Commercially viable carbon-neutral biodiesel production from microalgae has potential for replacing depleting petroleum diesel. The process of biodiesel production from microalgae involves harvesting, drying and extraction of lipids which are energy- and cost-intensive processes. The development of effective large-scale lipid extraction processes which overcome the complexity of microalgae cell structure is considered one of the most vital requirements for commercial production. Thus the aim of this work was to investigate suitable extraction methods with optimised conditions to progress opportunities for sustainable microalgal biodiesel production. In this study, the green microalgal species consortium, Tarong polyculture was used to investigate lipid extraction with hexane (solvent) under high pressure and variable temperature and biomass moisture conditions using an Accelerated Solvent Extraction (ASE) method. The performance of high pressure solvent extraction was examined over a range of different process and sample conditions (dry biomass to water ratios (DBWRs): 100%, 75%, 50% and 25% and temperatures from 70 to 120 °C, process time 5-15 min). Maximum total lipid yields were achieved at 50% and 75% sample dryness at temperatures of 90-120 °C. We show that individual fatty acids (Palmitic acid C16:0; Stearic acid C18:0; Oleic acid C18:1; Linolenic acid C18:3) extraction optima are influenced by temperature and sample dryness, consequently affecting microalgal biodiesel quality parameters. Higher heating values and kinematic viscosity were compliant with biodiesel quality standards under all extraction conditions used. Our results indicate that biodiesel quality can be positively manipulated by selecting process extraction conditions that favour extraction of saturated and mono-unsaturated fatty acids over optimal extraction conditions for polyunsaturated fatty acids, yielding positive effects on cetane number and iodine values. Exceeding biodiesel standards for these two parameters opens blending opportunities with biodiesels that fall outside the minimal cetane and maximal iodine values.
- Accelerated solvent extraction
- Biodiesel quality
- Fatty acid
- Lipid extraction
- Sample dryness