Journal of Earth, Environment and Health Sciences

: 2015  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 61--65

Biodiesel Production from Tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum) Seed Oil

Khushbu Sharma1, Madan Kumar Parangimalar Diwakar1, Karunanithi Balakrishnan2, Sreeja Vijayalekshmi Gopalakrishnapillai3,  
1 Department of Public Health Dentistry, Ragas Dental College and Hospital, Kanchepuram, India
2 Department of Chemical Engineering, SRM University, Kanchepuram, India
3 Department of Chemistry, Hubert Enviro Care systems Private Limited, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Correspondence Address:
Khushbu Sharma
2/102, East Coast Road, Uthandi, Chennai - 600 119, Tamil Nadu


Introduction: The health impacts due to tobacco have lead to loss of lives and economy of the country. Tobacco seed oil can be an alternative source to biodiesel. This study aims to investigate the yield of the oil from tobacco seeds of Indian origin and to compare the properties of the biodiesel produced with American Society for Testing and Materials and conventional diesel. Methods: The tobacco seeds where grounded and the oil was extracted using n-hexane as a solvent in the soxhlets apparatus. The oil extracted was subjected to trans-esterification process to be converted into biodiesel. The biodiesel produced was tested for density, viscosity, iodine value, acid value, cetane index, gross calorific value, flash point and pour point and were compared with ASTM standards and conventional diesel. Results: The yield of oil from tobacco seeds in this study was 34 percent and the biodiesel yield was 85 percent. The properties were found to be comparable with ASTM standards and conventional diesel properties. Conclusion: The properties of tobacco seed oil were comparable with ASTM standards. Tobacco seed oil of Indian origin could be a viable source of biodiesel.

How to cite this article:
Sharma K, Diwakar MP, Balakrishnan K, Gopalakrishnapillai SV. Biodiesel Production from Tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum) Seed Oil.J Earth Environ Health Sci 2015;1:61-65

How to cite this URL:
Sharma K, Diwakar MP, Balakrishnan K, Gopalakrishnapillai SV. Biodiesel Production from Tobacco (Nicotiana Tabacum) Seed Oil. J Earth Environ Health Sci [serial online] 2015 [cited 2023 Sep 25 ];1:61-65
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Tobacco is the leading commercial crop and India occupies the second position in production and is the fifth largest exporter in the world. It is cultivated in an area of about 4.93 lakh hectares (0.24%) of total arable land in the country covering different styles and types of tobacco with a production of 800 million kilograms. In the years 2012-2013, the tobacco industry contributed as much as ₹19,891 crores as excise duty and ₹4979 crores in terms of foreign exchange to the national exchequer. [1] Tobacco is a labor-intensive crop in India. Growing, harvesting, and processing tobacco represent the means of livelihood of a large number of agricultural laborers. [2] The industry provides employment directly and indirectly to 36 million people. [1] It is the source of livelihood for 6 million farmers and about 20 million industry workers. [3] In India, the beedi industry is the most prominent with the industry employing approximately 3.4 million full-time workers and 0.7 million part-time workers. [4]

India is the second largest consumer of tobacco. Of the 1.1 billion people who smoke worldwide,182 million (16.6%) live in India. [3] The Global Adult Tobacco Survey - India revealed that more than one-third (35%) of the adults in India use tobacco in either smoking or smokeless forms. [5] Tobacco use kills nearly six million people worldwide each year. Tobacco use is a major preventable cause of premature death and disease, and the death toll is expected to rise to over eight million deaths yearly by 2030. [6] About one-half of the deaths due to tobacco consumption occur in people aged 35-69 years, in the period of life when individuals are most economically productive. [2] This epidemic is expanding, especially in less developed countries adding to their burden of diseases and poverty. Health care costs from tobacco use impose burdens on annual health budgets, especially in poor countries such as India. [2] The report by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare stated that ₹1,04,500 crores (USD 22.4 billion) were spent on diseases attributed to tobacco. This estimated economic cost of tobacco was found to be 1.16% of the Gross Domestic Product. This was 12% more than the combined State and Central Government expenditures on health in 2011-2012. The total excise revenue from all tobacco products combined in the same year amounted to only 17% of the estimated economic costs of tobacco. [7]

