Methods of making alkyl esters are described herein. The methods are capable of using raw, unprocessed, low-cost feedstocks and waste grease. Generally, the method involves converting a glyceride source to a fatty acid composition and esterifying the fatty acid composition to make alkyl esters. In an embodiment, a method of making alkyl esters comprises providing a glyceride source. The method further comprises converting the glyceride source to a fatty acid composition comprising free fatty acids and less than about 1% glyceride by mass. Moreover, the method comprises esterifying the fatty acid composition in the presence of a solid acid catalyst at a temperature ranging firm about 70.degree. C. to about 120.degree. C. to produce alkyl esters, such that at least 85% of the free fatty acids are converted to alkyl esters. The method also incorporates the use of packed bed reactors for glyceride conversion and/or fatty acid esterification to make alkyl esters.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
This invention was made, at least in part, with funding from the Department of Energy Contract No. DE-FG02-04ER86169, Accordingly, the U.S. government may have certain rights in the invention.