Process Economics Program Report 251A
Advances in Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Production
Published: December 2007
The use of a renewable fuel such as vegetable oil in Rudolf Diesel’s compression ignition engine dates back to 1900. These renewable fuels were replaced by the availability of cheap petroleum-based fuels in the 20th century. There has been resurgence in the 21st century in the use of renewable fuels for diesel engines. One of the fastest growing petroleum-diesel alternatives is biodiesel. Biodiesel is the mono-alkyl ester of fatty acids (FAME) and is produced by the reaction of an alcohol usually methanol in the presence of a catalyst with feedstocks such as virgin vegetable oil (VO), animal fats (AF) and used cooking oil (UCO). The resulting fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) can be blended with petroleum-based diesel or used as a complete replacement in diesel engines with minimal engine modifications.
The global production capacity of biodiesel is growing exponentially with capacity projected to increase from a capacity of 12.6 million t/yr (3.8 billion gal/yr) in 2006 to over 80 million metric tons/yr (24 billion gal/yr) by 2010 (Chemical Economics Handbook, Biodiesel, 2006).
An emerging alternative to biodiesel is a renewable diesel. Renewable diesel is a longchain hydrocarbon (C12-C22) produced by the hydrogenation over a catalyst of some of the same feedstocks that are used to produce biodiesel. Several companies had announced plans to construct renewable diesel production facilities. They include Neste Oil, PetroBras, and joint ventures Tyson Foods/ConocoPhillips, Tyson Foods/Syntroleum and UOP/Eni SpA.
There are multiple reasons for the use of fuels derived from renewable resources which include: improvement in energy security, reduction in Greenhouse gases (GHG), reduction in particulates (PM), CO, and sulfur emissions, improvement in local economy and the rising costs of petroleum and natural gas.
Legislation in the EU, US and Brazil has been enacted to encourage the production and consumption of renewable fuels.
In this report, PEP examines the technologies and economics for the production of biodiesel (FAME) from refined soybean oil by a homogeneous alkaline catalyst process and a heterogeneous catalyst process recently commercialized by Axens.
We also examine the technologies and economics for the production of renewable diesel via hydrogenation of soybean oil. Both in-house hydrogen manufacture and purchase of hydrogen delivered via pipeline cases are evaluated.
This report will be of interest to producers and consumers of diesel fuel, producers of methanol and hydrogen, oleochemical manufacturers, producers of vegetable oils and animal fats and catalyst manufacturers.