OSWER  Innovations
                            Reducing  Production Costs and
                            Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) Emissions
                            from Biodiesel
The Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response (OSWER) initiated a series of innovative pilots to test new ideas
and strategies for environmental and public health protection. A small amount of money is set aside to fund creative
proposals. The creative projects test approaches to waste minimization, energy recovery,  recycling,  land
revitalization, and homeland security that may be replicated across various sectors, industries, communities, and
regions. We hope these pilots will pave the way for programmatic and policy recommendations by demonstrating
the environmental and economic benefits of creative, innovative approaches to the difficult environmental challenges
we face today.

Biodiesel is a renewable fuel source that is non-toxic,
biodegradeable, and  reduces exhaust  emissions  of
carbon monoxide, unburned hydrocarbons, particulate
matter, and sulfur dioxide. Its use can improve air
quality, create jobs, and help reduce dependency on
limited energy resources and imports.  Conventional
biodiesel  production units, however, are fixed plants
operating in a batch mode that require high capital and
operation costs. As proposed by many researchers,
biodiesel production costs can be reduced by using low-
cost raw  materials  such  as waste  cooking oil.
Restaurants and hotels in the United States produce over
3 billion  gallons of waste cooking oil annually, the
majority of which is disposed of in sewers and landfills.
Studies, however,  have shown an increase in nitrogen
oxide (NOx) emissions, a pollutant that causes smog
and ozone, for the  biodiesel produced from virgin
cooking oil.


The University  of  Nevada  at Reno (UNR),  in
collaboration with the Washoe County District Health
Department, Applied Research Initiative, Nevada State
Department of Agriculture, and U.S. EPA Region 9,
will seek to reduce NOx emissions and the cost  of
biodiesel production.  This pilot investigates modifying
the biodiesel preproduction process to remove nitrogen
compounds before they get into the process stream.
Building upon a successful prototype, UNR will build
a large-scale mobile continuous process pilot unit using
ethanol,  instead of methanol, for the production  of
biodiesel at its campus location.

The biodiesel production process will consist of waste
cooking  oil pretreatment, reaction, separation, and
purification. The NOx emission issue will be addressed
in the preproduction stage since the raw material  of
biodiesel has an effect on NOx emission . Several feed
stocks (virgin and waste cooking oils) will be analyzed
for the presence of nitrogen, and a methodology will be
developed to remove nitrogen-based compounds before
they enter the process stream. The computerized process
control system will allow for remote monitoring and
adjustments. If successful, the pilot will demonstrate
that the biodiesel production unit is viable, reaction-
efficient, time-efficient, and cost effective.


This pilot will remove the cost disincentive from the use
of biodiesel and tackle the key issue of NOx. Instead of
focusing on post production solutions to reduce NOx
emission, this pilot  will focus on preproduction
solutions. Moreover, manufactured methanol will be
replaced with renewable ethanol. Using ethanol will
provide a safer work environment for personnel (less

volatile, less toxic, less corrosive, and cleaner). Costs
will be reduced by introducing a continuous production
process using  automation and process control. Using
local agricultural resources and waste cooking oil will
have a direct impact on lowering feed costs. The unit
will be mobile, which will allow transport  of the
processing capabilities to rural areas  that need the


In the short term, all of UNR's diesel needs will be met
by  using  the  biodiesel  produced  with the mobile
continuous process pilot unit. The large-scale pilot unit
will adhere to  a  zero waste stream policy goal. In the
long term, the  outcome  of this  pilot project will
tremendously help the agricultural industry by providing
them  with a large  energy market  and will provide
sufficient incentive for farmers to cultivate additional
crops. Air quality will be enhanced by the widespread
use of biodiesel. Also, waste minimization will be
achieved by recycling waste  cooking oil.


Patricia Norton, EPA Region 9, 415-972-3318

For additional information, visit the EPA OSWER
Innovations web  site at: www.epa.gov/oswer/iwg.
                                                           Solid Waste
                                                           and Emergency
                                                           Response (5101T)
EPA 500-F-04-022
June 2004
www.epa .gov/oswe r/iwg