Use of coal fly ash as a catalyst in the production of biodiesel

23 Apr 2013

South Africa is largely dependent on the combustion of coal for electricity production; Eskom’s coalfired power stations consume approximately 109 million tons of coal per annum, producing around 25 million tons of ash, to supply the bulk (93%) of South Africa’s electricity. The management of this fly ash has been a concern with various approaches for its beneficial use being investigated. This work presents the results of transesterification reaction using sunflower oil as feedstock with methanol and class F fly ash catalyst derived from a coal fly ash dump in South Africa to produce methyl esters (biodiesel). The fly ash based catalyst was prepared using the wet impregnation procedure with different loadings of potassium. This was characterized by powder X-ray diffraction (XRD), FTIR spectroscopy. The XRD patterns obtained indicated that the structure of the support gradually deformed with an increase in the loading and the extent of decomposition of KNO3 varied with the amount of loading. The influence of various reactions parameters such as loading amount of active components, methanol: oil ratio, reaction time, temperature and catalyst deactivation was investigated. The fly ash based catalyst loaded with 5% wt KNO3 at a reaction temperature of 160ºC exhibited maximum oil conversion (86.13%). The biodiesel synthesized was tested and important fuel properties of the methyl esters (Biodiesel) compared well with ASTM biodiesel standard