Page 1



Biomethanol How Replacing Natural Gas Feedstock with Biomass Will Improve Biodiesel’s Already Strong Environmental Footing Page 30


Proving Out Supercritical Processing Page 24

Homogeneous Catalyst and Effects on Multifeedstock Processing Page 34


Soybean Oil Rape Seed / Canola Oil Sunflower Oil Palm Oil Jatropha Oil Camelina Oil Corn Oil Cotton Seed Oil Algae Oil Used Cooking Oil Yellow Grease Trap / Brown Grease Beef Tallow Poultry Fat Pork Fat Leather Fat Fatty Acids PFAD and others


BioDiesel EN 14214 / ASTM D6751

We build BioDiesel plants worldwide, using our own technology. Guaranteeing highest yield feedstock flexibility best efficiency no limits in FFA content. The BDI Process leads to the lowest position on the cost curve while avoiding the food vs. fuel risk.

Austria, 1991 9.000 t / 2.7 Mio US Gal

Austria, 1991 1.000 t / 300.000 US Gal

Austria, 1992 20.000 t / 6 Mio US Gal

Czech Republic, 1994 30.000 t / 9 Mio US Gal

USA, 1998 5.000 t / 1.5 Mio US Gal

Germany, 2001 12.000 t / 3.6 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2002 6.000 t / 1.8 Mio US Gal

Germany, 2002 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal

Austria, 2003 25.000 t / 7.5 Mio US Gal

Scotland, 2005 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal

Austria, 2006 95.000 t / 28.5 Mio US Gal

Lithuania, 2007 100.000 t / 30 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2007 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2007 6.000 t / 1.8 Mio US Gal

Germany, 2007 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal

Austria, 2007 25.000 t / 7.5 Mio US Gal

Portugal, 2007 25.000 t / 7.5 Mio US Gal

Denmark, 2007 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2008 200.000 t / 60 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2006 25.000 t / 7.5 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2006 25.000 t / 7.5 Mio US Gal

Germany, 2006 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal

Latvia, 2007 100.000 t / 30 Mio US Gal

Australia, 2007 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2008 200.000 t / 60 Mio US Gal

Spain, 2008 100.000 t / 30 Mio US Gal

Ireland, 2008 30.000 t / 9 Mio US Gal

Norway, 2008 100.000 t / 30 Mio US Gal

Hong Kong, China, 2008 100.000 t / 30 Mio US Gal

Netherlands, 2009 100.000 t / 30 Mio US Gal

Belarus, 2010 50.000 t / 15 Mio US Gal


and more to come soon.

Status December 2010

The world market leader in BioDiesel Multi-Feedstock Technology is also offering ENBAFERM Multi-Feedstock BioGas Technology. Biofuel Production Residues Brewery Spent Grains Food Waste Organic Fraction of MSW Flotation Sludge Pasty Liquid Blood, Meat and Bone Meal

BioGas The most advanced solution in the field of anaerobic digestion: the revolutionary ENBAFERM Multi-Feedstock BioGas Technology. Designed for various challenging industrial feedstock: • Highly reliable and stable biotechnological process with maximum possible output of energy. • Up to 3 times more throughput than conventional systems. • Compact in size; therefore easy to integrate in existing industrial plants or offered as Greenfield turn-key plants.









Feeding a Need

Making a Great Fuel Even Better

Homogeneous Catalyst and Effects on Multifeedstock Processing

The technology works, so where is it?


How biomethanol can improve an already good thing


Considerations for growing your feedstock base


DEPARTMENTS 4 Editor’s Note


BY RON KOTRBA 6 Legal Perspectives

Process Technology? Check. Now, Profit

BY TODD TAYLOR 8 Talking Point

Biodiesel Has a Bright, Multicolored Future

BY CLAYTON MCNEFF 10 Biodiesel Events


38 Cost of Operations: ULSD vs. B20

Toledo transit authority compares biodiesel and conventional diesel fuel costs


40 Centrifugal vs. Coalescing

Separation Technologies

A qualitative, quantitative analysis


12 FrontEnd

Biodiesel News & Trends

18 Inside NBB 22 Business Briefs

Companies, Organizations & People in the News

44 Marketplace/Advertiser Index

Biodiesel Magazine: (USPS No. 023-975) June 2011, Vol. 8, Issue 6. Biodiesel Magazine is published monthly. Principal Office: 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. Periodicals Postage Paid at Grand Forks, North Dakota and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Biodiesel Magazine/Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, North Dakota 58203.

JUNE 2011




EDITOR'S NOTE By all accounts, interest in biodiesel is on the rise again. And it’s about time too. The past two years have been extremely tough on the industry. Some have even expected it to fall. We’re still here. You’re still here. Now it’s time to get to work and make this sector of renewable energy strong again. Engineering firms are telling me that calls pertaining to biodiesel have picked up in the past month or two. Consultants are expanding their groups of experts to handle an increase in biodiesel interest. Process technology companies are making deals with EPC providers to bring their technologies to market. On a broader level, the Obama administration is unwavering in its support for biofuel development. In April, Tom Vilsack, the U.S. secretary of agriculture, and Lisa Jackson, the administrator for U.S. EPA, toured an Iowa biodiesel plant owned by Renewable Energy Group, after which they participated in a closed-door roundtable discussion with other big names in renewable fuels, such as ethanol mogul Jeff Broin. Also, the


International Energy Agency put out a report in April that states biofuels will comprise 27 percent of the global fuel supplies in 2050. Twenty-seven percent—that is huge. It represents real progress. But we have to make it happen, and we have to ensure biodiesel can fulfill and surpass its expected role in the new energy economy of the future.

Ron Kotrba

Plant safety, fuel quality, predictable long-term policy, increased market penetration,

Editor Biodiesel Magazine

lawful RIN and wet-gallon transactions, and feedstock availability must all remain in the forefront of operations as we propel this great industry ahead. There’s no room for shortcuts. Regarding RIN separation, EPA released a statement to the industry in April cautioning people to make sure separation occurs in one of the nine pathways prescribed by law. As RIN expert Jess Hewitt with Lee Enterprises tells me, EPA does not give extra points for creativity. In fact, it may give something else for it—a hefty fine.


Associate Editors Luke Geiver gives us “Proving Out Supercritical Processing” on page 24, which investigates where this award-winning technology is today.




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Erin Voegele writes “Making a Great Fuel Even Better” on page 30, an update on biomethanol production and what it could mean for biodiesel.

Bryan Sims took a temporary leave of absence this month to fight floodwaters in the Upper Midwest as a soldier in the National Guard. E D I T O R I A L Ron Kotrba Editor Bryan Sims Associate Editor Erin Voegele Associate Editor Luke Geiver Associate Editor Jan Tellmann Copy Editor P U B L I S H I N G Mike Bryan




Joe Bryan


Tom Bryan

Vice President

Matthew Spoor Howard Brockhouse

Vice President, Sales & Marketing Executive Account Manager

Jeremy Hanson

Senior Account Manager

Chip Shereck

Account Manager

Marty Steen

Account Manager

Bob Brown

Account Manager

Andrea Anderson

Account Manager

Dave Austin

Account Manager

Nick Jensen

Account Manager

Jessica Beaudry

Circulation Manager

Jason Smith

Subscriber Acquisition Manager

Marla DeFoe

Advertising Coordinator

John Nelson

Senior Marketing Manager

Jaci Satterlund Elizabeth Burslie

A R T Art Director Graphic Designer

Subscriptions Subscriptions to Biodiesel Magazine are free of charge to everyone with the exception of a shipping and handling charge of $49.95 for any country outside the United States, Canada and Mexico. To subscribe, visit or you can send your mailing address and payment (checks made out to BBI International) to: Biodiesel Magazine Subscriptions, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You can also fax a subscription form to (701) 746-5367. Reprints and Back Issues Select back issues are available for $3.95 each, plus shipping. Article reprints are also available for a fee. For more information, contact us at (701) 746-8385 or Advertising Biodiesel Magazine provides a specific topic delivered to a highly targeted audience. We are committed to editorial excellence and high-quality print production. To find out more about Biodiesel Magazine advertising opportunities, please contact us at 701-746-8385 or Letters to the Editor We welcome letters to the editor. If you write us, please include your name, address and phone number. Letters may be edited for clarity and/or space. Send to Biodiesel Magazine Letters, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203 or e-mail to

Please recycle this magazine and remove inserts or samples before recycling COPYRIGHT Š 2011 by BBI International


JUNE 2011





Process Technology? Check. Now, Profit BY TODD TAYLOR

It is an exciting time in the biodiesel industry as technological innovations are potentially opening the door for new products, reduced costs and increased eďŹƒciencies. Developers of these technologies have a right to be excited, but must temper their enthusiasm about their technology with a realistic commercialization plan. Technology is not an end in itself, it is a tool with which to do business and make money. Understanding the relationship between the technology and making money is critical. Technology first must be protected from theft or misuse. Patents and trade secrets are the primary means to protect your technology and trying to commercialize technology without the most appropriate protection is foolhardy. Be careful to avoid losing your rights by making premature public disclosures or failing to get confidentiality agreements. Make sure your employees and contractors have assigned their rights as well, this is an often overlooked, but critical step. After the technology has been protected, you need to find someone to use it. Using can mean a sale of the technology, a license of the technology and/or a sale or lease of the equipment or process created by the technology. Regardless of what you do, make sure that you understand what you are gaining and losing in each situation. Selling your technology means you do not own it or have rights to it any more, most often this includes improvements and derivatives. Payments can be in lump sum, over time or even a royalty. If selling for anything other than a lump sum, consider your rights and remedies in the event the buyer fails to make the payments. It is common to take a security interest in the technology until paid in full. Buyers will want assurances that you own the technology, that no one else owns it and that they can use it. This usually means selling a patent as patents are usually seen as giving more certainty to a buyer than a trade secret, however there are certainly exceptions. If you are selling




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internationally, royalties are often subject to double taxation. Consider this for licenses as well. Licensing is one of the most common ways to commercialize a technology. A license gives the licensee the right to use your technology, but not ownership. That right may be limited to a geographic region, industry, size, time, competitors, etc. The payment can be made up front, but is more usually tied to use, especially for process technologies. One common issue with a license is ownership of improvements by the licensee. Options include joint ownership of the improvements, ownership by the licensor but with a free license to the licensee (the most common) or ownership by the licensee with a free license to the licensor. A license is often required as part of a sale of process equipment, as ownership of the equipment itself does not give the equipment owner the right to use it to make the product. Think of the license you agree to when buying a piece of software. Sale or lease of equipment means you use your technology to build a device and then you sell or lease it to someone. They own or have right to use the equipment, along with a license. Consider if there are any warranties that you are giving with the equipment, if there is a service agreement required or special training. Are these your responsibilities or the buyers? If yours, do you get paid to do these? If payment for the license or equipment is not upfront, consider getting a security interest in the equipment to secure payment. Title should also only pass when the full payment is made, so you maximize your rights if there is default. Developing a good plan for how to commercialize your technology is just as important as the technical and engineering work. Consider the above issues as you work on that plan and think through as many “what ifs� as you can. It will save you time and money and help you make the most profit from your process. Author: Todd Taylor Attorney, Fredrikson & Byron (612) 492-7355

Stop biodiesel filterability problems in their tracks.

