Purdue researcher Klein Ileleji found that a 20 percent blend of degummed soybean oil performed well in home furnaces and reduced sulfur emissions.
Photo courtesy of Purdue Agricultural Communications/Tom Campbell

A blend of degummed soybean oil and No. 2 fuel oil can be used as an alternative heating fuel and reduce sulfur emissions, according to a Purdue University scientist who is using industrial dryers in the research project.

Klein Ileleji, an assistant professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the West Layfayette, Ind.-based school, tested blends of 20 percent, 50 percent and 100 percent degummed soybean oil - an unrefined and cheaper product to produce than soy methyl esters, commonly known as biodiesel - and found that the 20 percent blend did not degrade a home furnace’s parts or heat output. Ileleji is using grain dryers to test the degummed soybean blends to see if the biofuel can be used efficiently with furnace burners. The only problem he found with the 20 percent blend was a slight early degradation of the furnace’s seals and gaskets, which manufacturers could fix by switching to a higher quality component.

“You are going to reduce the sulfur emissions with degummed soybean oil,” Ileleji says. “The things you should be worried about with a biofuel such as the pour-point temperature and heating ability were not affected. You want to keep the properties of your No. 2 fuel oil, and at 20 percent degummed soybean oil, you would minimally affect those properties.”

Removing gumming agents from soybean oil eliminates its harmful effects on fuel-injection nozzles, gaskets and other parts, and creates a combustible biofuel. Like some other biofuels, its properties can be less desirable than traditional fuels. Ileleji’s study shows that 100 percent degummed soybean oil and a 50 percent blend had reduced flashpoints, making them more difficult to ignite; reducing heat content; creating higher temperatures associated with cold filter plugging points; and leading to early degradation of seals and gaskets.

“Overall, [with] 20 percent degummed soybean oil, you can get by using existing furnace designs,” Ileleji says. “You can use a 20 percent blend without changing your combustion system, and you will not be changing its performance. What you will be getting is the benefit of lower sulfur emissions, which is good for the environment.”