Biodiesel, is the methyl ester of fatty acids derived from renewable resources such as virgin vegetable oil (VO), animal fats (AF) and used cooking oil (UCO). This biofuel can be used as a replacement for petroleum-based diesel in compression ignition engines with minimal modifications.
The annual growth in consumption of biodiesel 1999-2004 has exceeded 32% from reaching a global level of 4.84 million tons/yr in 2004(Chemical Economics Handbook estimates). Expansion is projected to continue at this phenomenal rate due to a variety of factors including, concerns about energy security, environment and the skyrocketing cost of petroleum. The consumption of this biofuel is encouraged through various governmental incentives. EU Directive 2003/30/EC set targets for a minimum fuels content from renewable resources with the goal to increase content from today’s <1% to 5.75% by 2010 (R0507003, R0507014, R0507015). In the United States the Energy Bill of 2005 In August the US Energy Bill was signed including provisions for a renewables fuels requirement of 7.5 billion gallons/yr. Included in the bill was a tax incentive of 1¢/gallon/% biodiesel up to a maximum of $0.20/gallon or $1.00/gallon on a B100 basis (R0507009).
The majority of the biodiesel production facilities utilize a homogeneous alkaline catalyst, either sodium hydroxide or sodium methoxide (PEP Report 251 Biodiesel).
The largest producer of biodiesel, Diester has announced the construction of a 160,000 t/yr facility based on Axens heterogeneous catalysis, ESTERFIP-H process in Seté, France. It is due to be commissioned in 4Q 2005 (R0507023).
In this review we analyze the technical and economics aspects for the production of 353 million lb/yr (160,000 t/yr) of “biodiesel” (fatty acid methyl esters) using heterogeneous catalysis. The review is based primarily on recent patents issued to Institut Francais du Petrole (IFP) and licensed by its subsidiary Axens. It updates and replaces an earlier review of the technology in PEP Review 2002-5 issued in 2003.
This review will be of interest to producers and consumers of diesel fuel, methanol, glycerol and oleochemical producers.