Traditionally many soaps and detergents were originally produced from fatty acids and despite the gradual transition to petrochemical-based production routes, their organic oil basis still contributes to a major proportion to their production. This route can be classified as a sort white-based chemical, but due to its historical and continued use cannot be associated with any CO2 reduction potential. Conversion of fatty acids to biolubricants could present significant savings. In the EU (2006), there were more than 450 different lubricants in excess of 4.6Mton production. Each grade requires a unique compositional formulation for the specific
Table 12.6 Fatty acid to biolubricant production energy.
Recent improvement processa)
Overall conversion (ton esters/ton fatty acids)
Total energy (GJ ton-1)
Seed-based Fruit-based Seed-based Fruit-based
a) Also produces PDO: 53.9kgton 1 for seed-based, 55.5kgton 1 for fruit-based.
application. In an integrated biorefinery system, bioethanol could be used as an alternative transesterification reactant. In this case, fatty acid ethyl ester (FAEE) would be produced instead of fatty acid methyl ester (FAME). Despite slightly different physical and chemical properties, FAEE could be applied as a base formulation for lubricants. Following the stoichiometric ratio, 0.142 g/g ethanol would be needed for the conversion which is more than the fossil fuel derived methanol which would be avoided. Despite the obvious renewable nature of bioethanol, in a full life cycle assessment (LCA (see Chapter 1- ), the production energy and associate CO2 emissions of the bioethanol route must be taken into account. Furthermore, according to a recent study, several process improvements associated with fatty acid processing can reduce the process energy requirements -25, 26], Table 12.6 lists the conversion rate and process energy costs of FAEE for the main oil crop types.
Considering that the total process energy of FAEE is 5-7 GJ ton-1 and the standard production of lubricants is 50-65 GJ ton-1- a high CO- savings potential is foreseeable.
As research in the field of white biotechnology continues to advance, more product examples of possible synthetic routes for fatty acids present themselves. While still in their infancy of development, long chain-based polymers and their relative monomers are being studied. Long chain lactams used to produce various polyamides (PA612, PA1010, PA12, etc.) present a grand potential in reducing the associated CO2 production cost when based upon organic fatty acids [27, 28]. Biodiesel has a maximum potential to save 3.2-on CO -eqton-1 whereby lactams range between 4-7 ton CO2eqton-1 .
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