The enormous economic burden and resulting losses to the nation could be prevented by strengthening the tobacco control efforts. In order to facilitate the implementation of tobacco control laws, to bring about greater awareness regarding the harmful effects of tobacco and fulfill obligations under the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), the Government of India had launched the National Tobacco Control Programme (NTCP) in the country. Tobacco still harms the economy and the sustainable development of the country. [5] With the extensive income and the wide employment sector provided by the tobacco industry, it is difficult to completely curb the tobacco industry. This indicates the need to find alternative methods to use the tobacco produced in the country.

Tobacco (Nicotiana tabacum L.) seed oil (TSO), a byproduct of tobacco leaf production, has been shown to be a substitute for a diesel fuel in a raw or chemically modified form. [8] The seeds can be stored in dry conditions at ordinary temperatures and are resistant to high humidity. The oil content of the seed ranges from 36% to 41% by weight depending on the various agroclimatic and soil conditions. [9] The main fatty acids of tobacco seed oil are linoleic acid (66-76%), oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid. Its nutritional value is better than that of groundnut and cotton seed oils and similar to that of safflower oil. [10] The other usage of tobacco seed oil is stated in soap production as well as in paint and varnish industries. [10] The use of tobacco as a renewable source of energy is an attractive alternative to the tobacco produced.

The scarcity of conventional fossil fuels, growing emissions of combustion-generated pollutants, and their increasing costs will make biomass sources more attractive in the coming future. Biofuels are gaining increased public and scientific attention, driven by factors such as oil price hikes, the need for increased energy security, concern over greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, and support from government subsidies. An alternative fuel to petrodiesel must be technically feasible, economically competitive, environmentally acceptable, and easily available. Biodiesel can offer other benefits including reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, regional development, and social structure, especially to developing countries. [11] Therefore, tobacco, which is abundantly cultivated in India makes it a readily available and renewable source for biodiesel production.

India was the fourth largest consumer of crude oil and petroleum products in the world in 2013 after the United States, China, and Japan. The country depends heavily on imported crude oil, mostly obtained from the Middle East. In the year 2013, the gap between India's oil demand and supply was widening, as the demand reached nearly 3.7 million barrels per day. [12] In a developing country such as India, with the increase in depletion of fossil fuels and with such increase in demand and consumption of energy, the requirement of an alternative source for diesel is a must.

Biodiesel is defined by American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) International as a fuel composed of mono alkyl esters of long-chain fatty acids derived from renewable vegetable oils or animal fats meeting the requirements of ASTM D6751. Biodiesel is usually made from vegetable oils and animal fats. [11] The chemical process by which biodiesel is prepared is known as the transesterification reaction, which involves a triglyceride reaction with a monohydric alcohol normally in the presence of a catalyst at an elevated temperature to form fatty acid alkyl esters and glycerol. [13]

With this background, this study was aimed to assess the effectiveness of tobacco seed oil extracted from India as a potential source of biodiesel, which could be utilized as an alternative to diesel.

 Materials and Method

The tobacco seed oil used as the source of feedstock for biodiesel production was extracted from the grounded seeds (Abirami variety) obtained from Central Tobacco Research Institute, Vedasandur branch in Tamil Nadu, India. The seeds were authenticated by a competent authority from the same institute. The oil content of the seed was determined by using a Soxhlet apparatus on 10 ± 0.001 g of grounded tobacco seeds, by using n-hexane as a solvent for 8 h.

Extraction of tobacco seed oil

The tobacco seeds were dried for 24 h and grounded in the grinding machine. The grounded seeds were loaded in the thimble of the Soxhlet apparatus and n-hexane in the round bottom flask as described in the study conducted by Srinivasan et al. (2013). [14] The apparatus was run for 8 hours. The oil was collected, along with the solvent in the round bottom flask. This was subjected to simple distillation and excess hexane was removed and collected and reused for further extraction procedure. The oil was filtered and the remnants were discarded.