Infineum R536 – performance proven to upgrade your biodiesel. Biodiesel quality continues to be a concern for diesel engine makers, fleet managers, and operators. The problem is real – fuel dispensers and vehicle filters experience blockage by ultra-fine materials precipitating out of biodiesel blends above the cloud point. Infineum R536 provides significant, documented filterability improvements as measured by the Cold Soak Filtration Test (ASTM D 7501) and the new Canadian General Standards Board Cold Soak Filter Blocking Test. What’s more, the performance of Infineum R536 has been confirmed where it really counts – in real vehicles. And it’s designed to work with multiple feedstocks at moderate treat rates. No need to blend off out-of-spec material or tie up your capacity by reprocessing the fuel to improve the performance. Infineum R536 – the solution for upgrading the quality of your biodiesel. Infineum’s ongoing global research and development programme continues to deliver solutions on biodiesel issues which meet the new challenges of this fast changing market. Call us today to see how Infineum’s biofuel additive expertise can work for you.

Email: Europe, Africa and Middle East: +(44) 1235 549501 Americas: +(1) 800 654 1233 Asia Pacific: +(65) 6899 1661

Performance you can rely on. ‘Infineum’ and the corporate mark comprising the interlocking ripple device are trademarks of Infineum International Limited. © 2011 INFINEUM INTERNATIONAL Limited.


Biodiesel Has a Bright, Multicolored Future BY CLAYTON MCNEFF

In the near future, “multifeedstock” and “nonfood-based” will provide the basis for salvation of the U.S. biodiesel industry. This change will occur through necessity and it must occur quickly in order for our industry to get back on track. In the U.S., soybeans have been the basis of the biodiesel industry, but today if you look at the price of soybean oil ($0.5882 per pound or $4.529 per gallon) and methanol ($1.50 per gallon) the raw materials cost is about $4.70 per gallon of biodiesel before you even start the chemical transformation. It is therefore little wonder that most of the biodiesel plants around the country are still idled. Feedstock is the primary cost of biodiesel production. The USDA has done detailed studies that model the cost of biodiesel production and concluded that more than 88 percent of the cost of biodiesel production is the cost of lipid feedstock. Chemically, the free fatty acid (FFA) content of a feedstock can be used as a determinant of its ability to be used as food or feed for animals. The FFA content also correlates strongly with lipid costs. Thus, it is advantageous to use fats and oils with higher FFA for the production of biodiesel. New biodiesel production technologies such as the Mcgyan Process offer producers the ability to use less expensive feedstocks and still produce biodiesel that meets all ASTM D6751 specifications. The Mcgyan Process uses a solid, highly porous metal oxide catalyst that continuously catalyzes the production of biodiesel (at elevated temperature and pressure) in seconds and does not use sodium hydroxide or sulfuric acid. The process does not use any water and produces no byproducts such as glycerin or soap and, most importantly, is compatible with feedstocks that contain zero to 100 percent FFA content. Biodiesel’s future is dependent upon the development of new technologies like the Mcgyan Process that settle the question of whether the industry can become truly multifeedstock. Isanti, Minn.-based Ever Cat Fuels is a 3 MMgy biodiesel facility that is the first commercial plant to employ the Mcgyan Process. The facility has been operational since Sept. 11, 2009, and has produced biodiesel that meets all ASTM D6751 specifications from a variety of inedible feedstocks. New feedstocks that can be used to make biodiesel fuel may make it necessary to revise the ASTM quality 8



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specifications. For instance, the Mcgyan Process makes it possible for the first time to economically produce the ethyl ester by using ethanol as the alcohol in the production process. The use of ethanol will produce biodiesel under the chemical definition of biodiesel being an “alkylester.” However, some of the ASTM testing procedures that specifically determine the content of residual methanol left in the biodiesel fuel will be obsolete if ethanol is used as the alcohol. Other ASTM specifications may also need revision, such as the flash point. The petroleum diesel fuel flash point specification is typically from 52 to 60 degrees Celsius, but for biodiesel it is greater than 93 degrees. Presumably, this was specified due to the widespread use of soybean oil and the long-chain FFAs that it contains. Other feedstocks such as coconut oil contain much shorter FFA chains (C6-C12) and therefore the biodiesel made with these types of vegetable oils will not meet specification even though they would not alter the blended specification when they are added to petroleum diesel. Multifeedstock can also result in multicolored biodiesel fuel. Most of the differently colored biodiesel fuels meet the ASTM D6751 specifications, although not all differently colored biodiesel fuels are accepted by blenders. In fact, many blenders have internal color specifications for biodiesel fuel. This nonacceptance by the blenders of differently colored biodiesel, does not jibe with the fact that petroleum diesel also has different colors. A recent study reported by scientists at Minneapolis-based Augsburg College looked into the correlation between B5 blends offered at 29 different fuel stations located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area and found no correlation between the color and biodiesel content, as measured by GC-MS and H NMR, of the diesel fuel that was being sold commercially. The biodiesel industry is currently in survival mode, but there are some very bright spots on the horizon. With a refocusing on nonfood feedstocks and on the use of new technologies that allow for the use of all potential feedstocks, including those available now and those available in the future (e.g. camelina, jatropha, pennycress and algae oils), there is a clear path forward to continue the replacement of petroleum diesel fuel with renewable, sustainable, domestically produced and biodegradable biodiesel fuel. Author: Clayton McNeff Board Member, BioCat Fuels (763) 331-0958

EVENTS CALENDAR International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show SEPTEMBER 14-16, 2011

Hilton Americas – Houston Houston, Texas The International Biorefining Conference & Trade Show brings together agricultural, forestry, waste, and petrochemical professionals to explore the valueadded opportunities awaiting them and their organizations within the quickly maturing biorefining industry. Speaker abstracts are now being accepted online. (866) 746-8385

Algae Event in the Land of 10,000 Lakes


What more appropriate place is there for a conference about an aquatic feedstock like algae than Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes? The 5th annual Algae Biomass Summit will take place October 25-27 at the Hyatt Regency in Minneapolis. This event unites industry professionals from all sectors of the world’s algae utilization industries including financing, algal ecology, genetic systems, carbon partitioning, engineering and analysis, biofuels, animal feeds, fertilizers, bioplastics, supplements, foods and more. Organized by the Algal Biomass Organization and coproduced by BBI International, this event brings current and future producers of biobased products and energy together with algae crop growers, municipal leaders, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. The event is considered a world-leading educational and networking junction for all algae industries. Educational tracks at the event focus on biology, engineering, analysis, commercial activities, policy and financing. But education is only one of several reasons to go. The summit is where future and existing producers of algae products go to network with other industry suppliers and technology providers. It’s where project developers converse with utility executives; where researchers and technology developers network with venture capitalists; and where Fortune 500 executives and influential policy makers sit side-by-side with project developers. The event is the largest, fastest-growing algae conference of its kind. This year’s event is expected to draw nearly 900 attendees and exceed the previous year’s attendance by almost 20 percent. This growth is powered by the current strength of the industry and the positive outlook for future algae producers. The summit will help you―algae industry stakeholder―identify and evaluate technical and economic solutions that fit your operation. Get your plane ticket, reserve your hotel room and register for the conference today.




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Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show OCTOBER 11-13, 2011

Westin Place Hotel Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Northeast―from Maryland to Maine―the Northeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will connect current and future producers of biomass-derived electricity, industrial heat and power, and advanced biofuels, with waste generators, aggregators, growers, municipal leaders, utilities, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, investors and policymakers. (866) 746-8385

Algae Biomass Summit OCTOBER 25-27, 2011

Hyatt Regency Minneapolis Minneapolis, Minnesota Organized by the Algal Biomass Organization and coproduced by BBI International, this event brings current and future producers of biobased products and energy together with algae crop growers, municipal leaders, technology providers, equipment manufacturers, project developers, investors and policy makers. It’s a true one-stop shop–the world’s premier educational and networking junction for all algae industries. (866) 746-8385

Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show NOVEMBER 1-3, 2011

Hyatt Regency Atlanta Atlanta, Georgia With an exclusive focus on biomass utilization in the Southeast―from the Virginias to the Gulf Coast―the Southeast Biomass Conference & Trade Show will include more than 60 speakers within four tracks: Electricity Generation; Industrial Heat and Power; Biorefining; and Biomass Project Development and Finance. (866) 746-8385

get more.



NBB Is Your Member Organization.

JUNE 2011




Biodiesel News & Trends



SEEKING SUSTAINABILITY: Kansas State Researchers have found that algae biodiesel production using renewable CO2 is nearly sustainable.

