Simulation study on biodiesel production by reactive distillation with methanol at high pressure and temperature: Impact on costs and pollutant emissions
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Recently, a two-step biodiesel production process which uses short-chain alcohols at supercritical conditions has been proposed. In addition, literature reports suggest that the COSMO-SAC thermodynamic model is a suitable alternative for the prediction of VLE for supercritical methanol/methyl esters mixtures. Thus, in this work a simulation study of the two-step supercritical method for the production of biodiesel is performed by using the COSMO-SAC model. Further, alternative system configurations for biodiesel production based on reactive distillation are proposed and their total emissions are compared to those corresponding to the conventional catalytic method. The study demonstrates the benefits of using reactive distillation for the esterification step and discusses the environmental impact of the supercritical production process. It has been found that the intensified alternatives reduce the emissions considerably and, through the reuse of the excess methanol, the emissions level of the supercritical process can be compared to those of the catalytic method. 2013 Elsevier Ltd.