Plantoil/diesel conversion basics
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danalinscott

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From time to time the issue of removing Free Fatty Acids comes up. I believe that this is mainly due to confusion between the processing of VO into VO fuel and the processing of VO into bio-diesel.

When making bio diesel the level of FFAs must be determined in order to calculate the amount of catalyst which must be used to convert the VO/WVO feedstock into bio-diesel completely. If too little is used the reaction/conversion will be incomplete and the resulting bio-diesel will contain undesirable contaminants. VO/WVO with high FFAs will require more catalyst then that with low FFAs so FFAs are considered a "problem" by those that make bio-diesel from VO/WVO.

But for those that use VO/PO/WVO without converting it to bio-diesel (by modifying their engines fuel systems) FFAs are not a problem. Heres why:

Plant oils (VO/WVO) and fats ARE "Fatty Acids"called triglycerides.  (Wikipedia info on Fatty Acids/oils) and (Triglycerides) and when subjected to chemicals or high temperatures (as VO is when used in cooking/frying) some of the "fatty acid" molecules break apart into smaller molecules.

A VO (fatty acid/triglyceride) molecule looks generally like this:


The blue sections are FFAs and the red section in the center which binds them together is glycerol.

Fatty Acids and Free Fatty Acids BOTH combust equally well in a diesel engine. FFAs DO NOT need to be removed. Which is very lucky since doing so would be very difficult and expensive.

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