SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTION AND DEPLOYMENT OF BIODIESEL IN TEXAS
Identifying The Most Affordable and Sustainable
Daniel Cohan, Ph.D., Department of Civil & environmental Engineering, Rice University
Kyriacos Zygourakis, Ph.D., Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Rice University
Ramon Gonzalez, Ph.D., Department of Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering, Rice University
Dr. Daniel Cohan
Dr. Kyriacos Zygourakis
Dr. Ramon Gonzalez
Biodiesel in diesel engines can reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas
emissions and reliance on imported fossil fuels. Biodiesel production
has soared 500-fold over the last seven years. Production is now 250
million gallons nationwide, and Texas is one of the leading producer of
biodiesel. Despite this rapid growth, biodiesel is destined to remain a
niche player in overall diesel markets. Devoting the nation’s entire
soybean crop to biodiesel production would displace 6% of total diesel
fuel use. Other biodiesel feedstocks are also limited in availability.
Our multidisciplinary team will investigate were and how biodiesel
should be produced and deployed to optimize the environmental and
economic sustainability of this fuel source. Because both the production
and deployment of biodiesel can proceed in many different ways, there
may be opportunities to minimize costs while maximizing efficiency and
net benefits to air quality.
On the production side, producers must select among various plant and
animal-based feedstocks and various options for the disposal or reuse
of production byproducts.
Deployment options for biodiesel are complex. Biodiesel could be used
in a vast range of diesel engines. It can be blended or used in pure
Our proposed research will achieve the following objectives.
1. Biodiesel production. We will analyze the production of biodiesel
from small- and large-scale facilities that use different feedstocks and
convert glycerol to other useful chemicals.
2. Biodiesel distribution and deployment. We will compile data regarding
(a) current and projected diesel fuel use and emissions in Texas, and
(b) the biodiesel blends that can be used in each engine type. We will
develop models that estimate the cost of distributing biodiesel produced
at large- or small-scale facilities.
3. Air quality. Published studies on biodiesel emission rates will be
reviewed to determine best estimate ranges. We will use a photochemical
model to simulate how alternative deployments of biodiesel would affect
ozone, PM, and other pollutants in Texas.
This research will allow us to answer a key question: Which
production methods and applications of biodiesel will reduce air
pollution and minimize costs? Such information will allow decision
makers to prioritize the applications of biodiesel to determine which
are most affordable and environmentally sustainable.
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