A series of [Mg(1-x)Alx(OH)2] x+(CO3)x/n 2- hydrotalcite materials with compositions over the range x = 0.25-0.55 have been synthesised using an alkali-free coprecipitation route. All materials exhibit XRD patterns characteristic of the hydrotalcite phase with a steady lattice expansion observed with increasing Mg content. XPS measurements reveal a decrease in both the Al and Mg photoelectron binding energies with Mg incorporation which correlates with the increased intra-layer electron density. All materials are effective catalysts for the liquid phase transesterification of glyceryl tributyrate with methanol for biodiesel production. The rate increases steadily with Mg content, with the Mg rich Mg2.93Al catalyst an order of magnitude more active than MgO, with pure Al2O3 being completely inert. The rate of reaction also correlates with intralayer electron density which can be associated with increased basicity.