Thanks to the increased awareness about depletion of natural oil reserves, people are looking for alternative sources of fuel. Production of fuel from biomaterials has gained significance in the recent times. Most of the biomaterials include fats and oils derived from living organisms that have the potential to produce fuel derived from renewable biological sources. However, these fats and oils cannot be directly used as biofuel and several existing processes need to be changed for their utilization. But biodiesel derived from animal fat (like beef tallow) is similar to the one produced using petrochemicals. Beef tallow, especially, is said to have a huge potential in the biofuel industry.
Beef Tallow in the making of biodiesel: Beef tallow has gained new life with the discovery of biodiesel using fats and oils. Beef Tallow has grown from the status of an ingredient in cooking, soap making or candle making recipe to that of an important element in industrial applications like the production of rubber, lubricants and fuel. This article will point out the pros, cons and limitations of beef tallow’s future in the biofuel industry.
Pros, cons and limitations: Biodiesel can be easily made from tallow like using very similar processes used in plants to produce plant oil biofuels. Biodiesel is actually produced by what is called the “transesterification” reaction of triglyceride molecules present in beef tallow with alcohol such as methanol in batch processes. Transesterification is actually a stepwise reaction that involves several batch processes in the transformation of animal fat into biodiesel. But there is one hiccup in this transesterification process and that is, batch processing and the economic viability of such processing. Research is on to make this batch processing a continuous process by reducing the production cost and time.
However, on a comparative note, beef tallow is a better producer of biofuel than plant oils. This is because, fuel produced by tallow has a higher cetane number compared to produced from plant oils. Though as triglycerides, animal fats like beef tallow can be used in the production of biodiesel, there are certain structural limitations to the process:
1. Research has shown that using tallow for biodiesel production is not possible without increasing its availability as feedstock. Else, it would affect the other industrial and cosmetic applications of tallow.
2. Tallow biofuel comes with a higher cloud point owing to the presence of higher levels of saturates. Tallow fuel has the tendency to crystallize at higher temperatures (unlike plant oils) and this makes it unsuitable for use during winters.
3. Tallow diesel often meets the required standards only when blended with regular diesel. A 5% mix of regular diesel to the 95% DIN-standard tallow biofuel only makes it appropriate for practical use.
4. The existing process of production of tallow biofuel is a long and strenuous one. Only by reducing the batch processes into an economically viable continuous process, we can make biofuel production using tallow fruitful.