A Scientific Approach to Sustainability KSU study marginalizes algae’s continued viability

Kansas State University researchers have used a mass balance approach to evaluate the environmental and economic sustainability of algae biodiesel. Sustainability is an inexact term. Companies and researchers use a variety of methods to measure and project sustainability, some of which may lack a strong scientific foundation. However, a KSU research team led by chemical engineering professor Peter Pfromm, is studying the sustainability of algae-based biodiesel using a highly scientific approach: carbon mass balance. “The application of mass balance is a very familiar item in chemical engineering,” he says. “It’s based on the scientific principle of concentration of mass, so that mass is neither destroyed nor created in a process.” Mass balance is addressed in each unit of operation, including the algae pond, the distillation column, the biodiesel production process, and so on. “These unit operations are then knitted together with mass and energy flows to represent the entire




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process,” Pfromm continues. “The idea is that mass flows into and out of an operation has balance.” When the same amount of mass enters and leaves a system, the unit is balanced. When it does not, the system is unbalanced—and therefore unsustainable. Pfromm and his team have determined that algae biodiesel produced using CO2 sourced from fossil fuel is not environmentally sustainable in terms of carbon. This is because the CO2 coming from the fossil fuels is recycled to produce biodiesel, but still ultimately ends up in the atmosphere. In other words, it is not sequestered back into the ground to balance the unit operation associated with mining. However, algae produced using renewable CO2, such as that produced by an ethanol plant, is nearly environmentally sustainable. The only unsustainable portion of the operation is the fertilizer used to make the algae, which is sourced from natural gas. Results of the environmental portion of the evaluation, titled “Sustainability of algae derived biomass: a mass balance approach,” has been published in a peer-reviewed journal. A followup study will address economic sustainability. Additional members of the team include Vincent Amanor-Boadu, agricultural economics professor, and Richard Nelson, resource specialist. —Erin Voegele


Defending US Agriculture

EU, U.S. don’t see eye-to-eye on soybean biodiesel sustainability

EXPORT ISSUES: The American Soybean Association and a variety of other agricultural and industry organizations are working to ensure foreign countries aren’t allowed to dictate how U.S. crops are grown and shipped.

The American Soybean Association has teamed with up other U.S. oilseed producers and industry organizations to encourage the federal government to take action to protect soybean export markets. The EU passed its Renewable Energy Directive in April 2009. Among the many impacts of the directive is a requirement that biodiesel feedstocks meet certain sustainability requirements. This includes soybeans and soybean oil imported from the U.S. While only two of the 27 member states have adopted the RED to date, implementation of the program could negatively impact the U.S. soybean industry. This spring, the ASA, National Oilseed Processors, North American Export Grain Association and other supporting organizations sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk outlining concerns related to the impacts the RED is having on access for U.S. agricultural products to EU markets. “I think there is a need for a concentrated coordinated effort on behalf of U.S. ag to work on how this directive can be complied with from the United States,” says Steve Wellman, ASA first vice president. “One of the main concerns that we have is the impact this would have for letting a country dictate to the United States how we need to produce and ship soybeans. In this case, it’s strictly for biodiesel, but we don’t like the precedent being set that could spread to food and feed requirements also. If the EU can set requirements on the United States, then some other country might try this also.”

The two components of the RED of greatest concern, Wellman says, are the sustainability requirements and the certification of those sustainability requirements. He says the greenhouse gas reduction requirements included in the directive are based on outdated production and transportation data source from Brazil. Actually, data from the U.S. would obviously lead to different results, Wellman says. “We also question the methodology that the EU is using because we have other studies from the U.S. using other methodologies that show a bigger greenhouse gas reduction,” he says. To comply with the RED, countries are given the option to develop what is called a voluntary scheme, which must be approved by the EU. While other countries, such as Argentina, are working to develop these voluntary schemes, the sheer scale of the U.S. soybean farming community would make that difficult here. “One of the hurdles we have in the United States is we have more than 500,000 soybean farmers and about 17,000 first gathering points for soybeans,” Wellman says. “It’s a huge number of people and systems that have to get certified and comply with the voluntary scheme. It seems like it would be cost-prohibitive in the U.S. It would reduce efficiencies and would demand some sort of a premium on the purchaser, which would be the EU, to make it worthwhile for private industry to do that here.” Another option offered under the RED is for the U.S. government to enter into bilateral agreement discussions with the EU. —Erin Voegele

Keep it Local

To convince a planning commission, Tidewater Biodiesel touts regional benefits Thomas Arrington, chairman of Tidewater Biodiesel, a future 10 MMgy Virginia biodiesel facility that was recently approved by the city of Chesapeake’s planning commission to build on a 5-acre site, knows the importance of location. As any biodiesel developer would do, Arrington spoke before the commission and outlined the benefits a future facility would bring. “Chesapeake is the perfect location for this facility for three important reasons,” he explains. The first reason should come as no surprise. “Tidewater Biodiesel will create countless business opportunities

for companies who are indirectly affiliated with biodiesel,” he says. In addition, he told the commission about the facility’s ability to play a role in reducing dependence on oil from foreign nations. But it was his explanation of the location of the facility that should act as a reminder to any producers looking to expand or build new facilities, that even with biodiesel, location is key. “Having a facility that creates fuel locally,” he says, “will only add to the ammunition that our local senators need” to counter a call by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission for the reduction of Navy personnel in the area. —Luke Geiver JUNE 2011





Biodiesel: More Than Meets the Eye Michelle Lacourciere, director of the Sirona Cares Foundation, a sister organization to California-based biodiesel producer Sirona Fuels, doesn’t believe that jatropha is some kind of magic bullet for biodiesel. But that hasn’t stopped her from visiting Haiti and her network of roughly 1,000 jatropha farmers every eight weeks. And although she does say that producing jatropha-based biodiesel from wild jatropha will “really blow their (the farmers) socks off,” her work reveals an often overlooked, but invaluable aspect of the biodiesel production process. Sometimes it’s not about the end result but, instead, a different aspect within the production process that makes all the time spent working on transesterification worth it. Take it from Lacourciere who has firsthand experience of this idea. While she notes that jatropha may not be the best feedstock for biodiesel, she does add that “for Haiti,” and the country’s need for reforesting (92 percent of the country is deforested, she says), “it is really wonderful for holding the soil and adding value back to the soil, that is what they need at the very most.” The farmers have proven her sentiments as well. After the devastation of the earthquake, Lacourciere thought all planting efforts would be lost, but to her surprise, the farmers had already started planting only a short time after the disaster. But it’s not just the farmers’ use of jatropha to solidify their soil that shows why every part of the production process mat-

Red Flagged

The agency sends notice to industry on nine legal ways to separate RINs The EPA issued a notice in April regarding separation of renewable identification number (RIN) credits. The notice was in response to RIN separation activity outside the parameters set by law. “Parties may separate RINs assigned to a volume of renewable fuel only pursuant to one of the nine conditions described in 40 CFR §80.1429(b)(1 through 9),” the EPA stated in its April notice. “Parties that meet one of the specified conditions for separation may separate up to 2.5 assigned RINs per gallon of renewable fuel pursuant to §80.1428(a)(4). Records documenting separation events must be maintained pursuant to §80.1454. Within five days of separating a RIN from an assigned volume, the separating party must report the action in EMTS pursuant to §80.1452.” EPA went on to say, “Note that there is no condition that permits a party to separate (or retire) assigned RINs because the downstream purchaser of their renewable fuel is not able to accept RINs due to not being registered for RFS2. RINs, whether 14



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In Haiti, it’s about soil and for some Chicago students, it’s about recognition

PLANTING SUCCESS: Michelle Lacourciere, director of the Sirona Cares Foundation, visits her Haitian network of jatropha farmers every eight weeks.

ters. A group of students from a Chicago school won the regional President’s Environmental Youth Award for making a solar-powered biodiesel processor. They created the unit and then donated it to Haiti, gaining them recognition from the most powerful man in the world, the U.S. president. —Luke Geiver

they are assigned or separated, may only be transferred to parties properly registered for the RFS2 program pursuant to §80.1450.” Wayne Lee, principal of biodiesel consulting firm Lee Enterprises, says the question for biodiesel and biomass-based diesel producers is, “Do you know what to do with excess RINs when your buyer is not registered with the EPA for the RFS2 program?” Lee Enterprises’ RIN trading expert, Jess Hewitt, says, “The EPA doesn’t give extra points for creativity” when it comes to RIN separation. He says with the high biomass-based diesel RIN prices today, biodiesel producers are getting calls from brokers encouraging them to separate the RINs from the gallons at the plant, something that could get the biodiesel producer, and the purchaser, in trouble with EPA. One would think biodiesel/RIN purchasers would simply register with the EPA to avoid any potential trouble with EPA, but Hewitt says the cost and paper trail to go through annual attestations is prohibitive for some distribution players. Biodiesel and other biomass-based diesel producers are advised to check out who their customers are to make sure they are registered with EPA, and if they are unsure, call an expert and have them figure it out. —Ron Kotrba


Fighting the Mandate Up North

Canadian Trucking Association opposes Canada’s renewable fuel requirements The Canadian Trucking Alliance is speaking out against the 2 percent renewable fuel standard for biodiesel that is set to come into force July 1. According to the CTA, the mandate could cost Canadians $2.5 billion over the next 25 years and create a wide variety of problems related to fuel handling and vehicle operability. The Canadian Renewable Fuels Association has responded to the data released by CTA by accusing the organization of “misleading Canadians.” CTA, in turn, has accused the CRFA of being “clearly defensive.” Biodiesel Magazine spoke with the CTA in April to learn more about their concerns and how their issues with the renewable fuel standard might be overcome. According to Stephen Laskowski, CTA vice president of economic affairs, it is necessary to clarify that Canada’s mandate is not for B2, it is for an average of 2 percent renewable content in biodiesel. “One of the pressing concerns CTA has with the averaging of B2 means that currently the way the regulation is proposed, we’re going to see B5 blends and we are also going to see…the availability of product that is above B5, which is out of the warrantee ranges of most vehicles on the road,” he says. “I think your readers need to understand that this is not a B2 mandate. In fact, if it was a B2 mandate, it would be a lot clearer and a lot easier to deal with. Regarding a biodiesel mandate, Laskowski says that the CTA wants to see elements such as quality assurance programs, manufacturing assurances, infrastructure assurances and price control measures. He notes that Canada currently doesn’t have its own quality standard for biofuel production. A nationwide quality standard for the fuel needs to be developed, he continues.

