Comparative Techno-economic Assessment of Conventional and Supercritical Transesterification Processes in Microalgal Biodiesel Production

Author : Alcaide, Alexander Yee
Major Adviser : Bataller, Butch G.
Committee Members : Gatdula, Kristel M.; Alcantara, Jerico Z.
Year : 2021
Month : June
Type : Thesis
Degree: BS
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In this study, supercritical biodiesel production was considered to address the drawbacks posed by catalysts in conventional transesterification. Material and energy balances and profitability measures were performed to evaluate and compare the technical and financial aspects of the TE processes. Despite its intensive energy consumption, the supercritical process showed promising results in terms of % FAME recovery (99.71%), biodiesel purity (99.82%), and productivity (10,014 tons/year). It was found that the capital investment and production costs in the conventional process are lower by PHP 9 million and 175 million, respectively, because of the lesser number and size of equipment, low alcohol-to-oil molar ratio, and low energy consumption. Through profitability measures, it was found that, at the same biodiesel selling price (PHP 75/kg), the conventional process is profitable, whereas the supercritical process is not. It was determined that the selling price of biodiesel from supercritical process must be above PHP 89.50/kg to become profitable, and the selling price in which the process can become attractive for investment is PHP 92/kg. Sensitivity analysis was performed by considering only the individual effect of a parameter. It was found that the most influential parameter on the ROI of both processes is the biodiesel selling price followed by the triolein price. Strategies such as slightly increasing the biodiesel selling price, procuring cheaper supplies of triolein, or developing an oil extraction facility may be considered to improve their profitability.

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