The operation of any biofuel production process
should follow the same design principles traditionally used for crude
oil based products. The various plant oil refining processes to produce
biodiesel feedstocks can be examined in the same way as conventional oil
refineries. The issues of heat integration, waste processing, minimization
of water consumption, and maximizing production are all key elements in
both types of refining operations; oil or biofuel.
Even for the smaller scale biodiesel operations
it is important to close both the material and energy balance around the
plant. It is important to track where everything is going and to determine
where savings can be made. Alcohol recovery and reuse is an issue, as
is effective use of catalyst, and control of the process to generate the
optimum amount of biodiesel.
An issue with the biodiesel manufacturing processes compared to conventional
petroleum cracking processes is that for biodiesel production extra chemicals
are added in the transesterification process. The by-products of the chemical
reactions then need to be removed at some later stage. The by-products
can typically be converted into saleable products, but this requires more
processing. To achieve the best ROI requires that the entire process be
studied and optimized, not just the biodiesel production step.
The difference between conventional oil refining
and biofuel processing is that for biofuels both chemical and biochemical
engineering experience is required to create a fully optimized process.
ChemSim is able to provide that unique blend of chemical and biochemical
engineering expertise to these process simulation problems.
Process Simulation in Design
In design, process simulation is used in the initial phases of plant
design to determine the overall flowsheet and the sizing and economics
of the plant. Mapping the process determines the flow of feed materials
into the plant, the flow of materials through each unit operation and
the flow of biodiesel and waste products from the plant.
To determine the process economics requires a complete mass and energy
balance for the plant.
We can also compare different processes to determine which process is
Process Simulation in Operations
Once the plant is operating, process simulation can be used to study
how well the plant is operating compared to the design expectations, and
to optimize the process, and determine possible plant retrofits.
Once a process is operational there are two extremes of operation:
1. Maximize productivity - this means maximizing biodiesel production
but possibly at the cost of higher operating costs or higher chemical
2. Minimize cost - this means operating the plant in the most cost effective
manner, which may mean operating below maximum throughput, and focusing
on minimizing waste products, tuning recycle streams, etc.
Check back with us as we add more information about feasibility studies
and optimization of commercial biofuels operations.
For more information on Biodiesel and Bioethanol, such as brewing your
own, look at the links below or search Google...
defined from the Wikipedia
Search Amazon for introductory and reference
books on Biodiesel, including books on how to make your own biodiesel!
For insight into the current operations and
management of commercial Biodiesel plants, check out the Biodiesel Magazine