Episodes - Lessons
Biodiesel Reactions In Action
Biodiesel Reactions In Action

In the first video and website section on Waste Oils Into Biodiesel you learned about the creation of biodiesel using a variety of feedstocks, including different waste oils that can be recycled. So, yes, the fictional scenes in the movie, Back To The Future 2 are in part reality today. Plus, the advanced technology at biodiesel plants such as the Duonix Beatrice plant are charting a pathway into the future of bioenergy.

As you'll see in this video, this plant uses ENSEL™ technology, which is a patented catalytic process for refining feedstocks such as animal tallow, recycled cooking oil and distillers corn oil into high-quality biodiesel. Where some plants require multiple processes to make biodiesel, this place uses one sophisticated process. And once it's fully operational, the plant will produce approximately 50 million gallons of biodiesel annually.

The distillers corn oil arrives by tanker truck and the biodiesel goes out by tanker rail cars, a lot to California, where it is in high demand because of aggressive clean air policies. Once inside the facility, the feedstocks are run through a innovative catalyst that combines “esterification” with “transesterification” into a one-step process that's more efficient. It also allows the plant to be feedstock flexible because distillers corn oil, used cooking oil and animal tallow have high free fatty acids which are difficult to breakdown using traditional biodiesel refining methods.

During the refining process, they also produce a valued co-product that almost everyone uses... glycerin. Also known as glycerol, this sugary oil separates out and is used in a variety of products from toothpaste, to soaps, to cosmetics. Glycerol is a trihydroxy sugar alcohol that is an intermediate in carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. It is used as a solvent, emollient, pharmaceutical agent, and sweetening agent. Saweet. huh?

To really decode the science behind this biodiesel and glycerin production, have your teacher download the discussion guide and lesson activities below for hours of peer-driven learning in your classroom with your peeps. You can also learn lots more by reading the advanced information in the Learn More section below by clicking on the icon.

To learn about the production of ethanol, another important biofuel, explore our videos and lessons ethanol. You'll find them in the Energy Category on the Home page.

For fun, also take a moment and check out the jazzed bioenergy industry careers video on the right. Then, click the link of our educational partner here to dig even deeper into the science of biodiesel production.