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Keywords:

  • biodiesel production;
  • fatty acid methyl esters;
  • transesterification;
  • lipase catalysis;
  • process evaluation

ABSTRACT

Callera™ Trans L, a liquid formulation of Thermomyces lanuginosus lipase, has recently shown great promise as a cost-efficient catalyst for methanolysis of triglyceride substrates, specifically in the BioFAME process. However, identifying the right combination of temperature and concentrations of catalyst, water and methanol to realize the full potential of the reaction system has remained a challenge. This study presents an investigation of the impact of temperature, enzyme and water concentration on the reaction, as well as the effect of methanol feed rate for the conversion of rapeseed oil in a fed-batch reaction system. It was observed that the reaction can be divided into two distinct parts. The first part of the reaction, during which primarily tri- and diglycerides are converted, proceeded at a high rate and thus required a high rate of methanol supply. The second part of the reaction, where the remaining di- and monoglycerides are converted, proceeded at a much lower rate. Consequently, it is necessary to reduce the methanol feed rate during the latter part of the reaction to avoid inhibition or even inactivation of the enzyme. Since the second part of the reaction occupied most of the 24-h reaction time, it was concluded that this is the part of the process where further development efforts should be targeted. This point was demonstrated by partially substituting the catalyst with a lipase with a different specificity, which enhanced the performance during the second phase of the reaction. Biotechnol. Bioeng. 2014;111: 2446–2453. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.