Annual Report 2015DEEN

FROM DEEP-FRYING FAT

to Biodiesel

Alkoxides act as catalysts that help to convert natural oils and fats into biodiesel. Evonik’s specialty products make it possible to use highly sustainable raw materials more extensively.

They’re greasy and not very healthy, really—but hardly anyone can resist a portion of crispy French fries. What many people don’t know is that the deep-frying fat they’re made in can be reused in a productive way. However, this fact might soon become common knowledge, because such grease is a perfect raw material for the large-scale production of environmentally and climate-friendly biofuels for automobiles. Biodiesel made from old cooking oils and other waste products produces 80 percent lower emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide than does diesel from fossil sources. Moreover, the supply of old cooking oils seems virtually inexhaustible. For example, Germany’s restaurants alone produce around 200,000 tons of used grease per year and private households offer similar potential.

Although most biofuels today are based on renewable raw materials such as rapeseed or soybean, the use of waste-based biodiesel has expanded rapidly over the last few years. For example, the share of biodiesel raw materials accounted for by used cooking oils and other waste has nearly doubled since 2011.

As a world market leader, we contribute to the conservation of resources with our alkoxides.Henrik Hellmanns

Head of the Alkoxides Product Line

The European Union is also supporting the use of biofuels made from waste products because, unlike raw materials that are especially cultivated for fuel applications, such products do not take up fields that could otherwise be used to grow food crops. Moreover, the recyclability of such waste products means their use can significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The importance of waste-based biofuels continues to grow even in Brazil and the USA, both of which produce large amounts of soybean.

Companies around the world that produce biodiesel use alkoxides from Evonik Industries. Here, sodium methylate and potassium methylate serve as catalysts for the transesterification of vegetable oils and animal fats that is needed to produce biodiesel.

Sodium methylate is the most extensively used catalyst worldwide and has been successfully supporting the production of biodiesel from renewable raw materials for many years now. Potassium methylate is the catalyst of choice for the production of biodiesel from used cooking oils. That’s because such oils contain a high share of free fatty acids that form a soap residue, which makes the manufacturing process more difficult. However, the use of potassium methylate leads to the formation of potassium soaps, which are easier to manage. The production process with potassium methylate is therefore more robust, yields are higher, and the quality of the resulting biodiesel is better.

Potassium methylate might actually be on the verge of a spectacular career, as a study has shown that many other types of waste materials could be used to produce biofuels. If all such waste in the European Union were to be converted into biofuels, the resulting volume would cover around 16 percent of the entire fuel requirement in the EU by 2030. This would also make it possible to lower fossil fuel consumption by up to 37 million tons per year—which would be a real treat for the environment as well.

Evonik supplies its high-performance alkoxides to numerous growth markets. The products are utilized in the pharmaceutical industry, for example, in order to synthesize active ingredients. They can also be found in health care products such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 fish oil capsules.