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Concept: Biodiesel


The considerable increase in biodiesel production worldwide in the last 5 years resulted in a stoichiometric increased coproduction of crude glycerol. As an excess of crude glycerol has been produced, its value on market was reduced and it is becoming a “waste-stream” instead of a valuable “coproduct”. The development of biorefineries, i.e. production of chemicals and power integrated with conversion processes of biomass into biofuels, has been singled out as a way to achieve economically viable production chains, valorize residues and coproducts, and reduce industrial waste disposal. In this sense, several alternatives aimed at the use of crude glycerol to produce fuels and chemicals by microbial fermentation have been evaluated. This review summarizes different strategies employed to produce biofuels and chemicals (1,3-propanediol, 2,3-butanediol, ethanol, n-butanol, organic acids, polyols and others) by microbial fermentation of glycerol. Initially, the industrial use of each chemical is briefly presented; then we systematically summarize and discuss the different strategies to produce each chemical, including selection and genetic engineering of producers, and optimization of process conditions to improve yield and productivity. Finally, the impact of the developments obtained until now are placed in perspective and opportunities and challenges for using crude glycerol to the development of biodiesel-based biorefineries are considered. In conclusion, the microbial fermentation of glycerol represents a remarkable alternative to add value to the biodiesel production chain helping the development of biorefineries, which will allow this biofuel to be more competitive.

Concepts: Carbon dioxide, Ethanol, Petroleum, Anaerobic digestion, Biofuel, Glycerol, Biomass, Biodiesel


BACKGROUND: Microalgae have attracted major interest as a sustainable source for biodiesel production on commercial scale. This paper describes the screening of six microalgal species, Scenedesmus quadricauda, Scenedesmus acuminatus, Nannochloropsis sp., Anabaena sp., Chlorella sp. and Oscillatoria sp., isolated from fresh and marine water resources of southern Pakistan for biodiesel production and the GC-MS/MS analysis of their fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs). RESULTS: Growth rate, biomass productivity and oil content of each algal species have been investigated under autotrophic condition. Biodiesel was produced from algal oil by acid catalyzed transesterification reaction and resulting fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) content was analyzed by GC/MS. Fatty acid profiling of the biodiesel, obtained from various microalgal oils showed high content of C-16:0, C-18:0, cis-Delta9C-18:1, cis-Delta11C-18:1 (except Scenedesmus quadricauda) and 10-hydroxyoctadecanoic (except Scenedesmus acuminatus). Absolute amount of C-14:0, C-16:0 and C-18:0 by a validated GC-MS/MS method were found to be 1.5-1.7, 15.0-42.5 and 4.2-18.4 mg/g, respectively, in biodiesel obtained from various microalgal oils. Biodiesel was also characterized in terms of cetane number, kinematic viscosity, density and higher heating value and compared with the standard values. CONCLUSION: Six microalgae of local origin were screened for biodiesel production. A method for absolute quantification of three important saturated fatty acid methyl esters (C-14, C-16 and C-18) by gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS), using multiple reactions monitoring (MRM) mode, was employed for the identification and quantification of biodiesels obtained from various microalgal oils. The results suggested that locally found microalgae can be sustainably harvested for the production of biodiesel. This offers the tremendous economic opportunity for an energy-deficient nation.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Water, Fat, Liquid, Ester, Saturated fat, Biodiesel, Biodiesel production


Rapeseed oil methyl ester (RME) and (bio)ethylene are converted into biofuel with an evenly rising boiling point curve, which fulfills the strict boiling specifications prescribed by the fuel standard EN 590 for modern (petro)diesel engines. Catalyzed by a Pd/Ru system, RME undergoes isomerizing metathesis in a stream of ethylene gas, leading to a defined olefin, monoester, and diester blend. This innovative refining concept requires negligible energy input (60°C) and no solvents and does not produce waste. It demonstrates that the pressing challenge of increasing the fraction of renewables in engine fuel may be addressed purely chemically rather than by motor engineering.

