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Biodiesel production technologies: review

Faculty of Science and Technology, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Drøbakveien 31, 1432, Ås, Norway

Topical Section: Bioenergy and Biofuel

Biodiesel is a fuel with various benefits over the conventional diesel fuel. It is derived from renewable resources, it has less emission to environment, it is biodegradable so has very limited toxicity and above all its production can be decentralized so that it could have a potential in helping rural economies. However, there are also some worth mentioning challenges associated with production of biodiesel. Among them repeatedly mentioned are the cost of feedstock and the choice of convenient technology for efficient production of the fuel from diverse feedstock types. There are four main routes by which raw vegetable oil and/or animal fat can be made suitable for use as substituent fuel in diesel engines without modification. These are direct use or blending of oils, micro-emulsion, thermal cracking or pyrolysis and transesterification reaction. Due to the quality of the fuel produced, the transesterification method is the most preferred way to produce biodiesel from diverse feedstock types. Through this method, oils and fats (triglycerides) are converted to their alkyl esters with reduced viscosity to near diesel fuel levels. There are different techniques to carry out transesterification reaction for biodiesel production. Each technique has its own advantages and disadvantages as well as its own specifically convenient feedstock character. There are also some very important reaction conditions to be given due attention in each of this techniques for efficient production of biodiesel, such as molar ratio of alcohol to oil, type and amount of catalyst, reaction temperature, reaction time, reaction medium, type and relative amount of solvents, among others. This review is meant to investigate the main transesterification techniques for biodiesel production in terms of their choice of feedstock character as well as their determinately required reaction conditions for efficient biodiesel production, so that to give an overview on their advantages and disadvantages.
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