Fermentation for Biodiesel

Fossil fuels are limited, non-renewable and associated with many problems such as global warming, ecosystem imbalance and health hazards. Therefore, there is a huge demand for alternative energy sources that are renewable, eco-friendly and sustainable to replace the conventional fossil fuels. Production of alternative fuels such as biodiesel is on the rise around the world in order to reduce dependence on petroleum derived diesel fuel. Biodiesel is a promising renewable fuel produced from different plant oils, animal fats, waste oils and microbial lipids. However, the feedstock used to produce biodiesel are relatively costly, and these feedstocks are often derived from crops that are also used for food. The replacement of food crops by energy crops has led to an increase in food prices, so biodiesel producers are seeking technologies that promise to reduce feedstock costs and enable the use of plant materials from non-food sources. The development of cost-effective feedstocks coupled with judicious usage of waste substrates may be a viable option to reduce the process costs.

Schematic diagram of lipid biosynthesis from lignocellulosic biomass using oleaginous microorganisms.Fig 1. Schematic diagram of lipid biosynthesis from lignocellulosic biomass using oleaginous microorganisms. (Chintagunta, A. D.; et al. 2021)

Advantages of Fermentation Processes for Biodiesel

  • Lower production costs
  • Reduce the greenhouse gas emissions
  • Avoid the competition with food and agricultural lands

Conventional Feedstocks Used for Biodiesel Production

Since the last few years, various feedstocks for biodiesel production have been explored, which can be classified into four categories: plant oils (edible and non-edible), waste or recycled oils, animal fats and oleaginous microorganisms (OMs).

  • Plant oils

Plant oils as biodiesel feedstock have the advantages of transportability, ease of availability, sustainability, high combustibility, low sulfur content, low aromatic content, and environmental friendliness

  • Waste or recycled oil

Any oil that cannot be used for its original purpose after being used because it contains impurities or loses its original properties is called waste oil. It may be a good raw material substitute for biodiesel production because it is much cheaper than plant oil.

  • Animal fat

Major animal fats include tallow, lard, poultry fat, fat generated from the fish processing industry and fat from the leather industry.

  • OMs

OMs belong to different microbial families, i.e. microalgae, yeasts, filamentous fungi or molds and bacteria. OMs are capable of achieving higher lipid accumulation using cheap feedstocks [agricultural residues, lignocellulosic substrates (LCS)] and waste substrates. The general protocol for biodiesel production from OMs is microbial cultivation, biomass harvesting, drying, lipid extraction and transesterification of the obtained lipids.

Biodiesel Production Technologies

The fermentation process for producing different biodiesel from these feedstocks, but the pre-fermentation process is similar. An efficient fermentation process is a prerequisite for the production of biofuels in large quantities and makes their production economically competitive with the prices of crude oil.

  • Biodiesel Production Using the Non-edible Plants

Methods and systems for producing high-grade biodiesel fuel oil from fermentation processes are developed by combining lignocellulosic biomass with transgenic plant material expressing the WRI1 transcription factor. The plant oil yields was significantly increased by incorporating the WRI1 transcription factor in the fermentation process. This novel fermentation technology not only resulted in higher oil yields per crop area, but also reduced the cost of biodiesel production.


  • Reduce the use of food source plants as feedstock for biodiesel
  • Reduce the cost of biodiesel production
  • High-grade biodiesel production
  • Simplify the biodiesel production process: the fermentation process can be operated in a plant environment and does not require large amounts of agricultural footprint for production
  • Biodiesel Production Using OMs

During the fermentation process, microorganisms use various renewable materials and convert them into microbial oils, which are further used to produce biodiesel through transesterification reactions. Moreover, engineers employ new metabolic flux analysis tools that integrate kinetics, hydrodynamics, and proteomics to reveal the dynamic physiology of the microbial host under large scale bioreactor conditions. In addition, fermentation engineers can employ rational pathway modification, synthetic biology, and bioreactor control algorithms to optimize large-scale biodiesel production.

Schematic diagram of lipid biosynthesis from lignocellulosic biomass using oleaginous microorganisms.Fig 2. Schematic diagram of lipid biosynthesis from lignocellulosic biomass using oleaginous microorganisms. (Chintagunta, A. D.; et al. 2021)

  • Biodiesel Production Using Waste or Recycled Oil

Waste cooking oil (WCO) is a sustainable alternative to raw vegetable oils and fats for biodiesel production. Microbial flora are selected to bioconvert WCO to 1,3-propanediol (1,3-PDO) and lactate (LA). The fermentation can be carried out economically under microaerobic and non-sterile conditions, which contribute to added-value use of WCO.

Schematic diagram of biodiesel production from waste cooking oil.Fig 3. Schematic diagram of biodiesel production from waste cooking oil. (Singh, D. D.; et al. 2021)

Our Services for Fermentation Production of Biodiesel

BOC Sciences provides fermentation CDMO service for biodiesel. We carry quality management into every aspect of production to consistently deliver high quality products. Our goal is to help our customers accelerate their fermentation-related projects and perform all testing from raw material to final product.

Workflow of Our Service

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  1. Chintagunta, A. D.; et al. Biodiesel Production From Lignocellulosic Biomass Using Oleaginous Microbes: Prospects for Integrated Biofuel Production. Frontiers in Microbiology. 2021. 12: 658284.
  2. Singh, D. D.; et al. A comprehensive review of biodiesel production from waste cooking oil and its use as fuel in compression ignition engines: 3rd generation cleaner feedstock. Journal of Cleaner Production. 2021. 307(3): 127299.

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