A new class of zirconia supported metal oxide catalysts has demonstrated the ability to convert low quality bio-oils, high in FFA, to biodiesel. Operating at mild to moderate reaction conditions, 195°C and 300psi, these catalysts can perform simultaneous esterification and transesterification reactions to achieve FAME yields as high as 90% in a single reaction step. This suggests that a wide range of crude bio-oil feedstocks, with varying FFA content, including palm oil (FFA 12%), residual corn oil(15%) from the distiller dried grains (DDGs), animal fats (2~35%), yellow grease (<15%), and brown grease (50~100%), can be converted into FAME with this catalyst technology. The heterogeneous nature of the ZrO2 formulations also simplifies the production process while avoiding the problems inherent in homogeneous processes related to separation and washing, corrosive catalyst, and excessive methanol usage.
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