Open Access Research article

Biodiesel production from microalgal isolates of southern Pakistan and quantification of FAMEs by GC-MS/MS analysis

Syed Ghulam Musharraf12*, Muhammad Arif Ahmed1, Noureen Zehra1, Nurul Kabir2, M Iqbal Choudhary123 and Atta-ur Rahman1

Author Affiliations

1 H.E.J. Research Institute of Chemistry, International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi, Karachi 75270, Pakistan

2 Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicines and Drug Research, International Center for Chemical and Biological Sciences, University of Karachi, Karachi 75270, Pakistan

3 Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Science, King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, 21412, Saudi Arabia

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Chemistry Central Journal 2012, 6:149  doi:10.1186/1752-153X-6-149

Published: 5 December 2012

Abstract

Background

Microalgae have attracted major interest as a sustainable source for biodiesel production on commercial scale. This paper describes the screening of six microalgal species, Scenedesmus quadricauda, Scenedesmus acuminatus, Nannochloropsis sp., Anabaena sp., Chlorella sp. and Oscillatoria sp., isolated from fresh and marine water resources of southern Pakistan for biodiesel production and the GC-MS/MS analysis of their fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs).

Results

Growth rate, biomass productivity and oil content of each algal species have been investigated under autotrophic condition. Biodiesel was produced from algal oil by acid catalyzed transesterification reaction and resulting fatty acid methyl esters (FAMEs) content was analyzed by GC/MS. Fatty acid profiling of the biodiesel, obtained from various microalgal oils showed high content of C-16:0, C-18:0, cis9C-18:1, cis11C-18:1 (except Scenedesmus quadricauda) and 10-hydroxyoctadecanoic (except Scenedesmus acuminatus). Absolute amount of C-14:0, C-16:0 and C-18:0 by a validated GC-MS/MS method were found to be 1.5-1.7, 15.0-42.5 and 4.2-18.4 mg/g, respectively, in biodiesel obtained from various microalgal oils. Biodiesel was also characterized in terms of cetane number, kinematic viscosity, density and higher heating value and compared with the standard values.

Conclusion

Six microalgae of local origin were screened for biodiesel production. A method for absolute quantification of three important saturated fatty acid methyl esters (C-14, C-16 and C-18) by gas chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (GC-MS/MS), using multiple reactions monitoring (MRM) mode, was employed for the identification and quantification of biodiesels obtained from various microalgal oils. The results suggested that locally found microalgae can be sustainably harvested for the production of biodiesel. This offers the tremendous economic opportunity for an energy-deficient nation.

Keywords:
Microalgae; Biodiesel algal resources of southern Pakistan; Fatty acid methyl ester; Gas chromatography; Tandem mass spectrometry

Graphical abstract