Innovative process for fatty acid esters by dual reactive distillation

Alexandre C. Dimian, C. S. Bildea, F. Omota, A. A. Kiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

78 Citations (Scopus)


Catalytic reactive distillation offers new opportunities for manufacturing fatty acid esters, involved both in biodiesel and specialty chemicals. A key problem is the effective water removal in view of protecting the solid catalyst and avoiding costly recovery of the alcohol excess. This work proposes a novel approach based on dual esterification of fatty acid with light and heavy alcohols, namely methanol and 2-ethylhexanol. These two complementary reactants have an equivalent reactive function but synergistic thermodynamic features. The setup behaves rather as reactive absorption combined with reactive azeotropic distillation with heavy alcohol as co-reactant and water-separation agent. Another element of originality is the control of the inventory of alcohols by fixing the reflux of heavy alcohol and the light alcohol column inflow. This strategy allows achieving both stoichiometric reactant feed rate and large flexibility in ester production. The distillation column for recovering light alcohol from water is not longer necessary. The result is a compact, efficient and easy-to-control multi-product reactive setup.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)743-750
Number of pages8
JournalComputers and Chemical Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 20 2009


  • Biodiesel
  • Conceptual design of chemical processes
  • Fatty esters
  • Process simulation
  • Reactant inventory control
  • Reactive distillation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Computer Science Applications

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