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International Journal of Bio-Technology 
and Research (IJBTR) 

ISSN(P): 2249-6858; ISSN(E): 2249-796X 
Vol. 6, Issue 1, Feb 2016, 13-18 
© TJPRC Pvt. Ltd. 



'Department of E & IE, Basaveshwar Engineering College, Bagalkot, Karnataka, India 
2 Department of Bio-Technology, Basaveshwar Engineering College, Bagalkot, Karnataka, India 
’Department of Physics, Basaveshwar Engineering College, Bagalkot, Karnataka, India 


The fossil fuels are near extinct. There is an immediate need of reliable and sustainable alternate energy 
source as the world is facing the dangerous energy crisis. Biofuel is most promising and eco friendly alternative energy 
source. Biodiesel extraction from various vegetable non edible seeds and animal fats is gaining sufficient momentum in 
India. Sustainability of biodiesel plants and current biodiesel technologies are the issues of concern. Biodiesel plants in 
India require both monitoring and intelligence of human operators in several aspects and stages. A sustainable biodiesel 
production must utilize energy-efficient noil-conventional process stages, online calculation of Free Fatty Acid (FFA) in 
raw seed oil, continuous online monitoring of extraction stages and faster/efficient esterification process. Challenges 
and difficulties in transesterification process, and various automation issues for a biodiesel plant are presented here. In 
this paper automation method for the complete transesterification process from crude oil handling stage to the biodiesel 
production is proposed and the practical implementation is initiated. 

KEYWORDS: Transesterification, Biodiesel, Automation, Reaction Chamber, Microcontroller, Reaction Time and Rate, 
Impedance Method, Ph Method 



•Journal Publications • Research Consultancy 

Received: Dec 29, 2015; Accepted: Jan 06, 2016; Published: Jan 19, 2016; Paper Id.: IJBTRFEB20162 


Alternate energy sources are on high demand as the conventional energy is depleting and the need for the 
fuel is increasing every day. The petroleum reserves of world are reducing day by day. This is leading to the world 
energy crisis. The situation in India is indifferent from the world. Alternate, sustainable, eco-friendly, safe, non- 
polluting fuels and cost effective energy sources are the need of the hour today. Over the past decade biofuel is 
significantly gaining its importance in India. Biodiesel manufactured from vegetable oils or animal fats is excellent 
candidate to replace common diesel fuel because it is being renewable, non-toxic and often giving rise to reduced 
exhaust gas emission (lower levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions). Monoesters produced by the 
transesterification of vegetable oil with alcohol are known as biodiesel fuels [1]. Biodiesel is a biodegradable and 
renewable fuel. It contributes no net carbon dioxide or Sulfur to the atmosphere and emits less gaseous pollutants 
than normal diesel. Carbon dioxide, aromatics, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS) and partially burned or 
unburned hydrocarbons emissions are all reduced in vehicles operating on biodiesel [2]. Varieties of feed stocks 
such as vegetable, animal fats and non edible oils are tried and some are feasible and commercially viable [3]. 
Biodiesel production from neem (Azadirachta Indica) seed oil is an attractive one as the neem trees are largely 
grown in India. Contribution of neem seed oil as a source for biodiesel production has gained lots of importance in 


