Study shows alligator fat an effective biodiesel feedstock

By Erin Voegele | August 19, 2011

Researchers at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette have shown alligator fat to be an effective feedstock for biodiesel production. The team, led by Rakesh Bajpai, has published its findings in the American Chemical Society journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research

According to information released by the ACS, the alligator meat and skin industry disposes of approximately 15 million pounds of alligator fat in landfills each year, primarily in Louisiana and Florida. Rather than buried as waste, the study has determined that material could be rerouted to a biorefinery for conversion into biodiesel.

 The ACS also noted that laboratory experiments showed that oil extracted from alligator fat is actually more suitable for biodiesel production than some other animal fats, and that the resulting biodiesel was similar in composition to soy biodiesel. In fact, a sample of the fuel met nearly all the official standards for high-quality biodiesel. More specifically, the alligator fat biodiesel met ASTM specification for kinematic viscosity, sulfur, free and total glycerin, flash point, cloud point and acid number.

A report published in the ACS journal outlines three specific objectives of the product. First, researchers aimed to quantify the recovery of lipids from alligator fat tissue that was left once the meat and skin were removed. Second, the researchers characterized the fatty acids present in alligator fat. Finally, the team produced and characterized biodiesel manufactured from the alligator fat.

The study published in I&EC Research explains that alligator fat could make a good feedstock for biodiesel due to its high lipid content. The report specifies that lipids recovered from alligator fat were extracted though two methods to complete the research: microwave rendering and solvent extraction. Using frozen tissue supplied by alligator meat producers, the research team was able to achieve an oil recovery weight of 61 percent.

“The quality of biodiesel produced by transesterification was compatible with ASTM specifications,” said the authors in the report. “These observations clearly show that alligator oil can be used as a potential biodiesel feedstock and that given that this feedstock is traditionally a waste product, its use should result in reduced processing costs.”

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