcohol and catalyst, far lower catalyst concentrations, and doesn't require distillation or other invasive downstream purification methods.

The project has been recognized by the University of Ottawa as an innovation in the biodiesel industry, one reason why it has applied for a patent. Biodiesel Reactor Technologies is a new business that will commercialize the technology. "The university has followed this more extensively than any other invention in the university," Dubé said.

Dubé added that he and Tremblay are actively involved in the commercialization process. He added that the pilot plant's purpose is not to test the technology, but rather to prove that it is scalable. "The prototype has been running in the lab for a couple of years and is doing great," he said. "It is a technology that we know is highly scalable, so there will be no surprises."

The 1 MMgy pilot facility site has not yet been determined, but it will be somewhere in Eastern Ontario, Dubé said. "Construction is hopefully to begin very soon, and I would like to see completion in summer 2009," he added.
 
 
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