editor@tjprc. org 

Original Article 


Krishnamurthy Bhat, Bharati Meti & K. Chandrasekhar 

India. Shruthi et al. have discussed the prospects of neem seed, method of biodiesel production from crude neem oil. The 
fuel properties of biodiesel from neem oil including flash point-and fire point are studied and presented. The engine 
properties and emission characteristics under different biodiesel percentages were also studied and presented [4]. Honge 
(Pongamia Pinnata/ Millettia Pinnata) seed, also known as Karanja seed, is a promising feed stock for transesterification of 
biodiesel. Honge is a normal sized tree basically used to stop soil erosion by planting them along the highways, roads and 
canals. The honge seeds contain about 30-32% oil. It is well-adapted to arid zones and has many traditional uses. It is often 
used for landscaping purposes as a windbreak or for shade due to the large canopy and showy fragrant flowers. These trees 
can also be grown on waste, barren lands and arid plains. Honge trees are largely grown in North Karnataka in India. The 
plantation scope and sustainability are narrated by Vigya Kesari et al. [5]. The various aspects of Pongamia as potential 
fuel in India are discussed by Gaurav Dwivedi et al.. The study has revealed that brake specific fuel consumption and 
brake thermal efficiency of B 2 o biodiesel from Pongamia is quite comparable to diesel. The hydrocarbon and carbon 
monoxide gas emissions are quite low in case of Pongamia biodiesel as compared to diesel [6]. Various other non edible 
seed oils are also tried and researches are able to present a method of biodiesel extraction. Biodiesel production and fuel 
properties from non-edible champaca (Michelia Champaca) seed oil for use in diesel engine is explained by Siddalingappa 
et al. [7]. A work is carried out by Gajendra Kumar et al. to characterize a system for continuous transesterification of 
vegetable oil using five continuous stirring tank reactors (5CSTRs). The present work studies the experimental conditions 
such as catalyst concentration, molar ratio (oil: methanol), reaction temperature, total flow rate, mixing intensity, and the 
residence time on biodiesel production from coconut oil. The produced biodiesel is analyzed and characterized for their 
physical and fuel properties including density, viscosity, iodine volume, acid volume, cloud point, pure point, gross heat of 
combustion, and volatility. The purity and conversion of the biodiesel was analyzed by HPLC. The authors have also 
noticed that a high stirring speed increased the reaction rate, but an excessive stir speed decreased the reaction rate and 
conversion to biodiesel. Furthermore, a higher catalyst percentage significantly increased the reaction rate and production 
capacity [8]. Other seeds/plants which are either tried or tested include rapeseed, canola, soybean, oil palm, sunflower, 
peanut, flax, safflower, castor seed, tung, cotton, jojoba, jatropha, avocado, and microalgae. In most of the cases Fatty Acid 
Methyl Ester (FAME) based three stage transesterification process is followed for the production of biodiesel from the oil 
extracted from these seeds. Either the process or the post esterification characterization is the subject of extensive 

Automation Needs for Biodiesel Plant 

Sustainable biodiesel extraction is the need of hour today. Current biodiesel technologies are not sustainable as 
they require government subsidies to be profitable by the producers and to be affordable by the public. In order to reduce 
production costs and make it competitive with petroleum diesel, low cost feedstock, non- edible oils and waste cooking oils 
can be used as raw materials. Net energy benefit can be increased by using high oil yielding renewable feedstock like 
algae. Additionally, application of energy efficient non-conventional technologies such as ultrasonic and microwave may 
reduce the energy footprint of the overall biodiesel production. Main reason for non sustainability is energy intensive 
process steps involved in the production [9]. A sustainable biodiesel production must 

• Utilize energy-efficient, non-conventional process stages 

• Online calculation of FFA in raw seed oil 

• Continuous online monitoring of extraction stages and 

Impact Factor (JCC): 3.1245 

NAAS Rating: 2.75 

Automation Technique for Online Transesterification 
Process of Biodiesel Plant in India 


• Faster and efficient esterification process. 

Veera Gnaneswar Gude et al. have also suggested the process optimization using novel heating and mixing 
techniques, and net energy scenarios for different feedstock from sustainability view of the biodiesel production 
technologies [9]. 

Most of the biodiesel plants in India are either offline or semi-automated. They require both human monitoring 
and intelligence in several aspects and stages. There is an immediate need and scope for 

• Mini extraction plant which can be financially and technically feasible for any individual or local authority/agency 

• Speeding up the transesterification process and 

• Maintenance of quality of esterification process. 

All these issues can be addressed by an efficient online automation. The esterification process is sequential in 
steps and hence automation can be introduced in all stages. Possible automation issues are shown in Figure 1. In order to 
increase the efficiency and to avoid manual interventions at various stages some of the automations are proposed in 
Figure 1. It includes calculation of FFA (Free Fatty Acid) content of crude oil, transferring known quantity of feed stock to 
reaction chamber, estimation of required NaOH and Methanol, stirring control at various stages, temperature control, and 
most importantly reaction time control. The automated calculation of FFA, transfer of known quantity of feed stock to 
reaction chamber, estimation of required NaOH and Methanol, stirring control at various stages, temperature control are 
simple to be implemented. The control complexity of all these are nominal and are implemented in many process and 
pharmaceutical industries. Most important part of automation here is the on line monitoring of process steady state 
conditions. The prior work related to monitoring of reaction progress is discussed in the proceeding section. 