Concepts: Acetic acid, Carboxylic acid, Ester, Distillation, Methyl acetate, Internal combustion engine, Biodiesel, Banana


Recent energy security strategies, investment opportunities and energy policies have led to an escalation in biofuel consumption at the expenses of food crops and pastureland. To evaluate the important impacts of biofuels on food security, the food-energy nexus needs to be investigated in the context of its linkages with the overall human appropriation of land and water resources. Here we provide a global assessment of biofuel crop production, reconstruct global patterns of biofuel crop/oil trade and determine the associated displacement of water and land use. We find that bioethanol is mostly produced with domestic crops while 36% of biodiesel consumption relies on international trade, mainly from Southeast Asia. Altogether, biofuels rely on about 2-3% of the global water and land used for agriculture, which could feed about 30% of the malnourished population. We evaluate the food-energy tradeoff and the impact an increased reliance on biofuel would have on the number of people the planet can feed.

Concepts: Human, Agriculture, Poverty, Ethanol, Food security, Biofuel, World population, Biodiesel


Jatropha curcas seeds are rich in oil and protein. The oil is used for biodiesel production. Jatropha seed cake (JSC) obtained after oil extraction is rich in protein; however, it is toxic (phorbol esters content 1.3 mg/g) and consists of 50-60% shells, which are indigestible. The principle of isoelectric precipitation was used to obtain Jatropha protein isolate (JPI) from JSC and it was detoxified (DJPI). Carp (n = 45, 20.3 ± 0.13 g) were randomly distributed into five groups with three replicates and for 12-week fed iso-nitrogenous diets (crude protein 38%): Control [fishmeal (FM)-based protein]; J(50) and J(75) (50% and 75% of FM protein replaced by DJPI); S(50) and S(75) (50% and 75% of FM protein replaced by soy protein isolate). Growth performance and nutrient utilisation parameters were highest in S(75) group and not significantly different to those in J(50) and S(50) groups but were significantly higher than those for all other groups. Similar trend was observed for protein and energy digestibilities of experimental diets, whereas opposite trend was observed for the feed to gain ratio. Activities of intestinal digestive enzymes did not different significantly between the five groups. In conclusion, DJPI is a good quality protein source for carp.

Concepts: Soybean, Koi, Common carp, Carp, Cyprinidae, Cyprinus, Jatropha, Biodiesel


A 48-year-old man was seen in the Wills Eye Institute emergency room for pain and decreased vision after having a diesel engine fuel cylinder explosion in his face. Clinical examination showed proptosis, decreased extraocular motility, and increased intraocular pressure; CT scan imaging revealed hypodense areas within the orbit. His orbital signs rapidly worsened despite aggressive antibiotics, steroids, and surgical intervention. Two orbitotomies revealed diesel fuel infiltration of the intraconal and extraconal spaces that proved impossible to evacuate completely. The patient ended up losing vision from an intense chemical cellulitis with subsequent orbital compartment syndrome and optic neuropathy. This case highlights the severity of orbital chemical injuries and their variable prognoses despite aggressive management.

Concepts: Surgery, Petroleum, Ophthalmology, Internal combustion engine, Diesel fuel, Diesel engine, Biodiesel, Rudolf Diesel


The present work demonstrates the application of a hydrodynamic cavitation reactor for the synthesis of biodiesel with used frying oil as a feedstock. The synthesis involved the transesterification of used frying oil (UFO) with methanol in the presence of potassium hydroxide as a catalyst. The effect of geometry and upstream pressure of a cavitating orifice plate on the rate of transesterification reaction has been studied. It is observed that the micro level turbulence created by hydrodynamic cavitation somewhat overcomes the mass transfer limitations for triphasic transesterification reaction. The significant effects of upstream pressure on the rate of formation of methyl esters have been seen. It has been observed that flow geometry of orifice plate plays a crucial role in process intensification. With an optimized plate geometry of 2mm hole diameter and 25 holes, more than 95% of triglycerides have been converted to methyl esters in 10 min of reaction time with cavitational yield of 1.28 × 10(-3) (Grams of methyl esters produced per Joule of energy supplied). The potential of UFO to produce good quality methyl esters has been demonstrated.

