Total value chain testing solutions for biodiesel and bioethanol production – from feedstock to final blend

C. Stephan, N. Lancaster
PerkinElmer Inc,

Keywords: Biofuel, Bioethanol, Feedstock to final blend, testing Solutions


The demand for cleaner, greener renewable fuel sources continues to grow as the world shifts towards the net zero carbon emission goal. Biofuels in the form of biodiesel blends and bioethanol/gasoline blends are established, sustainable fuels with complicated production value chains where quality control needs to be maintained throughout the refining process. Newer renewable ‘drop-in’ biofuels are also becoming of great interest in the growing adoption of biofuels. The goal of this poster is to provide an overview of the bioethanol and biodiesel refining process and the analytical analyses conducted at each step. Beginning with feedstocks we will cover the quality control of important first-generation feedstocks, such as corn. Focussing on Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIR) for the analysis of moisture, protein, starch content, etc. in corn germ, corn gluten meal and gluten slurry. On the biodiesel side we will provide an overview of important vegetable oil feedstocks and their analysis on Gas Chromatograph (GC) and Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR). Trace elements determined by Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (AAS) or Inductively Coupled Plasma – Optical Emission Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) is also of interest in the feedstock as they will impact the finished product. Moving to the refining process we will cover techniques such as High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), used for the monitoring of the fermentation process during bioethanol production. Dried distillers grains (DDGS) are also an important by-product that can be used for animal feed – NIR can again be used here to determine important properties. AAS and ICP-OES can provide important information on mineral content that is key nutritional information for DDGS. For biodiesel refining GC is again of great importance for the monitoring of the esterification process. Determining Methanol content as well as total and free Glycerol content in B100 biodiesel is of key importance for biodiesel refining. The Glycerol is also an important by-product for the food and pharmaceutical industries once separated from the biodiesel. Trace elements and are again of interest in the finished biofuels to ensure compliance with standard specifications. The finished biofuels need to be tested for purity as well to determine the presence of any contaminants. Finally, an overview of analysis important during the transport and blending process. Ethanol needs to be denatured before transport and this is tested with instruments such as GC to ensure conformance to required specification. Quality control testing of the blending process needs to be monitored. For biodiesel (B5, B20, etc) and bioethanol (E5, E10, etc) FTIR and GC can provide accurate results regarding the biofuel content in the final fuel blend. All of these analyses are handled in-house by refiners/blenders or offered by third party contract labs and are vital to a variety of industries in the biofuel value chain