Biodiesel production—current state of the art and challenges



Biodiesel is a clean-burning fuel produced from grease, vegetable oils, or animal fats. Biodiesel is produced by transesterification of oils with short-chain alcohols or by the esterification of fatty acids. The transesterification reaction consists of transforming triglycerides into fatty acid alkyl esters, in the presence of an alcohol, such as methanol or ethanol, and a catalyst, such as an alkali or acid, with glycerol as a byproduct. Because of diminishing petroleum reserves and the deleterious environmental consequences of exhaust gases from petroleum diesel, biodiesel has attracted attention during the past few years as a renewable and environmentally friendly fuel. Since biodiesel is made entirely from vegetable oil or animal fats, it is renewable and biodegradable. The majority of biodiesel today is produced by alkali-catalyzed transesterification with methanol, which results in a relatively short reaction time. However, the vegetable oil and alcohol must be substantially anhydrous and have a low free fatty acid content, because the presence of water or free fatty acid or both promotes soap formation. In this article, we examine different biodiesel sources (edible and nonedible), virgin oil versus waste oil, algae-based biodiesel that is gaining increasing importance, role of different catalysts including enzyme catalysts, and the current state-of-the-art in biodiesel production.


Biodiesel Edible and nonedible Algae-based Waste oil Enzymes Catalysis Lipase Photosynthesis 


