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Production of ethyl ester from crude palm oil by two-step reaction using continuous microwave system

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Author(s): Kittiphoom Suppalakpanya | Sukritthira Ratanawilai | Ruamporn Nikhom | Chakrit Tongurai

Journal: Songklanakarin Journal of Science and Technology
ISSN 0125-3395

Volume: 33;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 79;
Date: 2011;
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Keywords: microwave | biodiesel | ethanol | crude palm oil

ABSTRACT
The esterification of free fatty acids (FFA) in vegetable oils with alcohol using an acid catalyst is a promising methodto convert FFA into valuable ester and obtain a FFA-free oil that can be further transesterified using alkali bases. In thiswork, the direct esterification reaction of FFA in crude palm oil to ethyl ester by continuous microwave was studied and theeffects of the main variables involved in the process, amount of catalyst, reaction time and the molar ratio oil/ alcohol, wereanalyzed. The optimum condition for the continuous esterification process was carried out with a molar ratio of oil to ethanol1:6, using 1.25%wt of H2SO4/oil as a catalyst, microwave power of 78 W and a reaction time 90 min. This esterification processshows that the amount of FFA was reduced from 7.5%wt to values around 1.4 %wt. Similar results were obtained followingconventional heating at 70°C, but only after a reaction time of 240 min. The esterified crude palm oil is suitable to perform thetransesterification process. Transesterification of the esterified palm oil has been accomplished with a molar ratio of oil toethanol of 1:8.5, 2.5%wt of KOH as a catalyst, a microwave power of 78 W, and a reaction time of 7 min. In addition, theproblem of glycerin separation was solved by mixing 10%wt of pure glycerin into the ethyl ester to induce the glycerin fromthe reaction to separated. This two-step esterification and transesterification process provided a yield of 78%wt with anester content of 97.4%wt. The final ethyl ester product met with the specifications stipulated by ASTM D6751-02.
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