Could Glycerin from Biodiesel Enter an $18 Billion Market? A Canadian company uses a China facility to prove glycerin glycol process

S2G Biochemicals knows what to do with glycerin byproduct created through biodiesel production and, after attending an investment event that allowed the company to present its abilities to a group of Silicon Valley investors, a lot more people might now know what it does with glycerin too. The company has developed a process that converts renewable sugars like C6 glucose or fructose, C5 xylose or arabinose, or most importantly for biodiesel producers, C3 glycerin. According to the company, “The two-stage, sugar-toglycol process involves a catalytic hydrogenation” of the feedstocks to intermediate alditols (e.g., xylose to xylitol), which is followed by a second hydrogenolysis stage that converts the alditols to mixed

DISPUTING DETAILS: The Canadian Trucking Association is speaking out against Canada’s biodiesel mandate, claiming several needed components of the program have been overlooked.

Price is also a primary concern. “We are not willing to pay more for this product,” Laskowski says, noting that the CTA knows biodiesel will cost truckers more and add unnecessary complications into the industry’s operations. “Basically [they] are asking the trucking industry to subsidize biofuel producers, and we’re not interested,” he continued. CTA also questions the results of the National Renewable Diesel Demonstration Initiative study that was completed by Natural Resources Canada. The study found virtually no operability issues with low blends of biodiesel, such as B2 and B5. The vast majority of issues that were attributed to the use of B20 during winter, which resulted in some filter plugging and cold flow issues. According to Laskowski, CTA was involved in the NRDDI study and questions it’s applicability to real-world trucking operations. “It was a very controlled experiment,” he says. “Carriers were specifically selected, and they were educated to deal with this product. Most importantly, the fuel that was sourced was highly screened and controlled. What the study showed is if we do everything right, including fuel standards and educating carriers, etc., that operationally this could work in the winter. We do not have those assurances now.” —Erin Voegele

glycols. Those glycols can then enter what the company says is an $18 billion market for glycols. S2G Biochemicals employs a continuous, liquid phase reaction at high temperatures and pressures using metal catalysts it says are widely available and economical. “The overall conversion efficiency is 85 to 95 percent.” Working with International Polyol Chemical Inc., a sugar-to-glycol hydrocracking technology developer, the company put the process to the test in 2005 at a Northern China pilot plant and in 2007, it built a 200,000 ton per year plant that boasts $200 million in revenue per year, according to the company. S2G Biochemicals already partnered with an engineering firm and Lignol Innovations Corp. to test Lignol’s C5/C6 “soup” with the glycol production process. Dallas Kachan, managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech consulting firm that helped put on the event, explained that the investment firms present liked what they saw. —Luke Geiver JUNE 2011





BLENDING POTENTIAL: Some in the biodiesel industry are questioning why high RIN prices and the blenders credit aren’t translating into higher demand for biodiesel.

Measuring Up Price and Demand Biodiesel economics are better than ever, which should increase demand According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average price of on-road diesel in the U.S. as of April 18 was $4.105 per gallon, more than a $1 higher than the price one year before. While the per gallon price of B100 biodiesel is still technically higher than petroleum-based diesel, the gap is closing. However, when the biodiesel blenders credit and high RIN prices are taken into account, the per-gallon cost of biodiesel drops to around $2 per gallon. It seems that these blending economics should lead to increased demand for biodiesel and higher profitability for biodiesel producers, but this hasn’t necessarily been the case—at least not yet. Lee Enterprises principal owner Wayne Lee says there are several factors at work in the market that need to be considered. While market economics change daily, Lee notes that the spreads have been good in recent days, weeks, and months. However, he also notes that it’s important to remember that biodiesel producers are the ones who have taken on the vast majority of the market risk. “[The producer] has but the capital investment into the project, so…it’s his money at stake,” Lee says. “If he doesn’t sell [the product] to an oil distributor at price, then somebody else will. The competition between the biodiesel producers to sell at those rates is pretty steep.” Another factor mitigating the potential for increased demand might stem from smaller oil distributors. According to Lee, many may not have yet been enticed to set up a system to deal with RINs and collect subsidies. “Also I think it may be that the smaller oil distributor…may be a bit hesitant to make an investment in blending technology at his site,” Lee says. “I think the issue becomes how long does it take for the oil distributor to come to the realization that the alternative fuel producer is part of his life and is here to 16



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stay.” Lee also stresses that it is in everybody’s best interest—even obligated parties—for biodiesel producers to make a profit. “Alternative fuels are mandated by the RFS2, so obligated parties need to have RINs and they need to demonstrate compliance,” Lee says. “If [producers] don’t make money, there will be less biodiesel out there, which means there will be fewer RINs, which means that the ones that are in existence go higher in price.” One company that is making the blending economics work is Ultra Green Energy Services. The company just committed to selling biodiesel-blended fuel at a discount to rack pricing though the end of the year. UGES regional wholesale manager Danny Falcone points out that the explosion of RIN prices has only taken place over the past six months. “The downstream end users don’t [necessarily] translate that directly into the tank [and the price], Falcone says. For most middle market distributors there are also added costs to the fuel associated with handling the product, financing the product, bringing it downstream, blending it, and selling it, he continues. “Hence there is a lot of opportunity for lots of major companies,” Falcone says. “If obligated parties see that the fuel is cheaper, they’ll take it off the market, stick it into their distillate pool, enjoy the RIN value and still charge their price, because they can. Whereas middle market distributors such as ourselves fight to get those positions, try to buy as many spot opportunities as we can and offer those downstream. But, they are short lived. Not many people like to buy product cheap today and then have to pay higher prices again tomorrow.” What makes UGES able to offer biodiesel-blended fuel at a reduced price is the risk management and hedging strategies it employs. —Erin Voegele


A Dog and Pony Show (That Matters) A week after testifying before the Senate’s Environmental and Public Works committee on the topic of biofuels, USDA’s Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack headed home to Iowa, and although the trip included stops at a livestock operation and a rowcrop farm, a majority of his destinations centered around biofuels. While visitors like Vilsack at such facilities as Renewable Energy Group Inc.’s Newton, Iowa, biodiesel plant, may not create an immediate impact on the price of biodiesel, or instantly extend a tax incentive, or magically increase the mandate for biomass-based biodiesel, there are some guests that should always be welcomed. REG’s President and chief financial officer, Daniel Oh, might attest to that. Oh had the opportunity to lead a roundtable discussion with Vilsack, in which ethanol industry leaders Jeff Broin, CEO of Poet LLC, and Todd Becker, president and CEO of Green Plains Renewable Energy, also participated. Are any government officials better qualified to speak on biodiesel’s ability to meet RFS2 obligations, reduce imported petroleum or help U.S. fleets in their quest to use alternative energy? Few, if any, and although a visit from Vilsack can reinvigorate and remind everyone involved with biodiesel how important their efforts are, a special part of the agriculture secretary's visit was that he was accompanied on the tour by U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, an occurrence that Vilsack noted doesn’t happen often. “I think this was a very historic opportunity,” he said of Jackson’s visit. “Those who were in attendance could not remember the last time an EPA administrator had visited the state of Iowa.”


REG’s Newton facility got a visit from Vilsack and Jackson

HONORED VISITORS: Ag secretary Vilsack, left, and EPA Administrator Jackson, right, toured several spots in Iowa and had a roundtable discussion on renewable energy afterwards.

Jackson’s presence helps clarify why government officials or other big names who tour a biodiesel facility are important, even if those visitors aren’t typically bringing a list of potential investors or a loan guarantee with them. Following the tour, Jackson explained that of all that she learned, the most important point to remember, she said, was that “biofuels are about innovation,” a positive message one might hope all visitors would leave a biodiesel facility thinking—especially considering the number of people to whom a decider like Jackson can spread that message. —Luke Geiver

Getting into the Feedstock Game The U.S. Foodservice wanted a more environmentally sustainable fleet, and now it is one waste vegetable oil (WVO) collection business closer. The food company recently purchased WVO Industries out of South Carolina, a company that collects and purifies the oil before shipping it off for biodiesel production. The plan is to relocate the WVO assets to a Columbia location where the oil will be processed. Producers who may be concerned that U.S. Foodservice will be gobbling up a high volume of feedstock can relax. While the company says it will collect roughly 5 million pounds of WVO per year (which equates to 400,000 gallons of renewable feedstock) it will only be using 200,000 gallons of it for its personnel fleet, and the remaining feedstock will made available to outside companies. Tom Murray of the Environmental Defense Fund says the acquisition is a step to reduce the fleet’s environmental impact, and Michael Frank, U.S. Foodservice vice president of operations excellence, speaks to the level that impact may achieve, and it’s not just limited to South Carolina. “We expect to duplicate the success of the Columbia biodiesel operation,” Frank says, “at other U.S. Foodservice divisions.” —Luke Geiver


Could a move to fleet sustainability mean less available feedstock in South Carolina?

VERTICAL INTEGRATION: U.S. Foodservice recently purchased South Carolina-based WVO Industries to secure feedstock for biodiesel in another effort to reduce its carbon footprint.

