University of Arkansas to study methanol use

By Ryan C. Christiansen | November 13, 2008
Web exclusive posted Nov. 25, 2008 at 12:02 p.m. CST

Students at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville have received a $10,000 grant through the U.S. EPA's People, Prosperity, and the Planet (P3) program to study how to use methanol to more easily and efficiently convert feedstock to biodiesel.

According to Jamie A. Hestekin, an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the school, a team of 13 students will evaluate the use of a supercritical methanol treatment, which requires no separate catalyst, to produce biodiesel from variable composition feedstocks. The treatment uses high temperature and pressure and is expected to speed up the reaction rate so that biodiesel can be produced in minutes rather than hours, he said.

Hestekin said the supercritical methanol treatment has been studied previously using chicken fat as a feedstock in a batch system. The students are planning to create a continuous reaction system, but have not settled on the feedstock to use.

The students hope to find a way to convert both triglycerides and free fatty acids to methyl esters without the addition of acid or base catalysts, Hestekin added.

The results of the project are expected to be released in March 2009.
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