At IMM the advantages of an alternative synthesis route for biodiesel under supercritical conditions in micro-structured reactors applying heterogeneous catalysts are currently under investigation. Target of the development work is to build a pilot plant with an annual production capacity of 40 t which covers all process engineering steps and verifies their functionality in laboratory and field trials. The supercritical process applying catalysts has not been investigated in a continuous plant to date.
The development work covers so far the optimization of the supercritical process conditions in absence of catalyst, which revealed full conversion in less than 5 min residence time. The preliminary screening of heterogeneous catalysts applying a model feed (Tricaprin) revealed full conversion in less than 30 s residence time over alumina catalysts. Based upon an ASPEN model of the process, a flow scheme of the future plant was set up.