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Biodiesel Industry Rebounding, Looking Toward a Strong End of the Year As we near the half-way mark of the year, we are approaching an important opportunity to assess the state of the industry to date and prepare for the demands of the coming months. After experiencing the devastating lapse of the federal blenders tax credit last year, the industry is rebounding. We have experienced two quarters of industry growth through the implementation of biodiesel’s first renewable fuel standard. Public policy remains a significant driver in creating certainty and stability for the biodiesel industry. In June, National Biodiesel Board members from across the country will meet face-to-face with elected officials in Washington, D.C. Our NBB Legislative Affairs team has spent a great deal of time to ensure successful Congressional visits for all NBB members in Gary Haer, attendance. These grassroots visits continue to Chairman, NBB be paramount to achieving our industry’s longterm vision and legislative priorities. Whether you are headed to the nation’s capital or not, I encourage you to reach out to NBB’s Washington, D.C., team to get involved. In spite of our industry’s turnaround, there is much work to be done to reinforce and grow our position in the nation’s energy complex.

ation, and I urge you to stay in touch with state policy makers and the NBB team regarding biodiesel policy development and movement in your state. While Congress enacted RFS1 in 2005, the U.S. EPA is responsible for implementing and enforcing RFS2. This spring, I was fortunate to participate in a renewable fuels roundtable with EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson at Renewable Energy Group Inc.’s biodiesel facility, during which she voiced her support for the biodiesel industry, the industry’s role in meeting RFS2 and our position as part of the administration’s goals for reducing our dependence on imported petroleum. The NBB D.C. team continues to coordinate open dialogue between members and EPA staff to ensure successful implementation. As a result, the EPA has assured the industry it will maintain renewable volume obligation compliance levels for 2011 and 2012’s biomass-based diesel category. The EPA has not yet announced the renewable volume obligation for RFS2 for 2013 and beyond. I recommend that all members participate in comment requests as the NBB staff continues to work closely with the EPA in order to establish biodiesel’s future role in RFS2.

EPA Committed to RVO Compliance

Biodiesel can play a major role in the solution to meeting the EPA’s requirements for advanced biofuels utilization. In order to position biodiesel as “America’s Advanced Biofuel” the NBB, in coordination with numerous soybean associations, is launching the Advanced Biofuel Initiative. This multimillion dollar campaign is targeting biodiesel’s opposition groups as well as decision makers and the public. We must differentiate ourselves in a sea of fuels and technologies. Tens of millions of dollars are being invested to saturate the media with misinformation. The Advanced Biofuel Initiative is our way to meet myths and misinformation head-on. The campaign will target those that label soybean oil-based biodiesel a “first-generation, conventional biofuel.” We will showcase biodiesel’s role in global protein production. We will differentiate biodiesel from other fuels in the marketplace. We will begin to turn the tide on public opinion. The scope of the Advanced Biofuel Initiative is designed to make

The renewable fuel standard (RFS2) is creating the nation’s first requirement for biodiesel blending at the petroleum refiner and distillate importer level and is supportive of reducing our nation’s dependence on imported petroleum. It is estimated that 30 to 45 percent of the 800 million gallon biomass-based diesel renewable volume obligation will be met by blending biodiesel in states with existing infrastructure. States such as Minnesota, Oregon, Washington and Pennsylvania require biodiesel in every gallon of diesel fuel and have built extensive blending infrastructure. States with market-driving incentives such as Iowa, Ohio, Texas and Illinois (which consumes more biodiesel than any other state in the nation) also have blending infrastructure in place. State legislators and governors play a critical role in creating and implementing programs that move our industry forward. The NBB State Government Affairs team is actively engaged in state-level policy cre-




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Promote Biodiesel’s Advantages as America’s First Advanced Biofuel


NBB a notable and lasting impact within narrowly defined audiences. This proposal spans three years and is aimed at permanently filling existing information voids among those audiences that have the potential to be the most influential or, conversely, the most detrimental. I’m proud of the work done to bring this plan to fruition and ask that all NBB members take advantage of the new resources coming your way and promote “Biodiesel: America’s Advanced Biofuel.”

Rally Support for Federal Biodiesel Tax Incentive More immediately, the industry must rally in support of our federal biodiesel tax incentive program. The federal blenders tax credit has been one of the most successful pieces of energy legislation in the history of America. Since its inception in 2004, it’s done what we said it would: create jobs, build brick-and-mortar renewable refinery capacity, stimulate economic development, and generate tax revenue that exceeded its cost to the U.S. Treasury. The tax incentive has promoted America’s role in worldwide

biodiesel production and consumption. Global biodiesel production continues to strengthen and could pose a challenge to domestic biodiesel production. After last year, we all now recognize how difficult it can be to navigate the legislative process even with a well-supported, bipartisan policy. With another federal incentive fight ahead, we must avoid the temptation to move anywhere but straight ahead. We can only accomplish what we need to through a unified voice. We’ve achieved great initiatives and policy before, and together we can do it again. As we enter the third and fourth quarters of this year, we must work together. The NBB will continue to work for the success of our whole industry through the maintenance and growth of RFS2, the Advanced Biofuels Initiative campaign and the continuation of a federal biodiesel incentive. Gary Haer Chairman, National Biodiesel Board

NBB spearheads industry’s first-ever national television ad Starting this summer, catch the new biodiesel spot during Sunday morning news shows. The 30-second television ad is a first for the National Biodiesel Board. The effort includes a national ad and local cable ads during the popular network news talk shows. Local cable advertising is targeted at the Mid-Atlantic region. The ad is part of NBB’s Advanced Biofuel Initiative. With a $3.5 million annual budget, the initiative is the single largest project ever in NBB’s history. It is designed as a three-year project to establish biodiesel as an advanced biofuel among opinion leaders and likely detractors. The project began in January and is slated to run through December 2013. The commercial concept and content were created based on research within the target audiences. Focus groups held in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore showed that the starting line to effectively reach this group of high-level opinion leaders was further back than originally believed. Among the research conclusions was the reality that the target audience knows little to nothing about biodiesel, biofuel or

agriculture. For example, in addition to confusing jatropha, corn and soybean plants, participants made comments including: • Engines aren’t designed for biodiesel yet, and it has less energy per gallon than diesel fuel, and it’s rumored that I could pour corn oil into my fuel tank and drive around on it, but I’m certainly not going to try it. • For motor vehicles, you can’t use it in Maryland. I’m not sure about surrounding states. Based on this research, the ad is presented in a simple-to-understand testimonial style format and set in Dallas. It features biodiesel hard at work in buses, city equipment and emergency vehicles. Print, radio and online ads will reinforce both the images and the messages in the television commercial. The advertising effort is just part of the overall Advanced Biofuel Initiative. The program also includes opportunities for direct outreach to likely detractors such as environmental organizations, all designed to establish biodiesel as an advanced biofuel.

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NBB staff presented a biodiesel symposium along with representatives from Ford and General Motors at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

NBB represents the biodiesel industry nationwide One of the priorities of the National Biodiesel Board is to represent the biodiesel industry nationwide at industry events, and the first half of this year has been full of important meetings, conferences and trade shows. The events that NBB staff and contractors participate in include federal policy events, international feedstock conferences, petroleum industry association meetings, regional and national original equipment manufacturer (OEM) conferences, U.S. DOE Clean Cities events, local, regional and national sustainability events and much more. The level of participation varies depending on the event but includes speaking roles on plenary session panels at national conferences, featured expert speakers for events and webinars, sponsor partnerships, media partnerships, trade show exhibits and more. “NBB’s participation in the wide variety of conferences and events helps to get the biodiesel industry’s story out to a very diverse audience,” said Jessica Robinson, communications director for the NBB. “An individual biodiesel producer or distributor would have a very difficult time effectively reaching a national audience and running their business at the same time. That is where the trade association steps in to carry the message.” NBB staff often partner with member companies when participating in events. “We often have local members help out in a speaking role or at regional trade shows,” Robinson added. “This helps carry the message of the biodiesel industry as a whole, as well as gives them an opportunity to be active in their local communities.” Notification of events and the opportunity to participate in regional and national events alongside the national industry trade association is one of the many services and opportunities NBB provides for members. Attending events and tradeshows is just one of the ways NBB represents the biodiesel industry and is a key part of an ongoing effort to educate fleet managers, decision makers and opinion leaders on the benefits of biodiesel. 20



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NBB represents the biodiesel industry at many national events including the recent Commodity Classic trade show in Tampa, Fla.

NBB partnered with the Kentucky Soybean Board and United Soybean Board to provide biodiesel information at the Mid-America Trucking Show in Louisville, Ky.


NBB congratulates 2011 ASA Conservation Legacy award winner The American Soybean Association recently announced Ed Ulch and Brian Ulch as the winners of the 2011 ASA Conservation Legacy Award. The father and son pair from Solon, Iowa, grow soybeans, corn and hay on 2,300 acres. Ed Ulch is vice chair of the National Biodiesel Board. The Conservation Legacy Awards Program is a national program designed to recognize outstanding environmental and conservation achievements by U.S. soybean farmers. Selection is based on each farmer's environmental and economic efforts on their farm. Judges look for dedication to the land through cropland management practices, farmstead protection, and conservation and environmental management. Ed serves on the board for the Iowa Soybean Association as well as serving on NBB’s governing board. “It is no coincidence that the biodiesel industry is linked so closely with a Conservation Legacy Award Winner,” said Don Scott, Director of Sustainability for the National Biodiesel

Board. “Sustainability is one of the key principles of both agriculture and the biodiesel industry.” The Ulchs have been leaders in the conservation farm movement in Johnson County, Iowa, and have served as leaders to other farmers in promoting the adoption of best management practices. The Ulches are committed to reduced tillage operations and have implemented no-till practices on their farm for nearly 20 years. “These types of conservation practices and other advances in agriculture are leading to higher yields and lower inputs with the same acreage,” Scott added. “Biodiesel producers are already providing a very sustainable fuel and these advances in agriculture ensure that as the biodiesel industry continues to grow it will do so in a sustainable way.” Along with the American Soybean Association, the Conservation Legacy Awards Program is co-sponsored by Monsanto and the Corn & Soybean Digest.

