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Biodiesel Fuel and Polyatomic Alcohols from Plant Raw Materials


New Syntheses and Transformations of Plant Raw Materials in Supercritical Solvents. Production of Biodiesel and Polyatomic Alcohols

Tech Area / Field

  • CHE-IND/Industrial Chemistry and Chemical Process Engineering/Chemistry
  • CHE-SYN/Basic and Synthetic Chemistry/Chemistry

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
Boreskov Institute of Catalysis, Russia, Novosibirsk reg., Akademgorodok

Supporting institutes

  • Tver Technical University, Russia, Tver reg., Tver


  • Tohoku University / WPI Advanced Institute for Materials Research, Japan, Sendai\nPukyong National University, Korea, Busan\nMcGill University / Department of Chemistry, Canada, QC, Montreal\nSeoul National University / School of Chemical and Biological Engineering, Korea, Seoul\nKRICT - Korea Research Institute of Chemical Technology, Korea, Yusong-gu\nKumamoto University, Japan, Kumamoto\nUniversity of Michigan / Colledge of Engeneering / Department of Chemical Engineering, USA, MI, Ann Arbor\nUniversity of Saskatchewan / Department of Chemical Engineering, Canada, SK, Saskatoon\nUniversité de Provence / Laboratoire de Chimie Provence
  • , France, Marseille

Project summary

The project goal is to perform fundamental and applied studies aimed at acquiring new knowledge in the course of chemical transformations of selected organic substances of plant origin in supercritical fluids (solvents), and to develop on the basis of the knowledge obtained new methods and technologies for the synthesis of biodiesel fuel and polyatomic alcohols. Vegetable oils, animal fats, and their production wastes are selected as the subject of research on biodiesel production. Biomass is selected for the studies of the synthesis of polyatomic alcohols (xylite, sorbitol).

Biodiesel is an alternative ecologically sound fuel for various power plant applications. It is produced by the reaction of trans-esterification (or esterification) of vegetable oils or animal fats with lower alcohols. The reaction yields fatty acid esters or biodiesel. The known methods for biodiesel production are based on the treatment of vegetable oils by alcohols in the presence of alkalis or acids which act as catalysts. However, the alkali-catalyzed trans-esterification is sensitive to the presence of moisture and free fatty acids in the raw material. Disadvantage of the acid-catalysized trans-esterification of oils consists in extremely low reaction rate. Moreover, to meet biodiesel quality requirements, the stages of fatty acid esters separation, washing and drying are needed, that results in huge amount of wastes.

In order to improve the process productivity, selectivity, waste control, and, consequently, bio-diesel cost efficiency, it is proposed to perform the synthesis of biodiesel from vegetable oils, animal fats and their production wastes with the use of supercritical solvents both in the absence and presence of heterogeneous catalysts. The reactions of oil and fat trans-esterification are suggested to perform in the closed-type (reactor-autoclave) and flow reactors. Lower alcohols (methanol, propanol, ethanol), and their mixtures with water and saturated and unsaturated hydrocarbons will be studied as the supercritical solvents-fluids. Among vegetable oils, it is planned to study soybean, cotton-seed, colza, etc., production waste of edible vegetable oils, inedible vegetable oils; among fats – fish oil, animal fat and respective production wastes. The effect of the process parameters, solvent type, oil(fat)/solvent ratio on the conversion and fatty acid esters (biodiesel) yield will be studied. It is suggested to perform the reactions of oil and fat trans-esterification in the presence of specially developed heterogeneous catalysts and to study their influence on the process parameters and biodiesel characteristics. Kinetic studies of trans-esterification of the selected raw materials into biodiesel, calculation and optimization of parameters of a pilot plant for biodisel synthesis will be performed;

The products of biomass hydrolysis (cellobiose, glucosil-erythrose, glucose, fructose, erythrose) can be used as a raw material for the production of polyatomic alcohols (sorbitol, xylite, erythrite and their isomers; glycerin, ethylene glycol) by catalytic hydrogenolysis in hydrogen flow. Disadvantages of the known process consist in low reaction rates (both hydrolysis and hydrogenolyis), and necessity to separate the products from homogeneous catalyst. In order to accelerate the reactions, improve hydrogen solubility in the reaction mixture, promote process productivity and selectivity towards the target products, exclude homogeneous catalyst, it is suggested to perform the first and second process stages in supercritical water. The single-step process for the production of polyatomic alcohols from biomass in supercritical water is under consideration. In this process, hydrogen is introduced into reaction mixture at the hydrolysis stage, and hydrolysis and hydrogenolysis proceed simultaneously.

Wood and cellulose are suggested for use as the biomass. The influence of the process parameters, hydrogen and heterogeneous catalyst on the yield of target products will be studied. It is planned to perform detailed kinetic studies of the reactions of biomass hydrolysis and hydrolyzed biomass hydrogenolysis, to calculate and optimize the parameters of a setup for polyatomic alcohol synthesis.

Laboratory experiments, mathematical modeling, thermodynamic and kinetic calculations in the framework of fundamental project tasks will constitute the main tools in this project part and form basis for the development of new methods and technologies. The results of calculation and modeling will help to specify the optimum process conditions.

For approbation of the suggested process and technology, the synthesis of biodiesel fuel from plant materials in the presence of supercritical solvent will be performed in a pilot setup of 30 kg/h productivity.

The project participants possess extensive experience in R&D works and successful cooperation with other organizations in Russia and abroad, aimed at the solving of stated tasks. Only in recent years, the author team published more than 50 scientific articles on the project-related problems in leading national and international journals and received tens RF patents. They created and put into operation the first in Russia stationary SCWO plant intended for the oxidation and decomposition of a wide rage of organic compounds and energetic materials.

The project clearly meets the ISTC goals and objectives; it is focused on solving Russian and international scientific-technical problems, promotes international integration of scientists and engineers in this area. The role of foreign collaborators in the project is of key importance, because they, first, act as experts, and, second, possess experience and knowledge which will facilitate efficient solving of the stated project tasks.


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ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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