Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil Biofuel: Sustainable Solutions?

The global biofuels market size was valued at USD 117 billion in 2022 and projected to continue growing.

The universal quest for sustainable energy sources has led to innovative advancements in the field of biofuels. Among these alternatives, coconut oil biofuel have emerged as a promising option for creating eco-friendly and renewable biofuels. Derived from the versatile coconut fruit, coconut oil offers unique properties that make it an ideal candidate for biofuel production.

This article explores the potential of coconut oil derivatives in biofuels, delving into its sustainable advantages, production processes, and their impact on the environment. Join us on this journey to discover how coconut oil derivatives can play a significant role in powering a greener and cleaner future.

The Rising Demand for Sustainable Biofuels

In recent years, the world has witnessed a growing concern over the depletion of fossil fuels and their environmental impact.

As a result, the demand for sustainable and renewable energy sources has surged, leading to a remarkable focus on biofuels. These alternative fuels, derived from biological materials like plants and algae, offer a greener and more sustainable solution to meet the global energy needs. The increasing emphasis on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combatting climate change has prompted the exploration of novel feedstocks for biofuel production, and coconut oil derivatives have emerged as a frontrunner in this endeavour.

What are the 2 Main Types of Biofuels?

Biodiesel and bioethanol.


Biodiesel is a renewable fuel made from vegetable oils, animal fats, or used cooking oils through a process called transesterification. During transesterification, the triglycerides in the feedstock are converted into fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), which form the primary components of biodiesel. Biodiesel is commonly used as a diesel fuel substitute and can be blended with petroleum diesel or used as a pure fuel (B100) in standard diesel engines.


Bioethanol is another type of biofuel derived from renewable plant sources, such as corn, sugarcane, or other biomass. It is produced through a fermentation process where enzymes or yeast convert the sugars in the feedstock into ethanol. Bioethanol is primarily used as a gasoline substitute and can be blended with gasoline to create ethanol blends, such as E10 (10% ethanol) or E85 (85% ethanol).

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Both biodiesel and bioethanol are considered environmentally friendly alternatives to conventional fossil fuels, as they are produced from renewable resources and can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on finite fossil fuel reserves.

Interestingly, coconut oil can be processed into either biodiesel or bioethanol. Now, we will first discuss about coconut oil-based biodiesel.

Why is Coconut Oil Good for Biodiesel?

Coconut oil possesses unique properties that make it an excellent candidate for biofuel production.

Low Viscosity

Coconut oil has a relatively low viscosity, which means it flows more easily. This property is crucial for biofuels, as low viscosity allows for better atomization and mixing with air in engines, leading to improved combustion efficiency. As an illustration, the kinematic viscosity of coconut oil can be as low as 2.4 mm2/s after transesterification. The number shows that trans esterified coconut oil is suitable raw material for biodiesel production, as kinematic viscosity of diesel fuel ranges from 1.3 to 2.4 mm2/s.

High Energy Content

Coconut oil is rich in energy, containing a significant number of calories per unit volume. When used as a biofuel, its high energy content can produce a lot of power, making it an efficient source of renewable energy.

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Favorable Cetane Number

The cetane number is a measure of how quickly a fuel ignites in a diesel engine. Higher cetane numbers indicate quicker and smoother ignition, leading to better engine performance and lower emissions. Coconut oil biodiesel typically has a favorable cetane number, making it well-suited for diesel engines.

Abundant and Renewable

Coconuts are plentiful in tropical regions, and the oil extracted from them can be replenished through sustainable farming practices. This makes coconut oil a renewable resource, unlike finite fossil fuels.

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Clean Burning

Coconut oil biofuels burn more cleanly than traditional fossil fuels. They produce fewer harmful emissions, like greenhouse gases and particulate matter, which can help reduce air pollution and its impact on the environment and human health.


Coconut oil can be used directly as biodiesel, or it can be blended with diesel fuels to improve their environmental performance. This versatility allows it to be used in existing engines and infrastructure without major modifications.

What is ASTM D6751 Standards?

ASTM D6751 is a standard specification developed by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) that outlines the requirements for biodiesel fuel used in various applications. The standard defines the specific characteristics and quality parameters that biodiesel must meet to be considered suitable for use as a blending component in diesel fuel or as a stand-alone fuel.

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The ASTM D6751 specification covers various aspects of biodiesel, including its physical and chemical properties, such as kinematic viscosity, flash point, sulfur content, cold flow properties, and oxidation stability, among others. It also sets limits for impurities and contaminants that biodiesel must not exceed to ensure its proper and safe use in diesel engines.

How is Coconut Oil turned into Biodiesel?

The process of making biofuel from coconut oil involves several steps that harness the energy stored in the oil to create a renewable and eco-friendly fuel source.


The first step is to extract the coconut oil from mature coconuts. This can be done through various methods, including cold pressing or solvent extraction. The goal is to obtain pure coconut oil with high energy content. Used cooking oil can also be processed into biodiesel.