NBB Members Only site provides platform for important industry information The National Biodiesel Board has a strong online presence that includes, the all-inclusive source for biodiesel information, a biodiesel sustainability website, a BQ-9000 website, a biotrucker website and more. One of the most important features you may not know about, however, is the NBB Members Only site. The Members Only site is a password-protected secure area where NBB member companies can access vital industry information. The site features six content-specific areas, a news-youshould-know section, a rotating featured member, and a section for committee activities and hot topics. Content managers from each of NBB’s project areas frequently upload important documents. The Member Files section features membership forms, a member directory, meeting minutes and a secure online location to report volume dues and production reports. The Federal Affairs section contains detailed RFS2 information, pending legislation, current laws, current grants, tax credit information and other important federal information. The Communication section features prepared talking points, NBB Member news releases, biodiesel stories in the press and other educational materials. The Technical section features ASTM specifications, OEM industry updates, petroleum industry activity and more. The State Affairs section contains current state laws, pending legislation, state mandates, fuel quality laws and regulation by state, and other pending state actions. The Economics/Feedstocks section is home to

The NBB Members Only website is home to many valuable industry resources.

economic impact studies, USDA reports on crop production and other reports. Along with important documents, whitepapers, talking points and other valuable resources, the Members Only site is home to the Members Media Center which holds videos ranging from NBB presentations to on-site RFS2 workshop videos to recent Member Town Hall Webinars. The NBB Members Only site continues to be the go-to place for NBB Members to access the most up-to-date information. While the site continues to have content added to it on a regular basis, a redesigned Members Only site is scheduled to be unveiled this summer.

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BusinessBriefs Little Rock, Ark.-based biodiesel consulting group Lee Enterprises has developed a new strategic alliance with an executive recruiting agency, and added two new members to its team. Lee Enterprises recently announced the formation of a strategic alliance with Ft. Myers, Fla.-based Executive Leadership Solutions. The group has assigned George “Mason” Carpenter to work directly with Lee Enterprises in finding experienced professional employees for biodiesel plants. Carpenter is a senior executive recruiter who specializes in recruiting and placing candidates in the alternative energy sector. He is a Certified Personnel Consultant and has placed engineers, scientists, project managers, and traders/risk managers in alternative energy companies across the country. The group also added appraiser Catherine J. Rein to its team of biofuels consultants. Rein received her bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Colorado School of Mines and her MBA from the University of Houston. She is an accredited member of the American Society of Appraisers in Machinery and Equipment and is the principal owner of Louisville, Colo.-based Sandalwood Valuation LLC. Earl Stout II has also joined Lee Enterprises. Stout is a retired U.S. Army Lt. Colonel with more than 40 years of experience in government and private sectors.

Ultra Green Energy Services LLC was scheduled to celebrate the grand opening of a new biodiesel transload facility May 16. The Whippany, N.J.-based facility features rail-to-truck transloading and red dye capabilities. According to Michael Cooper, UGES’ vice president and director of sales and marketing, his company has been looking to develop a transloading location in New Jersey for years. “We’ve found a location that gives us the opportunity to deliver ourselves railcars [of biodiesel] in an economical manner,” he said. UGES




Companies, Organizations & People in the News

has added several pieces of equipment to the Whippany location. “We’ve brought in our own mechanical equipment,” Cooper says. “We need to heat the biodiesel when it comes in, so we put in our own boiler to generate heat to steam the cars in the winter. We also brought our own pumping system; a 600-gallon-per-minute, dieselbiodiesel-powered pump.” The location can handle any number of railcars, from two to 50. “We can line them up and heat them and move them down the process,” Cooper says.

A report released April 20 by the International Energy Agency determined that, when produced sustainably, the widespread deployment of biofuels can play an important role in reducing CO2 emissions in the transportation sector. The report, titled “Technology Roadmap: Biofuels for Transport,” also noted that biofuels can help enhance energy security. It states the production of biomass-derived fuels is a key technology that will aid in carbon dioxide emissions reductions. The report also demonstrates that global biofuel consumption can increase in a sustainable way, from 55 million metric tons of oil equivalent today, to 750 million metric tons of oil equivalent in 2050. The report defines sustainable fuel production as that which results in significant life-cycle environmental benefits without compromising food security. The projected increase would ultimately mean that total percentage of petroleum-based transportation

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fuels replaced by biomass-based counterparts would increase from approximately 2 percent today to 27 percent in 2050.

A new program in New York aims to promote the use of biodiesel-blended fuel in diesel generators. The BioGenset Project is administrated by Biodiesel Industries through a grant awarded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. According to the project, the use of B5 in New York generators could eliminate up to 110,000 tons of carbon emissions annually while displacing 13.6 million gallons of petroleum diesel. “A 2000 estimate by NYSERDA indicates use of 720,000 gallons [of diesel] a day, or over 250 million gallons annually, in electric generators,” states the BioGenset website, noting that nearly half of petroleum diesel in the U.S. is used to fuel electrical generators and boilers. There are several kinds of portable and stationary diesel generators, says Steven Levy, managing director of Sprague Energy and president of the New York City Lower Hudson Valley Clean Communities program. The BioGenset Project aims to educate users of this type of equipment that the use of biodieselblended fuel can significantly reduce emissions while helping to drive down the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.

A new simulation program developed at Iowa State University allows students to gain hands-on experience running a biorefinery. The Interactive Biorefinery

BUSINESSBRIEFS Sponsored by Operations Simulator (I-BOS), which is modeled after real biodiesel and ethanol plants in Iowa, operates like a flight simulator. The system has been built into an actual control room modeled after the ones at Lincolnway Energy LLC’s Nevada, Iowa-based ethanol plant and a local Renewable Energy Group Inc. biodiesel plant. The simulation control room at ISU even includes a security video loop of feedstock offloading that is synchronized with the software. It took more than two years to develop the program. The I-BOS system will be integrated into a biorenewables technology class. The program also keeps track of how much energy is used during a simulation. If students forget to turn off motors or are wasteful with energy use, the I-BOS system will track that.

Biofuels and industry advocates in Spain are encouraging the Spanish government to follow in the steps of France, Italy, Greece and Portugal by taking action to protect the country’s domestic biodiesel industry. According to information released by Spanish trade union Confederación Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO), biofuel imported to Spain at below market prices has resulted in plant closures, downsizing and layoffs. The organization and its federation FITEQA recently met with officials in the Spanish government to discuss these concerns. The CCOO stresses that it is necessary for the government to take decisive and consistent political action to mitigate the impacts of low-priced imports that have resulted from “deliberate distortion of charges and exemptions.” Roderic Miralles, president of Asociación de Productores de Energías Renovables (APPA Biofuels), has also encouraged government action to support the economic sustainability of Spain’s biodiesel industry. APPA has asked the Ministry of Industry to commission a mechanism that would ensure that only

biodiesel produced in Spain could be used to meet the country’s biofuel obligations. A program in St. Louis is offering citizens the opportunity to become involved with algae biofuel development by collecting algae samples that will be analyzed for oil content at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. The second annual Backyard Biofuels Citizen Science Project was scheduled to kick off May 7 with AlgaePalooza. The event will be held in the Life Science Lab at the St. Louis Science Center, co-hosted by the Center for Advanced Biofuel Systems at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. More than 500 people were expected to attend. Those interested in participating in the Backyard Biofuels project who cannot attend AlgaePalooza can pick up algae collection kits throughout the spring and summer at the Danforth Center or the St. Louis Science Center. Each algae kit contains everything you need to collect an algae sample.

Through a $50,000 donation, Evonik Industries will “help prepare individuals for work in the biotechnology and milling industries,” it states. The money will be used to operate the Washington County Technology Center at the Cargill-owned Blair, Neb., BioRefinery Campus for five years. The hope is to train future employees for technical jobs within the campus. Alan Brewer, vice president of Evonik’s Health and Nutrition Business Unit in North America, notes the critical need for highly trained, highly qualified people to work at the Evonik plant in Blair, which produces lysine, an amino acid used as a feed additive in the swine and poultry industry. “In the past,” Brewer says, “Evonik has hired people and trained them. Now, graduates of the Technology Center program will

have a leg up on qualifying for jobs offered by Evonik and other businesses.” During a two-year program, students will develop skills in chemistry and other processes used at the facility on the way to earning an associate degree in applied technology. The current employee numbers at the campus equal roughly 200, and the total amount of contribution dollars to the Blair facility from Evonik and industry partners equals more than $500,000 to date.

Planned expansion of corn oil production at all of Poet LLC's ethanol plants will produce enough raw material for up to 60 million gallons of biodiesel. Poet, which owns a total of 1.7 billion gallons of ethanol refining capacity, is now selling trademarked Voilà corn oil from Poet Biorefining-Hudson in South Dakota into biodiesel and feed markets, and its success has prompted Poet to start plans for rolling out its patent-pending production to its other plants. The rollout schedule is still being set, but the company will begin installation this year on the first plants. Poet’s specific brand of corn oil is different thanks to the low-energy BPX fermentation process (“cold-cook”), which eliminates heat from fermentation. When corn oil is captured on the back-end of that process following BPX, it is a higher-quality product with a lower amount of free fatty acids. SHARE YOUR BUSINESS BRIEFS To be included in Business Briefs, send information (including photos, illustrations or logos, if available) to: Business Briefs, Biodiesel Magazine, 308 Second Ave. N., Suite 304, Grand Forks, ND 58203. You may also fax information to (701) 746-5367, or e-mail it to rkotrba@ Please include your name and telephone number in each correspondence.

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STILL REACHING: Randy Weinstein works with students on biodiesel soap uses, but his background is in supercritical fluids. PHOTO: VILLANOVA UNIVERSITY




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Proving Out Supercritical

Processing It’s a major award-winning process―so where is it? BY LUKE GEIVER

When BioFuelBox, the biodiesel process technology company that designed, built and ran a 1 MMgy biodiesel facility in Idaho based on the principles of the supercritical process—high pressure and high temperatures—won the 2010 Technology Pioneer award from the World Economic Forum, one could argue that a new beginning in biodiesel production methods for alternative feedstocks was set. After all, look at the success of some of the previous winners, most you've probably heard of. In 2010, along with BioFuelBox, the social media company Twitter received the same award. In 2007, it was Mozilla and, in 2006, Amryis Biotechnologies received the award. If these don't make a compelling case that the supercritical process for biodiesel production was well on its way to becoming the norm after the 2010 award, consider the winners in 2002, Google and PayPal. “We took a technology that had been done in labs, and we took it to full scale,” says Christina Borgese, former senior engineer for BioFuelBox. “We were selling product to a corporation that said we had the best biodiesel they’d ever seen.” Unfortunately, that World Economic Forum award didn’t come with a guarantee for future economic prosperity, and today, BioFuelBox is no more, a victim of an extremely difficult financial climate seen in 2010 within the biodiesel industry: an innovative company all but forgotten. Borgese, who says “it was a big accomplishment to have scaled supercritical beyond the lab bench,” is now co-founder, senior engineer and president of PreProcess Inc., along with her partner and other cofounder Marc Privitera, who was also formerly on the BioFuelBox team. As Borgese would attest, there is much the biodiesel industry can learn from the brief, wondrous life of BioFuelBox, perhaps most importantly that supercritical biodiesel technology has been proven to work at JUNE 2011






GONE FOR NOW: The team from the now-defunct BioFuelBox won a World Economic Forum award in 2010 for pioneering in technology using a supercritical fluid process.

commercial scale and, in the right situation, might prove to be the best. But, as the name implies, a number of factors should be evaluated before a producer looks to retrofit or initiate an operation using principles of high temperature and high pressure.

