Fatty Acid Esters in Europe: Market Trends and Technological Perspectives

Abstract : Based on strong governmental incentives, biodiesel from transesterification of Fatty Acids (FAE) production is rapidly increasing mainly in Europe and is starting to expand worldwide. A closer look at the complex European incentives scheme and an update of the planned FAE capacity expansion helps to explain the key economic factors in this sharp raise in FAE activity. Based on this economic background, key factors for FAE technology selection will be explored to demonstrate alternatives for biofuels production. Increasing biodiesel consumption in a sustainable way requires optimizing production processes compatible with high production capacities, high yields and low environmental impact, especially regarding wastes streams. This paper highlights a commercially proven technology available for meeting these challenges, focusing on a new continuous FAE production process where the transesterification reaction is promoted by a heterogeneous catalyst. This process employs methanolysis of vegetable oils by passing the reactants through two consecutive fixed-bed reactors followed by methanol and glycerin separation stages. The Axens process requires neither catalyst recovery nor aqueous treatment. It achieves very high methyl esters yields with a high purity glycerin byproduct. At least 98% purity glycerin is directly recovered in the total absence of any mineral (salts) contaminants thereby offering an alternative for a real “Green Process”.
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M. Bloch, L. Bournay, D. Casanave, J. A. Chodorge, V. Coupard, et al.. Fatty Acid Esters in Europe: Market Trends and Technological Perspectives. Oil & Gas Science and Technology - Revue d'IFP Energies nouvelles, Institut Français du Pétrole, 2008, 63 (4), pp.405-417. ⟨10.2516/ogst:2008034⟩. ⟨hal-02002035⟩

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