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WIREs Energy Environ.
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Status and prospects of supercritical alcohol transesterification for biodiesel production

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The growth in the global fuel consumption is expected to continue unabated. At the same time, nations around the globe are trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the transportation sector. These factors have led researchers to look for alternative sources of fuels. Biodiesel is one such alternative fuel that can complement or displace petroleum diesel with a potentially lower carbon footprint fuel, depending upon the feedstock and the production process. Biodiesel refers to the monoalkyl esters derived from a wide range of raw materials, like vegetable oils, animal fats, and algae lipids. Conventionally, biodiesel is produced by transesterification with the help of an acid, base or enzyme catalyst. Certain drawbacks, like slow reaction times, soap formation and intense pre‐ and post‐processing, are associated with conventional transesterification, ultimately leading to increased capital and production costs. Supercritical transesterification is a relatively new technique promising to provide advantages, such as faster reaction times, catalyst‐free operation, and higher purity of final product, over the conventional transesterification method. The most common feedstocks are virgin and used edible oils from crops like soybean, rapeseed, and African palm. There is an increasing interest in algae to avoid the utilization of food resources for energy production. Using algae as a lipid source, a more sustainable biodiesel production process could be developed to achieve large‐scale production capabilities on a long‐term basis without adverse effects on the food chain. This paper presents a critical review of supercritical transesterification and its prospects for biodiesel production. WIREs Energy Environ 2017, 6:e252. doi: 10.1002/wene.252 This article is categorized under: Bioenergy > Science and Materials Bioenergy > Systems and Infrastructure Energy and Development > Science and Materials
Petroleum liquid fuel (non‐renewable sources) consumption in selected countries (created with data from Ref ).
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Yield of ethyl esters from whole‐cell wet algae as a function of reaction time (created with data from Ref ).
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Effect of the ethanol‐to‐algae ratio on the yield of FAEE (created with data from Ref ).
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Effect of the methanol‐to‐dry‐algae ratio on the yield of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) (created with data from Ref ).
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Flowchart of algae processing before algal lipid conversion to biodiesel.
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Process block diagram for supercritical transesterification.
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Generic phase diagram of a pure substance showing the supercritical state (created with information from Ref ).
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Three‐step transesterification reaction showing the intermediate reaction products.
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