Process Simulation and Evaluation of Alternative Solvents for Jatropha Curcas L. Seed Oil Extraction in Biodiesel Production



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Jatropha curcas L. is a drought-resistant plant which can be grown in poor soil and marginal lands. The use of Jatropha seed oil to produce biodiesel has been widely studied in recent years. Results showed that it is one of the most promising alternatives for conventional petro-diesel. Currently, hexane is still the most commonly used solvent for commercial oil extraction. However, the increasing price and flammability properties of hexane are motivating industry to seek alternative solvents. The objectives of this study are to design and analyze the Jatropha seed oil extraction for use in biodiesel production, and to provide a systematic safety-economic analysis of alternative solvents that can be used in Jatropha seed oil extraction. First, a base-case flowsheet is synthesized for oil extraction. Then, the base-case extraction process and each solvent Fire and Explosion Index (F & EI) and the Solvent Safety Index (SSI). Eight solvents, including n-heptane, toluene, xylene, dichloromethane, chloroform, 1,2-dichloroethane, methanol and ethanol are selected for candidates by comparing these results to those for hexane. Two cases are developed to evaluate the economic potential of these candidates. Furthermore, heat integration is applied to the process to minimize energy usage. Finally, a comprehensive solvent comparison is developed based on F & EI, SSI, solvent makeup cost, utilities cost, and capital investment. The results show that chloroform is the optimal solvent, while dichloromethane is the next best.