Production of biodiesel

The extracted oil was subjected to the transesterification process for the conversion to biodiesel. The transesterification was similar with few modifications as described by Veljkovic et al. (2006). The alcohol used in the transesterification process was methanol. The procedure was in accordance with Freedman et al. (1984) where the classic reaction conditions for the methanolysis of vegetable oils was 6:1 molar ratio of methanol to oil and 0.5 wt% alkali catalyst (with respect to TAG), at 60° C reaction temperature for 1 hour reaction time to produce fatty acid methyl esters and glycerol. [13]

A quantity of 100 mL of tobacco seed oil was poured in a 250 mL beaker and heated at 40° C with continuous stirring. The oil was filtered and heated again at 60-65° C for 15 min in a water bath. The mixture containing 50 mL methanol and 0.3 mL concentrated sulfuric acid was slowly added to the oil with continuous stirring at 60° C for 1 hour. This mixture was transferred into the separating funnel and the layers were allowed to get separated. The lower oily layer was removed. This mixture was adjusted to the neutral pH by adding the solution of 1% KOH in methanol. This was again heated at 60° C for 1 hour. It was then transferred to a separating funnel and washed thrice with hot distilled water to remove the byproducts such as soaps, catalyst, and glycerol. This was centrifuged at 10,000 rpm for 30 min. The supernatant layer was removed and heated at 105° C on a hot plate for 30 min to remove moisture in the final product.

The biodiesel thus obtained was subjected to property-testing at the Bureau Veritas Lab, Guindy, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India. The properties determined were density, viscosity, iodine value, saponification number, acid value, cetane index, flash point, pour point, and gross calorific values as per the American Standard methods for biodiesel properties, which were comparable to the standard biodiesel properties according to the ASTM standards and conventional diesel properties.


The oil content of the collected seeds was determined as approximately 34% using n-hexane as an extraction solvent. The yield of biodiesel production from tobacco seed oil was achieved as 85 ± 1 wt% by applying the transesterification procedure. The fatty acid content was determined as 28%. [Table 1] shows the comparison of the various biochemical properties of the biodiesel derived from tobacco seed extract compared with the standard biodiesel properties according to ASTM and conventional diesel.{Table 1}


Alternative fuels for diesel engines are becoming increasingly important due to the diminishing petroleum reserves and the growing environmental pollution, which has made renewable fuels an exceptionally attractive alternative as a fuel for the future.

Biodiesel fuels are attracting increasing attention worldwide as blending components or direct replacements for diesel fuel in vehicle engines. Biodiesel fuel typically comprises lower alkyl fatty acid (chain length C14-C22), esters of short-chain alcohols, primarily methanol or ethanol. [11] Biodiesel has many important technical advantages over petrodiesel, such as inherent lubricant, low toxicity, derivation from a renewable and domestic feedstock, superior flash point and biodegradability, negligible sulfur content, and lower exhaust emissions.

Research has focused on the extraction of biodiesel from edible or nonedible sources, with edible sources such as soyabean, sunflower, rapeseed, and palm seed extracts. According to a report given by the International Grains Council in 2008, rapeseed oil extract was the predominant feedstock for worldwide biodiesel production [48%, 4.6 million metric tons (MMT)] followed by extracts from soyabean (22%, 2.1 MMT) and palm seed (11%, 1.0 MMT). [13]

In addition to the above, nonedible sources such as Jatropha curcas, Mangifera indica, Ficus elastica, Azadirachta indica, Calophyllum inophyllum jatropha, neem, Pongamia pinnata, rubber seed, mahua, silk cotton tree, waste-cooking, and microalgae are considered as potential sources for biodiesel. [13] The main advantage of these nonedible sources is that they do not compete with food production and hence, form an alternative source for biodiesel production. In this regard, tobacco seed extract has been emerging as a new feedstock for biodiesel production.

Giannelos et al. (2002) had examined some of physical and chemical properties of tobacco seed oil and suggested that tobacco seed oil may be an appropriate substitute for diesel fuel. Usta N. (2005) had produced biodiesel fuel from tobacco seed oil and examined its chemical properties which were comparable to standard biodiesel properties. [15]

For the present study, tobacco seed was used as a source for extraction of the oil. These seeds have been reported to have minimal use, except for a few, which are used for harvesting the plant again for the next season. Further, in the present study, Soxhlet extraction method with organic solvents (hexane) were used as suggested by Stanisavljevic et al. 2009.

