Animal fat fuels biodiesel research

From fat to fuel

Scientists have been chewing the fat over how to produce renewable biodiesel fuel without the drawbacks of soybean-based biodiesel, and they may have found the right raw material—and companies—for the job, according to National Geographic News.

Food-processing giant Tyson Foods teamed up with the synthetic-fuels research group Syntroleum Corp. in 2006 to begin exploring the possibility of transforming low-grade, inedible animal fat into renewable diesel fuel that can be mixed with petroleum-based diesel and biodiesel to be used for transportation. In November 2010, the food-giant and research-firm partnership is producing 105,000 gallons of fuel daily at its Geismar, La., facility and the output is expected to go up significantly.

Currently, most biofuel is processed from soybeans. Renewable biodiesel, on the other hand, is made through a process that hydrogenates beef tallow and other fats, making it chemically identical to regular diesel. The product emits 58 to 80 percent fewer greenhouse gases than regular diesel, however.