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First generation biodiesel is made by reacting acylglycerides with an alcohol, usually methanol, yielding fatty acid alkyl ester (fatty acid methyl ester, FAME, in case of methanol). Glycerol (also called glycerine) is also formed in the process, and can be used for a number of consumer and industrial applications.
Traditional biodiesel, i.e. fatty acid methyl ester (FAME), is produced from fatty acid triglycerides obtained from various plants, such as rape, palm and soy, or various wastes like vegetable oil (WVO) or animal fat. The process is based on a catalyzed reaction of fatty acid glycerides with methanol and is relatively inexpensive. The methanol used today in the production is mainly derived from fossil fuel production. As a result biodiesel is an 85-90% renewable fuel. Ethanol can be used instead of methanol (giving fatty acid ethyl ester, FAEE), but it is more expensive and complicated to use than methanol.
HartFord Global designed a small scale pilot production unit to obtain the necessary information for the process development. HartFord Global is also working on projects regarding conversion of glycerol to various compounds.