Methyl Ester FAQ's

Interested in VersaGen? Below are the answers to some commonly asked questions about VersaGen products and methyl esters in general.

What is a methyl ester?

Methyl esters are a family of materials that are used as a base for producing other products. Methyl esters can be produced from a variety of raw materials, such as fats and plant oils. Common resources for methyl ester manufacturing include coconut, palm, canola and rapeseed oils, recycled vegetable oils, and beef tallow. Methyl esters are made through a chemical process called transesterification. The conversion of these oils to methyl esters involves the use of methanol as a raw material and a ‘basic’ catalyst (potassium or sodium). Glycerin is a by-product of the conversion process. The methyl esters are washed in order to purify the product prior to sale. The methyl ester materials produced from the oils mentioned above have a unique carbon chain distribution that is set by the oil and process used. Some methyl ester production methods have the ability to process oils with fatty acids (FFA) and convert the FFA to methyl esters, thus increasing the yield of oil fed into the production. When a more specific carbon chain length methyl ester is required, fractionalization of the broader product can and may be achieved by means of specialty equipment.

Are all methyl esters the same?

All methyl esters are not the same. Methyl esters produced from yellow grease (recycled cooking oil) have significantly more lubricity than other methyl ester bases, such as soy and palm oils. VersaGen produces methyl esters from a variety of bases such as soy, palm, rapeseed (canola) and yellow grease.

Where can I use a methyl ester?

VersaGen methyl esters are very diverse and used in a wide variety of applications, such as: agriculture, asphalt, cleaners, coatings, compounding, construction, dust control, HI&I, inks, lubricants, metalworking, mining, personal care, process oils, pulp and paper, and textiles.

What is an Iodine Value?

In analytical chemistry, the iodine value is the measure of the degree of unsaturation of an oil, fat, or wax, or the amount of iodine, in grams, that is taken up by 100 grams of the oil, fat, or wax. Saturated oils, fats, and waxes take up no iodine; therefore their iodine value is zero. Unsaturated oils, fats, and waxes take up iodine (unsaturated compounds contain molecules with double or triple bonds).

Typical Iodine values for methyl esters are:
Coconut 6 - 11
Yellow Grease 80 - 100
Tallow 45 - 55
Soy 115 - 139
Palm 34 - 60
Rapeseed 94 – 120
Choice White 65 – 75

What is VOC content?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) are widely used as ingredients in household products. These compounds vaporize at normal room temperatures, sometimes causing adverse health effects. Paints, varnishes, and wax all contain organic solvents, as do fuels, and many cleaning, disinfecting, cosmetic, degreasing, and hobby products. These products can release organic compounds while in use and, to some degree, when they are stored. The USA’s Environmental Protection Agency has listed certain common chemicals as having a high VOC content that may be harmful to the environment. Regulations to eliminate high VOC content components will initiate changes in non-compliant product formulas.

What is a KB value?

The kauri-butanol value (KB) of a solvent represents the maximum amount of that solvent that can be added to a stock solution of kauri resin (a fossil copal) in butyl alcohol without causing cloudiness. Since kauri resin is readily soluble in butyl alcohol but not in hydrocarbon solvents, the resin solution will tolerate only a certain amount of dilution. ‘Stronger’ solvents, such as toluene, can be added in a greater amount (and thus have a higher KB value) than ‘weaker’ solvents like hexane.

Why is flash point important?

Flash point is the lowest temperature at which a liquid can form an ignitable mixture in air near the surface of the liquid. The lower the flash point, the easier it is to ignite the material. For example, gasoline has a flash point of -40 degrees C and is more flammable than ethylene glycol (antifreeze), which has a flash point of 111 degrees C (232 F). Know the flash point of any material that you work with. Always avoid heat, open flame, sparks or other sources of ignition when a material is near, at or above its flash point.

What is yellow grease?

Yellow grease is a restaurant by-product consisting of a mixture of plant and animal fats. Darling Ingredients has an extensive and sophisticated yellow grease recycling program in place throughout the eastern USA.

What does biodegradable mean?

A ‘biodegradable’ product has the ability to break down safely and relatively quickly by biological means into the raw materials of nature and disappear into the environment. These products can be solids biodegrading into the soil (which we also refer to as compostable), or liquids biodegrading into water. Biodegradable plastic is intended to break up when exposed to microorganisms (a natural ingredient such as cornstarch or vegetable oil is added to achieve this result).

Are VersaGen methyl esters made from renewable resources?

Yes. All of our finished products are produced from renewable American resources. They are non-hazardous, non-carcinogenic, and biodegradable.

How do VersaGen methyl esters compare to other solvents?

Check the table below to compare VersaGen with other solvents.