Concepts: Time, Alcohol, Fluid dynamics, Ester, Chemical engineering, Potassium hydroxide, Biodiesel, Transesterification


BACKGROUND: One of the major areas for increasing the use of renewable energy is in traffic fuels e.g. bio-based fuels in diesel engines especially in commuter traffic. Exhaust emissions from fossil diesel fuelled engines are known to cause adverse effects on human health, but there is very limited information available on how the new renewable fuels may change the harmfulness of the emissions, especially particles (PM). We evaluated the PM emissions from a heavy-duty EURO IV diesel engine powered by three different fuels; the toxicological properties of the emitted PM were investigated. Conventional diesel fuel (EN590) and two biodiesels were used - rapeseed methyl ester (RME, EN14214) and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) either as such or as 30% blends with EN590. EN590 and 100% HVO were also operated with or without an oxidative catalyst (DOC + POC). A bus powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) was included for comparison with the liquid fuels. However, the results from CNG powered bus cannot be directly compared to the other situations in this study. RESULTS: High volume PMsamples were collected on PTFE filters from a constant volume dilution tunnel. The PM mass emission with HVO was smaller and with RME larger than that with EN590, but both biofuels produced lower PAH contents in emission PM. The DOC + POC catalyst greatly reduced the PM emission and PAH content in PM with both HVO and EN590. Dose-dependent TNFalpha and MIP-2 responses to all PM samples were mostly at the low or moderate level after 24-hour exposure in a mouse macrophage cell line RAW 264.7. Emission PM from situations with the smallest mass emissions (HVO + cat and CNG) displayed the strongest potency in MIP-2 production. The catalyst slightly decreased the PM-induced TNFalpha responses and somewhat increased the MIP-2 responses with HVO fuel. Emission PM with EN590 and with 30% HVO blended in EN590 induced the strongest genotoxic responses, which were significantly greater than those with EN590 + cat or 100% HVO. The emission PM sample from the CNG bus possessed the weakest genotoxic potency but had the strongest oxidative potency of all the fuel and catalyst combinations. The use of 100% HVO fuel had slightly weaker and 100% RME somewhat stronger emission PM induced ROS production, when compared to EN590. CONCLUSIONS: The harmfulness of the exhaust emissions from vehicle engines cannot be determined merely on basis of the emitted PM mass. The study conditions and the engine type significantly affect the toxicity of the emitted particles. The selected fuels and DOC + POC catalyst affected the PM emission from the heavy EURO IV engine both qualitative and quantitative ways, which influenced their toxicological characteristics. The plain HVO fuel performed very well in emission reduction and in lowering the overall toxicity of emitted PM, but the 30% blend of HVO in EN590 was no better in this respect than the plain EN590. The HVO with a DOC + POC catalyst in the EURO IV engine, performed best with regard to changes in exhaust emissions. However some of the toxicological parameters were significantly increased even with these low emissions.

Concepts: Gasoline, Petroleum, Natural gas, Internal combustion engine, Diesel fuel, Diesel engine, Biodiesel, Rudolf Diesel


Honeybees utilise floral odours when foraging for flowers; we investigated whether diesel exhaust pollution could interrupt these floral odour stimuli. A synthetic blend of eight floral chemicals, identified from oilseed rape, was exposed to diesel exhaust pollution. Within one minute of exposure the abundances of four of the chemicals were significantly lowered, with two components rendered undetectable. Honeybees were trained to recognise the full synthetic odour mix; altering the blend, by removing the two chemicals rendered undetectable, significantly reduced the ability of the trained honeybees to recognize the altered odour. Furthermore, we found that at environmentally relevant levels the mono-nitrogen oxide (NOx) fraction of the exhaust gases was a key facilitator of this odour degradation. Such changes in recognition may impact upon a honeybee’s foraging efficiency and therefore the pollination services that they provide.

Concepts: Insect, Catalytic converter, Nitrogen, Pollination, Flower, Bumblebee, Gases, Biodiesel


The simultaneous production of high quality biodiesel and glycerin was realized by a bench-scale process using expanded-bed reactors packed with cation- and anion-exchange resins. The mixed-solution of crude Jatropha oil and methanol at a stoichiometric molar ratio was supplied to the process. The free fatty acid as well as triglyceride was completely converted to biodiesel. All by-products were adsorbed on the resin and the effluent from the process was free from them. The effluent fully met the international biodiesel standard specifications without any downstream purification processes except for removing methanol. The glycerin adsorbed on the resin was completely recovered as a transparent methanol solution during regeneration of the resin.

Concepts: Fatty acid, Hydrogen, Ethanol, Petroleum, Triglyceride, Chemical engineering, Glycerol, Biodiesel