Once the coconut oil is obtained, it undergoes transesterification, a chemical process that converts the oil into biodiesel. In this step, the coconut oil is reacted with an alcohol (usually methanol) in the presence of a catalyst (such as sodium hydroxide). This reaction breaks down the triglycerides in the oil into fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), which are the main components of biodiesel.


After transesterification, the mixture is allowed to settle, separating the biodiesel from the glycerin byproduct. The biodiesel is then washed to remove any remaining impurities and excess alcohol.


To further remove any remaining water or impurities, the biodiesel is dried using various methods, such as vacuum drying or using desiccants.

Quality Testing

The final step involves testing the quality of the biodiesel to ensure it meets the necessary specifications and standards. This includes checking the viscosity, density, flash point, and other key parameters.


Biodiesel may be blended with petroleum diesel before being used as fuel. If you see biodiesel B5, B20, or B50, note that these are blended biodiesels. The number indicates how many percent of biodiesel in the mix. For instance, B20 means 20% biodiesel blended with 80% petroleum diesel.

Why blending biodiesel? Blended biodiesel allows the fuel to be used directly in standard diesel engines without any modification.

Alternatively, one can also utilize B100, which is 100% biodiesel or pure, unblended biodiesel. However, B100 may require some engine modification due to difference in properties compared to petroleum diesel. B100 is still less commonly used.

Byproducts of Coconut Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAMEs)

As previously explained, to obtain biodiesel, coconut oil undergone transesterification process. This process converts coconut oil into fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs), which exhibit properties similar to petroleum diesel. Coconut methyl esters not only provide an eco-friendly alternative to fossil fuels but also reduce harmful emissions, contributing to improved air quality.

Moreover, the byproducts of biodiesel production can be repurposed for various applications, adding value to the entire process, and making it an environmentally sustainable choice. These byproducts include:


Glycerin is a co-product of the transesterification reaction. It is separated from the biodiesel and can have various industrial uses, such as in the production of soap, cosmetics, or pharmaceuticals.

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Read More: Coconut Oil Glycerin

Methyl Esters of Free Fatty Acids (FFAs)

If the coconut oil used for biodiesel production contains significant amounts of free fatty acids (FFAs), the FFAs may react with the alcohol during the transesterification process, forming methyl esters of FFAs as byproducts.

Residual Catalyst

Depending on the type of catalyst used, a small amount of the catalyst may remain in the biodiesel as a residual byproduct. Catalysts like sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide are commonly used in transesterification.

It’s important to note that the production process aims to minimize the formation of byproducts, and these byproducts are usually removed or separated during the refining and purification steps of the biodiesel production. Properly conducted transesterification and purification steps result in high-quality biodiesel with minimal impurities or byproducts, ensuring that the final product meets industry standards and performs effectively in diesel engines.

The Other Journey to Green Energy: Coconut Oil Ethanol

Bioethanol, an alcohol-based biofuel produced from renewable feedstocks, offers an enticing avenue for reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Coconut oil derivatives can be utilized in the production of bioethanol through fermentation.

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In this process, coconut oil undergoes hydrolysis to break down triglycerides into free fatty acids, which are then transformed into ethyl esters. Subsequent fermentation of these esters yields bioethanol, a clean and renewable fuel with diverse applications. The potential of coconut oil ethanol extends beyond the transportation sector, with its use in industrial processes, power generation, and even as a sustainable solvent in various industries.

Sustainable Feedstocks: Advantages of Coconut Biofuels

The widespread adoption of coconut oil derivatives as biofuels offers several advantages in the quest for sustainability.

First and foremost, coconuts are abundant and renewable resources, requiring minimal land use and often thriving in diverse agroforestry systems. This sustainable feedstock ensures that the production of coconut biofuels does not compete with food crops, mitigating concerns over food security.

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Secondly, coconut biofuels have the potential to provide additional income opportunities for coconut farmers, supporting rural economies and fostering local development. The ability of coconut trees to grow in coastal regions also presents a unique advantage, as it reduces the environmental footprint associated with transportation and logistics.

Finally, biofuels are considered carbon-neutral since the carbon dioxide released during combustion is equivalent to the carbon dioxide absorbed by the feedstock during growth. This cycle ensures that the net carbon emissions are minimal, leading to a reduced overall carbon footprint. By embracing coconut biofuels, nations and industries can make significant strides in aligning with their sustainability goals and combating climate change.

Challenges and Opportunities in Coconut Biofuel Production

While the potential of coconut biofuels is promising, several challenges and opportunities lie ahead in their production and implementation.

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One of the primary challenges is scaling up the production of coconut oil derivatives to meet the growing demand for biofuels on a global scale. Implementing efficient and sustainable farming practices, optimizing oil extraction processes, and developing innovative technologies are essential in overcoming these challenges.

Furthermore, coconut biofuels require regulatory support and incentives to encourage investment and market adoption. Governments and policymakers play a crucial role in establishing a conducive environment for the growth of the biofuels industry.

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