Pilot Scale Two-phase Continuous Flow Biodiesel Production via Novel Laminar Flow Reactor-Separator

The following study presents the first quantitative performance data for a novel laminar flow biodiesel reactor/ separator. The reactor ideally achieves high conversion of vegetable oil triglycerides to biodiesel while simultaneously allowing glycerol to phase separate and settle from the reacting flow. The reactor was operated using pretreated waste canola oil as a feedstock; potassium hydroxide dissolved in methanol was used as a catalyst. Reactor performance was assessed by computing conversion of vegetable oil triglycerides to biodiesel as well as subsequent separation of the coproduct glycerol stream. At slightly elevated temperatures (40-50 °C), an overall feed of 1.2 L/min, a 6:1 molar ratio of methanol to vegetable oil triglycerides, and a 1.3 weight% catalyst loading, the reactor was able to achieve greater than 99% conversion of pretreated waste canola oil to biodiesel and remove 70-99% of glycerol produced.