What We Already Know Randy Weinstein, chair of the department of chemical engineering and program director of a one-year-old sustainable engineering program at Villanova University, says supercritical fluid has a bad

name. “It kind of scares some people that don’t really know what it is. They kind of equate it with nuclear reactors,” Weinstein explains. The process is, of course, complex, but nothing close to nuclear levels. Borgese, an expert on the subject, describes it this way. “A supercritical fluid can be any material that has been taken to a temperature and pressure higher than its critical point. At this state, distinct gas and liquid phases do not exist. Supercritical fluids can exhibit effusion rates similar to gases and can dissolve materials into its components like a liquid.” Combine that with the fact that during the process, a cat-

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THE BEST FROM THE WORST: Christina Borgese, formerly with BioFuelBox, says one user said the supercritical process produced the best biodiesel they'd ever seen.

alyst is not required to create a reaction and the feedstock can be much higher in free fatty acid (FFA) content than traditional feedstocks, and the process appears to be intriguing. “There are a lot of potential reaction sites because the more the material moves around, the more reaction potential there is,” Borgese adds, and the result is far less glycerin product. In a typical process, one leg of a triglyceride will be broken off at a time, forming diglycerides, and from there other legs are broken off forming monoglycerides. With a supercritical process and the higher number of reactions, the overall amount of glycerin

is cut down. Less glycerin is inherently produced in supercritical processes because higher FFA materials are typically used. The byproduct of an FFA esterification reaction is water whereas the byproduct from a glyceride transesterification is glycerin. A supercritical process “has the potential to cut down on your processing time because you are going to do a lot of quicker separations,” Weinstein says. But even though the elements required to drive a supercritical reaction that ultimately create an indistinguishable mix of both gas and liquid are certainly achievable, Borgese does, however, caution

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TECHNOLOGY that not everyone can do it. “Supercritical is not something that you just do in your backyard,” she says. “When you are dealing with methanol at a supercritical fluid state and the letdown of the temperature and pressure, you have to have all of your purge systems in place, which can be done,” she adds, “someone just has to do it right.” Bevan Dooley, managing director for InProTek, an Australian-based engineering firm that has created a supercritical system of its own, conveys the same message as Borgese

and points out one of the main factors everyone needs to know about the process is safety. “These (supercritical) conditions create additional safety concerns that require careful management and [that] intrinsic safety measures to be designed into the plant.” As for the supercritical processes, when safety measures go up, so do the capital costs. Because the process involves taking fluids to 800 degrees Fahrenheit and 3,000 PSI, Borgese says equipment requirements include class 2100 flanges and other material


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that can withstand those pressures and temperatures. Weinstein points out the need for special steel alloys; Borgese says there can’t be any plastic that comes in contact with the supercritical fluid at one of these plants; and Dooley sums it up by saying, “material selection at these temperatures and pressures is paramount.” In an odd twist, it’s the necessity for safety that has formed one of the commonly held beliefs, or to be more accurate, truths, about such a process—it costs more upfront. And the need for certain materials isn’t the only aspect driving up the capital costs of a supercritical process. As Weinstein points out, producers aren’t “going to have a lot of in-house expertise on supercritical fluids.” While Borgese says that a return on investment is dependent on the chosen feedstock and a few other aspects, installing a supercritical process could show reasonable one to one-and-a-half year paybacks of capital, but that is without including the engineering costs. Add in those costs to a volatile biodiesel landscape and it might be a bit clearer why such an award-winning technology hasn’t taken off. For a research study titled “Economic Issues Related to Continuous Supercritical Biodiesel Production,” co-authored last year by Michael Popp, an economist for the University of Arkansas, much of the data used was on bench-scale research. Popp’s team took high FFA feedstock, blended it with methanol and raised it to high temperatures under high pressure in the absence of a catalyst to generate their own supercritical data. Although Popp says the process is attractive based on its ability to allow producers to be highly feedstock flexible, “and basically go shopping for whatever you can get that is giving you the least price per pound,” he also says one of the factors holding back growth of supercritical processes is related to what already exists in the industry. “We probably have excess capacity using different technology,” he says, “so why would people convert to a new technology when there is excess capacity using other proven technologies where they know the yields upfront?”

TECHNOLOGY In addition to what we already have, Borgese says that fluctuations in energy prices also factor into the processes growth. “Right now the biodiesel market fluctuates back and forth with fuel prices, so when you have fuel prices really high, then everyone is into biodiesel, and when they go down, investors pull out.” On top of those factors, Weinstein says that there is just not a readily available provider of this technology. Even with all of the factors that might detract from the allure of producing biodiesel without the presence of a catalyst, there are, however, a number of reasons why it could still be the next best approach.

biodiesel prices, she adds that there is more room to work with given the price of biodiesel a year ago. That things are different than they were a year ago may be the best for the supercritical process. Next year, it’s safe to say the same will apply. BioFuelBox didn’t make it, but the project showed the industry something very important about supercritical technology. And if we want to know what the future of supercritical processing methods will look like, maybe we should just take the word of someone who has been there and

done that. “The reaction technology works,” Borgese says. “At this point, it is just a matter of getting feedstock. As these materials like soy oil rise,” she says, “an increased look at further waste materials will happen.” And as every producer knows, feedstock plays the biggest role in the technology used. Author: Luke Geiver Associate Editor, Biodiesel Magazine (701) 738-4944

Why Supercritical Will Happen To start, Dooley might disagree with Weinstein—sort of. His team of engineers, which features a background in the construction of supercritical steam generators and high temperature and pressure oil cleaning processes, has worked in the biodiesel industry before and felt that the development of a supercritical process “was the next logical step.” Now the team has developed a system it plans to unveil that they say can create margin improvements of up to $140 a ton: $50 a ton generated from the catalyst cost savings, $40 a ton from a 4 percent yield increase over base-catalyzed reaction and $50 a ton through the neutralization of chemicals. The InProTek system may not yet be here, but developments are happening in this technology sector and, under the right circumstances, more could be on the way. Popp says that if the industry were to expand, supercritical might be the process used in future plants based on its feedstock flexibility aspects. Weinstein says you have to start looking to the future “when everybody is starting from scratch from other oils not being produced from soy. Then you might be able to start designing something around that which would be a supercritical process.” Borgese says the supercritical method can process feedstocks with 85 percent FFA and higher and, in doing so, can tap into otherwise untouchable feedstocks that might otherwise be landfilled. With today’s

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Making a Great Fuel

Even Better

How replacing natural gas with biomass as feedstock for methanol production can improve biodiesel's already good environmental footing BY ERIN VOEGELE

The vast majority of methanol produced today is sourced from natural gas, but this has not always been the case. A biobased version of the alcohol was produced for centuries before the industry moved to fossil-based feedstock. The history of biobased methanol production, in fact, can be traced all the way back to ancient Egypt, where a biomethanol produced via pyrolysis was used in the embalming process. Today, a segment of the ethanol industry is returning to its roots. The world’s first commercial-scale biomethanol production facility recently began operations, and several other companies and researchers are working to scale up their respective biomethanol production technologies. For the biodiesel industry, these developments are opening the door for producers to phase out the use of fossil-based methanol, and replace the alcohol with its biobased counterpart. While the biodiesel industry would clearly benefit from the availability of biobased methanol, it is important to note that the industry accounts for a small fraction of global methanol demand. Other markets served by the methanol industry, including the fuels, chemicals, and plastic sectors, are likely to play an important role in supporting the development of biobased methanol production. The Methanol Institute, the global trade organization for the methanol industry, offers some valuable insight into both the methanol market and the potential for biobased methanol production. According to Matt Roberts, the Methanol Institute’s government affairs manager for the Americas and Europe, there are two important facets to the methanol market; one is chemicals, the other is fuels. “[Methanol] is a basic building block for a lot of chemicals that touch our everyday lives, including plastics, resins, paints, glues and solvents,” he says. “There is a large portion of methanol production that is dedicated to that industry. In terms of fuels, there is a rising demand for methanol [used as a fuel], and obviously biodiesel is another component of that fuels market. While by no means the lion’s share, there is a sizable amount of methanol that is used for biodiesel production.” Generally speaking, methanol comprises approximately 10 percent of each gallon of biodiesel. Using production numbers provided by the National Biodiesel Board, Roberts estimates that the U.S. produced about 691 million gallons of biodiesel in 2008. This would JUNE 2011





