In an effort to reduce the production cost of biodiesel, we previously described an approach termed “in situ transesterification” wherein the transesterification of a vegetable oil occurred directly in its raw agricultural material. In that method, substantial quantities of reagents were required to achieve high-efficiency transesterification. Here we report that by drying the substrate a marked reduction in the reagent requirements was achieved. Reaction conditions for maximum fatty acid methyl ester (FAME) production were identified using statistical experimental design methods. In 16-h reactions with 5 g of flakes (2.6% moisture) and 18 mL of 0.10 N NaOH in methanol, 97% theoretical maximum transesterification was achieved. For dry flakes, optimal transesterification was achieved in 10 h in reactions containing 5 g of flakes and 12 mL of 0.10 N NaOH in methanol. This represented a 60% reduction in methanol and a 56% reduction in NaOH use compared with the transesterification of full-moisture flakes. Under these conditions the degree of transesterification was 100% of the theoretical maximum. The transesterification of 20 kg of flakes with a moisture content of 0.8% was conducted under optimal reaction conditions. Both triacylglycerols (TAG) and phosphoacylglycerols (PL) were transesterified to high degrees, with an overall efficiency of 97.3% of the maximum theoretical efficiency. PL were not detected in the flakes following transesterification, and the amount of remaining unreacted TAG was only 1.0% of that input. Following washes with water, 0.5 M NaCl, and dilute NaOH, the recovered FAME met the ASTM specifications for biodiesel. The tocopherol levels of the FAME exceeded by 76% those of a representative commercial biodiesel. Soy flakes retained 97% of their protein following in situ transesterification.
BiodieselFats and oils utilizationFatty acid esterIn situ transesterificationTransesterification