In a study conducted by Usta (2005), tobacco seed extract produced a significant amount of oil (35-49% by weight). Srinivasan et al., (2013) also suggested that 35% by weight semi-drying oil can be procured from tobacco seeds. [14] Studies conducted by Hutchens (1999), Mukhtar (2006), and Stanisavljevið (2007) have reported that 36-40% weight of oil could be extracted from tobacco seeds. These findings were found to be comparable to the oil extraction range of our study.[13]

A potential new technology that may improve extraction of lipophilic compounds from oil seeds is the ultrasound pretreatment of seeds described by Garcia (2004) and Toma (2001). Sharma (2004) had evaluated the advantage of using ultrasonic pretreatment before extracting oil from apricot, almond, and rice seeds. [13] Compared to conventional extraction techniques, ultrasound based oil extraction not only increased the surface depth of damaged cells but also showed an increase in the oil extraction rate. Srbinoska et al. conducted a study, which demonstrated a higher yield of oil from tobacco seeds pretreated with ultrasound methods.

Tobacco seed oil is converted to biodiesel by various methods such as direct use, blending, microemulsification, pyrolysis, and transesterification. Among these, transesterification is an attractive and widely accepted technique. Freedman et al., (1986) described the sensitivity of alkaline transesterification reactions toward the purity of the feedstock used for biodiesel production. Tobacco seed oil has high free fatty acid (FFA) content as described by Veljkovic et al. (2006). [8] Therefore, when the FFA content of a feedstock is in excess of 1.0 wt% (Freedman et al. 1984; Mbaraka et al. 2003; Zhang et al. 2003; and Wang et al. 2005) a two-step process in which acid pretreatment of the feedstock is performed to lower its FFA content is followed by transesterification with homogenous base catalysts to produce biodiesel. [13]

Veljkovic et al., in his study showed that the maximum yield of biodiesel was about 91% for 30 min. [8] In our study, the biodiesel yield was around 85%. Further, the properties of the biodiesel tested were found to be comparable to the biochemical properties obtained in our present study except for the oil density, which was higher and the viscosity, which was lesser in our study finding. Our study results were also found to be comparable to the properties of biodiesel assessed by Usta (2005) and those suggested by ASTM, thereby suggesting that biodiesel obtained from tobacco seed extract was fairly comparable to standard biodiesel properties.

The results of this preliminary study have to be interpreted with some caution. The biodiesel obtained from this study was extracted from a single variety of seeds, which was predominantly cultivated in the study area where this research was conducted. Further research should be focused on the recent emerging technologies for extraction of seed oil, including the pretreatment of seeds by ultrasonic methods, which have been shown to have better yield.

Research can also be expanded for testing wider properties of the biodiesel extracted, and also assessing its effectiveness and efficiency on an experimental engine setup, either alone or blending with standard diesel.

In this study, the source of tobacco seeds was an indigenously available variety of Indian origin. This study showed that biodiesel extracted from the Abirami variety produced results similar to the study conducted by Veljkovic et al. (2006), which used the variety Otlja. The transesterification technique was modified to reduce the use of excess armamentarium and further simplify certain steps such as centrifugation, washing, and drying so that the procedure was less time-consuming. This reduced the time taken and yet provided similar results.

Recent developments in the field of biofuel production have concentrated on the method to increase the oil yield from various parts of the plant other than the seeds.

In this context, extensive research has been carried out in the field of genetic engineering to modify tobacco plant components to increase their yield. [16] Further research is also being carried out to incorporate genes of certain microorganisms such as cyanobacteria and algae to increase the amount of oil to be produced. [17]


The properties of biodiesel extracted from the tobacco seed were comparable with that of the standard properties of biodiesel according to the ASTM standards. Biodiesel had lesser viscosity, cetane index and pour point, and a higher flash point.


I sincerely thank Dr. Rajkumar Samuel for having provided me the laboratory facilities at Hubert Enviro Care Systems Pvt Ltd.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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