Biodiesel from Plant Oil and Waste Cooking Oil

  • Armen B. Avagyan
  • Bhaskar Singh


Vegetable oil derived from oilseed plantations or crops is the most commonly used feedstock for the production of biodiesel. These oils, primarily including those obtained from rapeseed, sunflower, and palm, are transesterified with methanol in the presence of an alkaline catalyst to reduce their viscosity so that their fuel properties are comparable to those of diesel fuel. Because the techno-economic viability and overall sustainability of advanced biofuels produced from algae or lignocellulosic biomass are yet to be proved, the oilseed plants are likely to dominate the scene in the near future as well. Utilization of edible oils grown on agricultural land has led to the infamous “food versus fuel” dilemma. Developing nations such as India that rely heavily on imported edible vegetable oil cannot afford to divert their agrarian land/produce toward biodiesel production. National policy, accordingly, has restricted the development of biodiesel feedstock plantations (nonedible oilseed-bearing plants) to wastelands or marginal lands. However, large-scale alteration of the ecologically diverse landscape should be avoided at any cost as that could negate the positive attributes of biodiesel production. The energy return on energy investment (and, more recently, exergy) has become a vital sustainability indicator for alternative sources of energy. A wide range of energy return values for biodiesel production has been reported in the literature, but there is a general sense of agreement of its sustainability for nonedible plant oil-based biodiesel production. The high production cost of biodiesel is a significant impediment for its successful commercialization. The high cost of production is mainly attributed to the cost of feedstock (70–80%), and as a result, there is a growing need for diversion of recycled vegetable oil toward biodiesel production. This concern mainly holds true for China where almost the entire biodiesel production is derived from waste cooking oil. A few techno-economic studies have also highlighted the impact of the choice of catalyst on the overall capital investment and manufacturing cost. The catalyst affects the process in terms of the degree of conversion of the feed to biodiesel and the downstream purification requirements. Efficient heterogeneous catalysts appear to be economically and environmentally more appealing than their homogeneous counterparts. Biodiesel is safer than diesel and offers easy handling and transport options. Depending on the fatty acid profile of the feedstock used, the long-term storage of biodiesel can be problematic. However, the stability of biodiesel can sometimes be improved using blending, winterization, and antioxidant additives. Despite the general belief in biodiesel as a sustainable fuel, life cycle assessment studies are needed to account for the direct and indirect impacts that often are feedstock- and location specific. Although there are certain deterrents to the mass-scale production of biodiesel, there are numerous opportunities to address the associated concerns.


Fossil fuels Climate change Renewable energy Biodiesel Vegetable oil Biofuel policy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Armen B. Avagyan
    • 1
  • Bhaskar Singh
    • 2
  1. 1.President and Sole FounderR&I Center of Photosynthesizing OrganismYerevanArmenia
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesCentral University of JharkhandRanchiIndia

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