Abstract: The transesterification reaction of used frying oil by means of ethanol, using sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, sodium methoxide, and potassium methoxide as catalysts, was studied. The objective of the work was to characterize the ethyl esters for its use as biodiesels in compression ignition motors. The operation variables used were ethanol/oil molar ratio (6:1–12:1), catalyst concentration (0.1–1.5 wt.%), temperature (35–78 °C), and catalyst type. The evolution of the process was followed by gas chromatography, determining the concentration of the ethyl esters at different reaction times. The biodiesel was characterized by its density, viscosity, flash point, combustion point, cold filter plugging point, cloud and pour points, Conradson carbon residue, characteristics of distillation, cetane index and high heating value according to ISO norms. The biodiesel with the best properties was obtained using an ethanol/oil molar ratio of 12:1, potassium hydroxide as catalyst (1%), and 78 °C temperature. The density, viscosity, cetane index, Conradson carbon residue and calorific power of the biodiesel obtained had values close to those of a no. 2 diesel. On the contrary, the cold filter plugging point, and cloud and pour points are higher than the conventional diesel fuel. Although higher, flash and combustion points fulfil the norms for ethyl esters derived from vegetable oils. In consequence, the final product obtained had very similar characteristics to a no. 2 diesel oil, and therefore, these ethyl esters might be used as an alternative to fossil fuels. The two-stage transesterification was better than the one-stage process, and the yields of ethyl esters were improved 30% in relation with the one-stage transesterification.
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