Terms we own: Free Fatty Acids

1 August 2023

Speeding up the energy transition means we also get to talk in a language people outside the green energy business do not necessarily use daily. But you being at least as passionate as we are about fighting climate change and reducing emissions, of course you want to know what it is we talk about.
In the series ‘Terms We Own’: Free Fatty Acids (FFA)

Free Fatty Acids are organic compounds consisting of a long hydrocarbon chain with a carboxylic acid group (-COOH) at one end. In its natural form, it is often connected to a glycerol group forming a mono-, di, or triglyceride. They are commonly found in various natural sources, including animal fats, vegetable oils, and microorganisms. Feedstocks we deal with daily for use in several renewable fuels.

FFA play (amongst others) a significant role in the production of biodiesel, a.k.a. FAME, one of the main renewable and environmentally friendly alternatives we help to supply. The main steps in this production process are as follows:

1. Feedstock selection: Various sources rich in FFA, such as Used Cooking Oil, waste animal fats, and certain microorganisms, can be used as feedstock for biodiesel production.

2. Pretreatment: The feedstock is subjected to pretreatment to remove subsequent impurities, water, and other undesirable substances.

3. Acid-catalyzed esterification (pre-esterification): If the feedstock has a high content of FFAs, it may be necessary to undergo an acid-catalyzed esterification process. In this step, the FFAs react with alcohol (usually methanol) in the presence of an acid catalyst to produce FAMEs and water.

4. Transesterification: Once the FFAs are converted into FAMEs, the remaining triglycerides in the feedstock can be trans esterified to produce additional FAMEs.

5. Separation and purification: After the transesterification reaction, the mixture contains biodiesel (FAMEs), glycerol, unreacted methanol, and catalyst residues. The biodiesel is separated from the glycerol and other byproducts, and then it goes through a purification process to meet the required fuel standards.

6. Final product: The purified biodiesel, which is primarily composed of FAMEs derived from the FFAs in the feedstock, is ready for use as a biofuel.

Overall, the utilization of FFAs in biofuel production contributes to the recycling of waste materials, reduces dependence on fossil fuels, and helps mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. And that brings us back to our mission of speeding up the global energy transition. So now you know why FFAs is one of those terms we own at Connex.

If you want to learn more about FFAs and how we implement its use, please contact us at www.connex.trading/contact.

Sign-up for company news alerts