  1. 1.
    Anastopoulos G, Lois E, Serdari A, Zanikos F, Stournas S, Kalligeros S (2001) Lubrication properties of low-sulfur diesel fuels in the presence of specific types of fatty acid derivatives. Energy Fuels 15:106–112CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Belafi-Bako K, Kovacs F, Gubicza L, Hancsok J (2002) Enzymatic biodiesel production from sunflower oil by Candida antarctica lipase in a solvent-free system. Biocatal Biotransformation 20(6):437–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Boocock DGB, Konar SK, Mao V, Lee C, Buligan S (1998) Fast formation of high-purity methyl esters from vegetable oils. J Am Oil Chem Soc 75(9):1167–1172CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Canakci M, Van Gerpen J (1999) Biodiesel production via acid catalysis. Trans Am Soc Agric Eng 42:1203–1210CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Cao P, Tremblay AY, Dubé MA, Morse K (2007) Effect of membrane pore size on the performance of a membrane reactor for biodiesel production. Ind Eng Chem Res 46:52–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Chang HM, Liao HF, Lee CC, Shieh CJ (2005) Optimized synthesis of lipase-catalyzed biodiesel by Novozym 435. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 80(3):307–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Chen JW, Wu WT (2003) Regeneration of immobilized Candida Antarctica lipase for transesterification. J Biosci Bioeng 92(2):231–237Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Coggon R, Vasudevan PT, Sanchez F (2007) Enzyme transesterification of olive oil and its precursors. Biocatal Biotransformation 25(2–4):135–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    De Oliveira D, Di Luccio M, Faccio C, Dalla Rosa C, Bender JP, Lipke N, Menoncin S, Amroginski C, De Oliveira JV (2004) Optimization of enzymatic production of biodiesel from castor oil in organic solvent medium. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 113–116:771–780CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Deng L, Xu XB, Haraldsson GG, Tan TW, Wang F (2005) Enzymatic production of alkyl esters through alcoholysis: A critical evaluation of lipases and alcohols. J Am Chem Soc 82(5):341–347Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Du W, Yuanyuan X, Dehua L, Jing Z (2004) Comparative study on lipase-catalyzed transformation of soybean oil for biodiesel production with different acyl acceptors. J Mol Catal B Enzym 30(3/4):125–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Dubé MA, Tremblay AY, Liu J (2007) Biodiesel production using a membrane reactor. Bioresour Technol 98:639–647CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Engel GS, Calhoun TR, Read EL, Ahn T, Mancal T, Cheng Y, Blankenship RE (2007) Fleming G.R. Evidence for wavelike energy transfer through quantum coherence in photosynthetic systems. Nature 446:782–786CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Fabbri D, Bevoni V, Notari M, Rivetti F (2007) Properties of a potential biofuel obtained from soybean oil by transmethylation with dimethyl carbonate. Fuel 86(5/6):690–697CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Ferrari R, da Silva Oliveira V, Scabio A (2005) Oxidative stability of biodiesel from soybean oil fatty acid ethyl esters. Sci Agric 62(3):291–295CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Freedman B, Pryde EH, Mounts TL (1984) Variables affecting the yields of fatty esters from transesterified vegetable oils. J Am Oil Chem Soc 61:1638–1643CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Freedman B, Butterfield RO, Pryde EH (1985) Transesterification kinetics of soybean oil. J Am Oil Chem Soc 63:1375–1380CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Fukuda H, Kondo A, Noda H (2001) Biodiesel fuel production by transesterification of oils. J Biosci Bioeng 92(5):405–416CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Haas MJ, Foglia A (2004) Alternate feedstocks and technologies for biodiesel production. In: Knothe G, Krahl J, Van Gerpen J (eds) The biodiesel handbook. AOCS Press, Illinois, USAGoogle Scholar
  20. 20.
    Hoydoncx HE, De Vos DE, Chavan SA, Jacobs PA (2004) Esterification and transesterification of renewable chemicals. Topic Catal 27(1–4):83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    Huntley M, Redalje D (2007) CO2 mitigation and renewable oil from photosynthetic microbes: a new appraisal. Mitigat Adapt Strateg Glob Change 12(4):573–608CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    Iso M, Chen BX, Eguchi M, Kudo T, Shrestha S (2001) Production of biodiesel fuel from triglycerides and alcohol using immobilized lipase. J Mol Catal B Enzym 16(1):53–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Jitputti J, Kitiyanan B, Rangsunvigit P, Bunyakiat K, Attanatho L, Jenvanitpanjakul P (2006) Transesterification of crude palm kernel oil and crude coconut by different solid catalysts. Chem Eng J 116:61–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 24.
    Karmee SK, Chadha A (2005) Preparation of biodiesel from crude oil of Pongamia pinnata. Bioresour Technol 96(13):1425–1429CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    Kim KH, Lopéz-Casillas F, Bai DH (1989) Role of reversible phosphorylation of acetyl-CoA carboxylase in long-chain fatty acid synthesis. FASEB J 3:2250–2256PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. 26.
    Kinney AJ, Clemente TE (2005) Modifying soybean oil for enhanced performance in biodiesel blends. Fuel Process Technol 86(10):1137–1147CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Lai CC, Zullaikah S, Vali SR, Ju YH (2005) Lipase-catalyzed production of biodiesel from rice bran oil. J Chem Technol Biotechnol 80(3):331–337CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. 28.
    Matsumoto T, Takahashi S, Kaieda M, Ueda M, Tanaka A, Fukuda H, Kondo A (2001) Yeast whole-cell biocatalysts constructed by intracellular overproduction of Rhizopus oryzae lipase is applicable to biodiesel fuel production. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 57(4):515–520CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    Mbaraka I, Shanks BH (2005) Design of multifunctionalized mesoporous silicas for esterification of fatty acid. J Catal 229:365–373CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 30.
    Mushrush GW, Beal EJ, Hughes, JM, Wynne, JH, Sakran, JV, Hardy, DR (2007) Biodiesel fuels: the use of soy oil as a blending stock for middle distillate petroleum fuels.
  31. 31.
    Mushrush GW, Wynne JH, Lloyd CT, Willauer HD, Beal EJ (2007) Soybean biodiesel: instability reactions. Pet Sci Technol 25(9):1163–1171CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    Mushrush GW, Wynne JH, Lloyd CT, Willauer HD, Hughes JM (2007) Instability reactions and recycled soybean-derived biodiesel fuel liquids. Energy Sources A Recovery Util Environ Eff 29(5):491–497CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    Noureddini H, Gao X, Philkana RS (2005) Immobilized Pseudomonas cepacia lipase for biodiesel fuel production from soybean oil. Bioresour Technol 96(7):769–777CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. 34.
    Polle JEW, Kanakagiri S, Jin E, Masuda T, Melis A (2002) Truncated chlorophyll antenna size of the photosystems—a practical method to improve microalgal productivity and hydrogen production in mass culture. Int J Hydrogen Energy 27(11):1257–1264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Roessler PG, Brown LM, Dunahay TG, Heacox DA, Jarvis EE, Schneider JC, Talbot SG, Zeiler KG (1994) Genetic engineering approaches for enhanced production of biodiesel fuel from microalgae. ACS Symp Ser 566:255–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. 36.
    Saka S, Sukdiana D (2001) Biodiesel fuel from rapeseed oil as prepared in supercritical methanol. Fuel 80(2):225–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. 37.
    Sanchez F, Vasudevan PT (2006) Enzyme catalyzed production of biodiesel from olive oil. Appl Biochem Biotechnol 135(1):1–14CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    Shah S, Sharma S, Gupta MN (2004) Biodiesel preparation by lipase-catalyzed transesterification of jatropha oil. Energy Fuels 18(1):154–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. 39.
    Soumanou MM, Bornscheuer UT (2003) Lipase-catalyzed alcoholysis of vegetable oils. Eur J Lipid Sci Technol 105(11):656–660CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    Soumanou MM, Bornscheuer UT (2003) Improvement in lipase catalyzed synthesis of fatty acid methyl esters from sunflower oil. Enzyme Microb Technol 33(1):97–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. 41.
    Tiwari AK, Kumar A, Raheman H (2007) Biodiesel production from jatropha oil (Jatropha curcas) with high free fatty acids: an optimized process. Biomass Bioenergy 31(8):569–575CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    Toda M, Takagaki A, Okamura M, Kondo J, Hayashi S, Domen K, Hara M (2005) Green chemistry: biodiesel made with sugar catalyst. Nature 438(7065):178CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    Wang L, Du W, Liu D, Li L, Dai N (2006) Lipase-catalyzed biodiesel production from soybean oil deodorizer distillate with absorbent present in tert-butanol system. J Mol Catal B Enzym 43(1–4):29–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. 44.
    Wang L, Yang J (2007) Transesterification of soybean oil with nano MgO in supercritical and subcritical methanol. Fuel 86(3):328–333CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. 45.
    Watanabe Y, Shimada Y, Sugihara A, Tominaga Y (2001) Enzymatic conversion of waste edible oil to biodiesel fuel in a fixed-bed bioreactor. J Am Oil Chem Soc 78:703–707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. 46.
    Xie W, Huang X (2006) Synthesis of biodiesel from soybean oil using heterogeneous KF/ZnO catalyst. Catal Lett 107(1/2):53–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. 47.
    Xu Y, Du W, Liu D, Zeng J (2003) A novel enzymatic route for biodiesel production from renewable oils in a solvent-free medium. Biotechnol Lett 25(15):1239–1241CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Xu YY, Du W, Zeng J, Liu DH (2004) Conversion of soybean oil to biodiesel fuel using lipozyme TL 1M in a solvent-free medium. Biocatal Biotransformation 22(1):45–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Society for Industrial Microbiology 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PhysicsUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

Personalised recommendations