The Process 

Automation Required 

m Calculation and supply of required 

NaOH to reaction chamber 
v Calculation and supply of required 

» Obtaining definite quantity of crude oil 
« Calculation of FFA in crude oil 
“ Supply of known quantity of crude oil 

(Feed stock) to reaction chamber 

T rans esterific atio n 
Process/ Chamber 

Methanol to reaction chamber 
^ Constant temperature control 

• Selective stirrer control 

• Reaction rate and time monitoring 

Diesel + Byproducts 

Figure 1: Possible Automation Solutions for Biodiesel Extraction Plant 

Prior Work Related to Monitoring of Reaction Progress 

The technical paper by Rouhollah Ghanei has the discussion on monitoring of changes in the physical properties 
for the determination of transesterification progress in oil to biodiesel conversion. Results have shown that the physical 
properties of fresh oil change during the reaction with a constant rate and the slope of the changes are independent of oil 


editor@tjprc. org 


Krishnamurthy Bhat, Bharati Meti & K. Chandrasekhar 

type. Refractive index, specific gravity and viscosity are highly recommended to predict the reaction progress. This 
approach could be used as an alternative to expensive and time-consuming methods. Though the methods suggested are 
more suitable for in vitro evaluation, the process can be adopted for the online monitoring purpose also [10]. Optimization 
of the biodiesel transesterification process is possible by on line monitoring of process steady state conditions. This will 
help to save energy during the process by reducing mechanical agitation or by reduction of heat energy input [11]. Many 
techniques and methods are proposed to characterize the biodiesel properties during the reaction process. High precision 
GC measurement is used to determine product yield (methyl esters) and conversion efficiency. It is unsuitable for low cost 
industrial process monitoring and control purposes because of requirement of intensive sample preparation and high cost of 
the equipment. Knothe has investigated the use of a fiber-optic probe based on Near Infra Red (NIR) spectroscopy to 
monitor the transesterification process [12]. Ellis et al.. shown that the shear stress and hence viscosity drops significantly 
during the reaction process before reaching a steady state value and an acoustic wave solid state viscometer can be used to 
monitor the shear stress [13]. The use of infrared (IR) spectroscopy to monitor a batch biodiesel reaction is presented by 
Trevisan [14]. DeBoni employed laser spectroscopy to monitor the transesterification process over a period of 6000s. His 
results indicated that a steady state was achieved after 2500 seconds [15]. These works suggest that it is possible to use 
technical methods to monitor the transesterification process and determine state of the reaction during the region controlled 
by the reaction kinetics and hence, it is possible to employ sensors for feedback control purposes. 

Actual Work 

We are proposing complete automation from the starting point of handling the raw oil to the production of 
biodiesel. The proposed work is depicted in Figure 2. The practical implementation of this work is initiated. 

Figure 2: Block Diagram of Proposed Work 

A microcontroller is used as central processor/controller to handle various inputs and to drive various actuators. 
Metered quantity of crude oil from its reservoir is to be obtained by a controlled pumping system and its FFA content is to 
be calculated by an auto-titration. Based on the FFA content, the required quantity of NaOH and Methanol are to be 
calculated and administered through a controlled mechanism to the reaction chamber. The reaction chamber temperature 
and stirring are to be controlled. 

Impact Factor (JCC): 3.1245 

NAAS Rating: 2.75 

Automation Technique for Online Transesterification 
Process of Biodiesel Plant in India 


Two promising and cost effective methods for monitoring of biodiesel transesterification process considered here 


