Biodiesel pp 27-56 | Cite as

Biodiesel Production Systems: Operation, Process Control and Troubleshooting

  • Nídia S. CaetanoEmail author
  • Vera Ribeiro
  • Leonardo Ribeiro
  • Andresa Baptista
  • Joaquim Monteiro
Part of the Biofuel and Biorefinery Technologies book series (BBT, volume 8)


Biodiesel is a renewable fuel, produced from waste cooking oils, animal fats, vegetable and algae oils. Its use is intended to replace diesel in conventional diesel engines, causing lower polluting emissions. To produce biodiesel, certain details must be carefully considered, namely feedstock composition, reaction parameters, process conditions, process equipment, purification processes, analysis of biodiesel properties, troubleshooting and storage. In what concerns feedstock composition, parameters such as acidity, insolubles, moisture, phospholipids, sulphur, polymerized triglycerides, impurities, etc., must be determined to decide about the pretreatment steps (washing, degumming, filtration, bleaching, deodorization, among others) to be implemented, and the need for esterification prior to transesterification. In what concerns the selection of process equipment some questions arise, namely the materials, heating methods and thermal insulation to use, alternatives to enhance the reaction, need for neutralization and process control system. The purification process includes biodiesel purification, methanol recovery and glycerine valorisation. The excess methanol must be recovered from biodiesel and glycerine by distillation and reused in the process while glycerine can be further purified and sold for application from the chemical to the pharmaceutical industry. The quality of biodiesel must be certified by the analyses performed according to the standards (e.g. EN 14214, ASTM D6751). Troubleshooting is needed in biodiesel production during start-up and under steady production of a facility; problems may arise regarding quality and appearance of biodiesel, reaction conditions, methanol removal, stirring in reactors, glycerine and biodiesel separation, as well as excess of water and other feedstock impurities. Biodiesel can be stored for up to 6 months; its storage poses challenges concerning degradation by contact with air and light, which cause oxidation. Some additives could extend the lifespan of biodiesel by increasing oxidation stability; other technique is the fractionation to remove the undesired fatty acid methyl ester (FAME).


Biodiesel Operation Process control Troubleshooting 



European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association


American Society for Testing and Materials


XX% (v/v) Biodiesel


Carbon Dioxide


Carbon Monoxide


German Institute for Standardization


European Normalization


European Union


Fatty Acid Methyl Ester


Free Fatty Acid




High-Frequency Reciprocating Rig


International Organization for Standardization


Sodium Hydroxide


Nitrogen Oxides


Rapeseed Oil Methyl Ester


Sulphur Dioxide



This work was partially supported by the project POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006939 (Laboratory for Process Engineering, Environment, Biotechnology and Energy—UID/EQU/00511/2013) funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), through COMPETE2020—Programa Operacional Competitividade e Internacionalização (POCI) and by the national funds, through FCT—Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nídia S. Caetano
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Vera Ribeiro
    • 1
  • Leonardo Ribeiro
    • 1
  • Andresa Baptista
    • 1
  • Joaquim Monteiro
    • 1
  1. 1.ISEP – School of Engineering, P.Porto – Polytechnic of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.LEPABE – Laboratory for Process Engineering, Environment, Biotechnology and EnergyFaculty of Engineering, University of Porto (FEUP)PortoPortugal

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