Submitted to: Fuel Processing Technology
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: October 12, 2004
Publication Date: June 1, 2005
Citation: Haas, M.J. 2005. Improving the economics of biodiesel production through the use of low value lipids as feedstocks: vegetable oil soapstock. Fuel Processing Technology. 86:1087-1096. Technical Abstract: Semi-refined and refined vegetable oils are the predominant feedstocks for the production of biodiesel. However, their relatively high costs renders the resulting fuels unable to compete with petroleum-derived fuel. We have investigated the production of fatty acid methyl esters (biodiesel) from soapstock, a byproduct of edible oil refining that is substantially less expensive than edible grade refined oils. Multiple approaches were taken in search of a route to the production of fatty acid methyl esters from soybean soapstock. The most effective method involved the complete saponification of the soapstock, followed by acidulation using methods similar to those presently employed in industry. This resulted in an acid oil with a free fatty acid content greater than 90%. These fatty acids were efficiently converted to methyl esters by acid-catalyzed esterification. The fatty acid composition of the resulting ester product reflected that of soy soapstock, and was largely similar to that of soybean oil. Following a simple washing protocol, this preparation met the established specifications for biodiesel of the American Society for Testing and Materials. Engine emissions and performance during operation on soy soapstock biodiesel were comparable to those on biodiesel from soy oil. An economic analysis suggested that the production cost of soapstock biodiesel would be approximately US$ 0.41/1, a 25% reduction relative to the estimated cost of biodiesel produced from soy oil.