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Computational simulation of biodiesel production integrated to extractive distillation of ethanol with glycerol as solvent

Grant number: 18/13207-6
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): September 01, 2018
Effective date (End): August 31, 2020
Field of knowledge:Agronomical Sciences - Food Science and Technology
Principal Investigator:Antonio José de Almeida Meirelles
Grantee:Daniel Gonçalves
Home Institution: Faculdade de Engenharia de Alimentos (FEA). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas, SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:16/10636-8 - From the cell factory to the Biodiesel-Bioethanol integrated biorefinery: a systems approach applied to complex problems in micro and macroscales, AP.BIOEN.TEM


The environmental impact caused by the extensive use of fossil fuels coupled with their future scarcity has driven the study of renewable energy sources. Biofuels are produced from waste materials, herbaceous biomass and agricultural crops, being bioethanol and biodiesel the main ones. Methanol is the predominant alcohol used in the world for the production of biodiesel, due to its low cost, but in Brazil the availability of raw material and the technology developed allows the economically viable production of ethanol by fermentative processes of the sugarcane juice, making the ethylic biodiesel a potential product. The production of biodiesel by the ethanol route presents some difficulties related to the phase separation, due to the restriction of mutual solubility between the vegetable oil and ethanol, besides problems related to the purification stages, due to the greater presence of ethanol in both phases and the formation of a homogeneous azeotropic point between ethanol and water, which makes impossible the dehydration of excess ethanol by conventional distillation. One of the possibilities for the production of anhydrous ethanol is the extractive distillation, which a solvent of low volatility is employed to modify the relative volatility between ethanol and water. Glycols meet this specification, being ethylene glycol the most used industrially. One of the products of the transesterification reaction of triacylglycerols and ethanol for the production of biodiesel is glycerol and, therefore, this by-product could be used as solvent in the extractive distillation for dehydration of ethanol, ensuring its reuse in the same industrial unit. Some problems are related to the direct use of residual glycerol, such as its purity, mainly due to the presence of ions from the catalyst, which associated to the use of high temperatures in the distillation column, can accelerate its degradation. The production of biodiesel by enzymatic route, in turn, is the focus of one of the research lines of the thematic project. This byproduct is expected to have fewer contaminants, but should still be characterized and tested for its thermal stability. On the other hand, the integration of the biodiesel and bioethanol producing units needs to be carefully analyzed: the use of residual glycerol for dehydration of the ethanol stream produced from the 1G-2G unit will involve the dimensioning of larger columns. The integration between the ethanol recycle from the transesterification reactor (by conventional basic catalysis or by enzymatic route), which must be purified, and the anhydrous ethanol stream from the 1G-2G sector should be studied. All these aspects are still unpublished in the literature. The focus of the work includes thus both the standalone ethylic biodiesel unit and the integrated biodiesel-bioethanol biorefinery. The methodology of retro-techno-economic analysis, used systematically in the thematic project, will be applied in all of these cases. (AU)