• Impedance measurement 

• pH measurement 

Rachmanto el al. proposed a method of measuring impedance which is able to provide information regarding the 
progress of mass transfer and chemical reaction during biodiesel production. This method uses a simple impedance sensor 
consisting of two sets of interleaved electrodes (comb shaped) separated by a gap. The electrodes are immersed in the 
feedstock and an AC excitation voltage is applied across the interleaved electrodes producing an oscillating electric field. 
The voltage developed across a series resistor is measured and correlated to two important phases of the transesterification 
reaction, a mass transfer control phase followed by a kinetically controlled phase. The sensor proposed by them is very 
simple to fabricate, has no moving parts and requires relatively simple electronics. The resulting measurement data is very 
useful for the control of early stages of the transesterification process and the detection of steady state conditions. It may be 
possible to use the sensor to detect the process steady state and save energy during the process by reducing the speed of the 
mechanical agitation after complete mixing has been achieved [16]. Measurement of pH value of feedstock during the 
reaction is also an attractive and simple method to monitor the reaction. This is experimentally done by William M. Clark. 
Transesterification of canola oil at 6:1 methanol to oil ratio with 0.5 wt. % KOH as catalyst was studied at 25°C, 35°C, and 
45°C. Reaction conversion was correlated to pH measurements and the results were shown to be in agreement with an 
independent measure of conversion using an enzymatic assay for glycerol. Rate constants obtained from these 
measurements are consistent with those in the literature. The measured pH change appears to be related to dilution of OH' 
ions as the oil is converted to products rather than to depletion of OH’ due to reaction [17]. One of the above two 
techniques can be implemented to monitor the reaction rate and hence control it for efficiency attainment. 


India has tremendous resources of non edible oil for biodiesel extraction. Current biodiesel technologies and the 
extraction plants are not sustainable as they require government subsidies to be profitable by the producers and to be 
affordable by the public. Sustainable biodiesel extraction is the need of hour today. In order to reduce production costs and 
make it competitive with petroleum diesel, online extraction of biodiesel from the feed stock with maximum extent of 
automation is proposed in this paper. The implementation of the proposed work is already started and will be a step 
towards achieving efficiency and sustainability in biodiesel production. 


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reactor, ” Biomass and Bioenergy, 2006, Volume 30, Issue 10, pp. 870-873 

2. X. Lang, A. K. Dalai, N. N. Bakshi, M. J. Reaney, P. B. Hertz, “Preparation and characterization of bio-diesel from various 
bio-oils, ” Bio-resource Technology, 2001, Volume 80, pp. 53-62 

3. Peter Meisen, “Overview of Renewable Energy Potential of India, ” Global Energy Network Institute ( GENI), October 2006 

4. Shruthi H. Heroor, S.D. Rahul Bharadwaj, “Production of biofiiel from crude neem oil and its performance, ” International 
Journal of Environmental Engineering and Management (ISSN 2231-1319), Volume 4, Number 5, 2013, pp. 425-432 


editor@tjprc. org 


Krishnamurthy Bhat, Bharati Meti & K. Chandrasekhar 

5. Vigya Kesari, Latha Rangan, “Development of Pongamia Pinnata as alternative biofuel crop - current status and scope of 
plantation in India, ” Springer Journal of crop science and biotechnology, September 2010, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp. 127-137 

6. Gaurav Dwivedi, M.P.Sharma, “Prospects of biodiesel from Pongamia in India, ” Renewable and sustainable energy reviews, 
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7. Siddalingappa R. Hotti, Omprakash D. Hebbal, “Biodiesel production and fuel properties from non-edible champaca 
(Michelia Champaca ) seed oil for use in diesel engine’’, Journal of Thermal Engineering, Yildiz Technical University Press, 
Istanbul, Turkey, January, 2015, Volume 1, No. 1, pp. 330-336 

8. Gajendra Kumar, D. Kumar, Shailandra Singh, S. Kothari, Sumit Bhatt, Chandra P. Singh, “Continuous low cost 
transesterification process for the production of coconut biodiesel, ” Energies 2010, ISSN 1996-1073, Volume 3, pp. 43-56, 
cloi.l 0.3 390/en301 0043 

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2 nd World Sustainability Forum, 1-30 November 2012 

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resistance in the oil transesterification reaction for biodiesel production, " Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, pp. 
7540-7549, 2009 

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fiber optic probe, ” Journal of American Oil Chemists ’ Society, Volume 76, No. 7, pp. 795-800, 1 999 

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Engineering Journal, Volume 138, pp. 200-206, 2008. 

14. M. G. Trevisan, “Monitoramento de reacoes quimicas empregando spectroscopy no infravermelho (Monitoring of chemical 
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1 7. William M. Clark, Nicholas J. Medeiros, Donal J. Boyd, Jared R. Snell, “Biodiesel transesterification kinetics monitored by 
pH measurement” , Bio-resource Technology (2013), http://dx.doi.Org/10.1016/j.biortech.2013.03.089 

Impact Factor (JCC): 3.1245 

NAAS Rating: 2.75