The in-process removal of sterol glycosides by ultrafiltration in biodiesel production

Document Type: Research Paper


Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1N 6N5


Minor components found in biodiesel can affect its stability and cold flow properties. Without extensive post treatments, trace compounds such as sterol glycosides (SG) can remain at unacceptable levels in finished biodiesel fuels. This study proposes to remove SG from reacted Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) mixtures using ultrafiltration. Degummed soybean oil was transesterified using methanol and a catalyst (sodium methoxide). The mixtures were immediately ultrafiltered after the reaction and the FAMEs from the retentate and permeate were analyzed for SG. The highest separation for SG (86 %) was obtained when the reaction conditions were 0.7 wt.% catalyst and 4:1 MeOH:Oil ratio. The lowest separation (0%) was observed at 0.3 wt.% catalyst and 4:1 MeOH:Oil ratio. The higher separations were explained by the deprotonation of the hydroxyl groups on SG. This decreased the solubility of SG in the reacted FAME phase. The separation was lowest, when unreacted oil along with monoacylglycerides (MG) and diacylglycerides (DG) solubilized SG in the reacted mixture. The separation was also low when high methanol to oil ratios were used in the transesterification. The lowest concentration of SG measured in FAMEs treated by ultrafiltration was 3.4 ppm. The results indicate that ultrafiltration is an effective method to remove SG from soybean FAMEs.

Graphical Abstract

The in-process removal of sterol glycosides by ultrafiltration in biodiesel production


  • The presence of sterol glycosides in biodiesel limits its widespread use.
  • Removed sterol glycosides from soybean oil at biodiesel process conditions.
  • Related separation factor to pH and methanol content of reaction mixture.
  • In process separation technology reduces need for post processing of biodiesel.


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