Synthesis of Sustainable Lubricant Improver from Wet Unhydrolyzed Solids

September 2019

Lignocellulosic ethanol biorefineries offers a sustainable way to produce alternative transportation fuel and provide fiber and biomaterial. However, lignin fraction remains underutilized in the absence of development of high value products. Despite its resilience to decomposition, thermochemical processes can depolymerize lignin into its phenolic monomers which could be utilized as sustainable high-value additive products for fuels and lubricating oils. To achieve maximum yield of additive products, lignin must be first decomposed into high concentration of phenol and alkylphenols then selectively transform these phenolic derivatives into a compound with a chemical structure fit for its purpose. Hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) of wet unhydrolyzed solids (UHS), a by-product of lignocellulosic ethanol production, generates a bio-oil with 98% phenolic compounds which more than half of it are phenol and alkylphenols. This phenolic bio-oil can be upgraded into aromatic hydrocarbons via hydrodeoxygenation then selectively converted into lubricant improver by alkylation with fatty acid alkyl esters. This lignin-based product has a polar head, a long-chain alkyl group, and an aromatic component. The combined components make the product suitable lubricant enhancer, an additive that improves lubricity of fuels and lubricating oils. The polar head allows the compound to bind to metal surfaces in the engine to create a protective layer against wear and tear, the long-chain alkyl group helps its solubility in nonpolar fuels and oils, and the aromatic component provides resistance to decomposition under high temperatures. This arrangement of reactions allows to utilize lignin adding value to lignocellulosic ethanol.

This collaborative research funded by the United States Department of Agriculture aimed to investigate the sequence of thermochemical reactions to selectively transform lignin into a sustainable lubricant improver.  Results from lab experiments showed that synthesis of sustainable lignin-based lubricant improver can be achieved and the process can be integrated to the production of lignocellulosic ethanol.  Performance properties such as oxidative stability and cloud point of the lignin-based lubricant improver is significantly better than fatty acid alkyl esters.

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Sustainable Antioxidant and Pour Point Depressant from Lipid-Enhanced Sludges

November 2018

Underground mining use biodiesel blends to reduce harmful exhaust emissions from diesel engines. In practice, diesel and biodiesel are stored separately and blended on site. Unfortunately, the storage and handling of neat biodiesel (B100) becomes challenging during the cold weather season due to biodiesel’s undesirable cold flow properties and poor oxidative stability. Dr. Randy Maglinao and Dr. Emmanuel Revellame (University of Louisiana-Lafayette) investigated a bioadditive synthesized from lipid-enhanced sludges to improve biodiesel’s pour point (PP), an indicator of cold flow performance, and oxidative stability index (OSI). Different dosages of the synthesized bioadditive were added to canola biodiesel. Results indicated that canola biodiesel with the bioadditive has a lower PP and higher OSI than neat canola biodiesel.

Advancing Bio-Based Chemicals and Next-Generation Fuels from Montana’s Agricultural Crops

August 2017

Industrial oilseeds crops, such as camelina, presents a unique opportunity in addressing Montana’s search for alternative energy sources and its steady decline of manufacturing employment.  The improvement of Montana’s agroecosystem through camelina cultivation can be achieved through the establishment of a biorefinery capable of paying farmers a competitive price resulting in the enhancement of Montana’s manufacturing employment and diversification of its energy portfolio.  The establishment of a biorefinery will provide sustainable growth in Montana’s manufacturing industry and agriculture in two ways: [a] newly developed conversion technologies will open new opportunities to generate numerous Montana jobs through the creation of “green” businesses and [b] oilseed research directly address the federal government’s goal of utilizing alternative energy sources to achieve a cleaner environment.

This collaborative project between Montana State University Northern and Montana State University Billings City College has four main objectives: [a] evaluate the environmental life cycle impacts and technoeconomic implications of bio-based chemicals and next-generation fuels from camelina, an industrial oilseeds; [b] formulate and validate a mechanism of producing a blend component to aviation gasoline to eliminate its lead content; [c] develop a novel and robust catalyst that efficiently converts natural oils to bio-based chemicals and next-generation fuels, and; [d] develop an optimum process configuration and perform economic analysis for medium and large- scale pelletizing plants for oilseed meal byproduct stream.

Outcomes of this project include (1) the establishment of life cycle and technoeconomic models for converting camelina into bio-based chemicals and next-generation fuels, (2) the development of an effective method in synthesizing unleaded aviation gasoline from camelina, (3) the creation of a heterogeneous N-heterocyclic carbene that can be widely used in creating unique materials and catalysts, and (4) the successful demonstration of a pilot-scale pelletizing methods of camelina meal for heat production.  Both universities have leveraged the research investment provided by the State of Montana through the formation of effective strategies resulting from the establishment of key partners in the region.  The connections created by the project with universities outside Montana strengthened the research and education infrastructure  (i.e., facilities and curriculum) for both universities.

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