Opportunity to Close the Loop Netherlands has become home to the world’s first commercial-scale biomethanol production facility. BioMCN, which was founded in 2006, purchased two existing methanol plants and is converting them to process glycerin feedstock rather than natural gas. According to Eelco Dekker, BioMCN chief marketing officer, the facilities his company acquired feature a combined production capacity of approximately 1 million metric tons. To date, 200,000 metric tons of that capacity has been converted to produce biobased methanol. The process employed by BioMCN is unique. “We’ve built a patented process that allows us to convert crude glycerin into a natural gas alternative,” Dekker says. “In other words, normally you produce methanol from natural gas. We replace the natural gas with a biogas which we make out of crude glycerin. We could use crude glycerin from any source, but our main suppliers are biodiesel producers.” The technology employed by BioMCN is similar to traditional methanol production, although the company retrofitted the process with front-end technology that allows the natural gas feedstock to be replaced with a biobased counterpart. “Basically what we do is convert the liquid glycerin into a kind of glycerin evaporation,” Dekker said. “It’s not really a gasification process, it’s an evaporation process. This evaporated glycerin is then fed into the conventional methanol reformer.” Dekker credits an engineer who worked for the plant’s former owners with identifying the opportunity that waste glycerin represents. He understood that the biodiesel industry was having trouble disposing of its glycerin byproduct and recognized the prospect of converting that waste into something with value. “Where we are different from many other biofuel producers is that we took a slightly different approach to biofuels,” Dekker says. “Rather than starting from nothing, we looked at what we could do with existing assets. These units were built to produce methanol, so the availability of the feedstock on one hand, and the availability of the assets on the other hand, basically led us to think that this was a great opportunity to start doing something else.” Although the biobased methanol produced by BioMCN is more expensive than fossil-based methanol, Dekker stresses that fuels is a primary market for his company’s product. In that case,

equate to the use of slightly less than 70 million gallons of methanol. The 2010 biodiesel production level of 315 million gallons represents an even smaller share of methanol use, approximately 32 million gallons. To put that number in perspective, Greg Dolan, the Methanol Institute’s executive director for the Americas and Europe, notes 32



that the U.S. consumed approximately 5.3 million metric tons—or 1.8 billion gallons—of methanol last year. Globally, 2010 methanol consumption measured 45 million metric tons, which equates to 15 billion gallons.” In other words, in 2010 the U.S. biodiesel industry utilized just under 2 percent of the methanol consumed domestically. That said, Dolan says

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the value of biomethanol is more applicable to the price of ethanol and biodiesel. In the future, BioMCN’s biomethanol could help biodiesel producers improve their carbon and sustainability ratings, although biodiesel producers have yet to embrace use of the product. “It’s a market that we are interested in, but for the biodiesel producers in Europe right now, one of the key challenges is to meet sustainability requirements,” Dekker says. For the time being, they are able to meet those requirements using fossil-based methanol. He anticipates that more biodiesel producers will become interested in biomethanol as those carbon reduction requirements increase in the future. “We are seeing initial questions coming from the leading [biodiesel] companies that are looking to improve their sustainability profile,” Dekker says. “You can imagine, it’s actually a fantastic closed loop in terms of cradle to cradle. If you start out with approximately 90 percent vegetable oil and 10 percent methanol before production of biodiesel, you end up with 90 percent biodiesel and 10 percent crude glycerin. If you then convert the crude glycerin back into methanol and supply it back into the biodiesel industry, you have a very nice closed loop system.” BioMCN's new business development manager, Roger Blokland, also notes that soy-based biodiesel has had difficulty meeting the 35 percent CO2 reduction sustainability criteria currently employed by the European Commission. “Our initial calculations show that if you use biomethanol instead of petrochemicalbased methanol, you would meet the European sustainability criteria of 35 percent,” he says. Dekker notes that BioMCN has already exported small quantities of biomethanol to the U.S. “We are certainly open to doing more business in the U.S.,” he says. With the growing supply of biodiesel around the world, we are certainly thinking about opportunities for production outside of Europe as well,” he says. To date, BioMCN has only converted about 25 percent of its existing methanol capacity to produce biomethanol. In the short term, he says his company is looking to source larger quantities of glycerin in order to bring more capacity online. He also says that BioMCN is considering setting up similar production capacity elsewhere, perhaps in the U.S.

he thinks the biodiesel industry will probably be one of the early adopters of biomethanol.

The Biodiesel Perspective Renewable Energy Group Inc. is one biodiesel producer that is interested in replacing fossil-derived methanol with biobased methanol. “REG strives to find new and

METHANOL improved ways to reduce our overall carbon footprint,” says Dave Elsenbast, REG’s vice president, supply chain. “The best way we can do this is by increasing our use of renewable resources within our plants. Biobased methanol is a renewable resource we could use in order to reduce our dependence on [fossil]based feedstocks…To be able to sue another renewable resource in an already renewable fuel meshes with our company strategy of sustainable energy and reducing our biodiesel’s carbon intensity and greenhouse gas emissions scores.” According to Elsenbast, the use of biobased methanol would likely result in more favorable carbon reduction rating for his company’s biodiesel under programs like the RFS2 and low carbon fuel standard. “Because biobased methanol is a renewable resource, it should improve the overall carbon intensity and greenhouse gas emissions reductions scores to further advance REG9000 biodiesel as an advanced biofuel in the eyes of current policy,” he says. “REG places a strong emphasis on these programs and using biobased methanol should ultimately do that.” However, in any industrial operation, price is a factor. Elenbast notes that REG investigates all materials that go into its biodiesel for cost and quality issues. Potential drawbacks of biomethanol use could include quality differences and increased price. However, Elenbast also says that those issues are expected with any developing product. “As this product becomes readily available to the marketplace, these issues will surely be addressed,” he says. “REG is constantly looking for products that will decrease costs while maintaining or improving quality. We are aware of various attempts to produce biobased methanol and when a commercialscale product can be made that is economically viable that works efficiently within our current processes, we would consider using it in our production facilities.”

Biobased Developments While the technologies for some biobased fuels, including cellulosic, are encountering issues with scale up, several biomethanol production technologies are swiftly moving

forward. Many of these technologies employ waste materials as feedstock. According to Roberts, Sweden-based Chemrec AB is using black liquor from the paper mill process to produce biobased methanol. The company has formed a partnership with Volvo for fuel production and is currently operating a large demonstration-scale facility. In Netherlands, BioMCN is actually bringing biobased methanol production full circle for the biodiesel industry. The company is using existing methanol production assets coupled with a proprietary process to convert glycerin into biobased methanol. The resulting biomethanol could be introduced back into the biodiesel process, producing additional glycerin byproduct to feed the biomethanol plant. The company recently opened the first commercial-scale biomethanol plant in the world, which can currently produce approximately 200 million metric tons of biomethanol annually. “One of the most interesting companies out there right now…is Carbon Recycling International,” Roberts says. The Icelandbased company is capturing waste CO2 from a power plant and using it to produce methanol. “They’ve actually set up a facility next to a geothermal power plant,” Roberts continues. “They are utilizing geothermal energy to make renewable hydrogen, and then combining that with CO2 waste from the power plant and turning it into methanol.” Dolan adds that researchers at the University of Southern California are using a slightly different approach to convert CO2 into methanol. “They are working on a technology to literally strip CO2 from the atmosphere for methanol production,” he says. “So, while we are seeing technology being commercialized today for taking waste CO2 from power plants or chemical facilities, there are technologies being developed to catalytically remove CO2 from the atmosphere for methanol production.” Any discussion of the methanol industry must also address the exponential growth being seen in the Chinese marketplace. “In just the past six or seven years, we’ve seen China’s methanol production capacity rise from 5 million metric tons to 30 million metric tons,”

Dolan says. “The growth is just huge. It’s mostly based on coal gasification with China’s National Development and Reform Commission considering coal-based methanol to be a strategic transportation fuel for the country.” Although coal is the primary feedstock in the Chinese market, Dolan notes that anytime coal is being gasified there is the option to mix in some biomass, which could result in methanol production that contains a percentage of renewable content. Overall, the potential for future biomethanol production seems bright. Over the next few years, Roberts says he is expecting to see many of the processes currently operating on the pilot-scale scale up. “Over the next five years we can expect many planned biomethanol plants to come online and start delivering even more product to market,” he continues. For example, he notes that Carbon Recycling is opening its first facility this year, and is laying the groundwork for two additional plants. The biggest challenge right now seems to be economic, not technical. Low natural gas prices have translated into low methanol prices. According to Dolan, the spot price of methanol on the Gulf Coast in mid-April was approximately $1.80 per gallon. “It would be difficult for a biomethanol product to compete with that fairly low-cost energy resource,” he says. However, companies that are working to meet sustainability or carbon reduction goals might be willing to pay a premium for biobased inputs. “And, over time we’d certainly expect the cost of renewable methanol technologies to come down,” Dolan says. Regarding the biodiesel industry, Elenbast says the biodiesel industry is likely to embrace the use of biomethanol. “The U.S. biodiesel industry works together on a daily, weekly, yearly basis to continually improve and develop our product in order to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase green collar jobs and work to improve the overall quality of life,” he says. “The principal of biobased methanol fits into the industry standards and continues the progress for improving clean energy policy and reducing dependence on foreign oil.”

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Author: Erin Voegele Associate Editor, Biodiesel Magazine (701) 560-6986 z




PROCESS EFFECTS: The use of homogeneous catalysts with higher FFA feedstock will cause issues downstream, in the form of soaps, yield loss and more. PHOTO: JATRODIESEL INC.




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Catalyst and Effects on Multifeedstock


Sodium or potassium methylate and sulfuric acid serve their purposes well, but going multifeedstock may require deeper considerations BY RAJ MOSALI AND SHARATH BOBBILI

Biodiesel is currently produced via transesterification of triglycerides with an alcohol such as methanol. The transesterification of triglycerides comprises of three sequential, reversible reactions wherein triglycerides react to form diglycerides, monoglycerides and glycerol. On a side note, it is important for one to know the triglyceride content of the oil when purchasing. Traditional biodiesel processing is comprised of two broad categories: esterification (or a variation of it such as glycerolysis, enzymatic or temporary solid catalysis) and transesterification. The traditional esterification process uses methanol with a homogenous acid catalyst such as sulfuric acid to convert free fatty acids (FFAs) into esters. Traditional transesterification uses a homogenous base catalyst such as sodium methylate or potassium methylate along with methanol to convert to the triglycerides into biodiesel and glycerin. The point of discussion for this article is traditional homogenous catalyst such as sulfuric acid, and sodium or potassium methylate, and their drawbacks as applicable to variable FFA material in a multifeedstock environment. In a very low FFA (less than 1 percent) feedstock environment, catalysts such as sodium or potassium methylate make good sense, but in a high FFA environment, one starts to encounter various issues with these catalysts.

The Catalyst A catalyst is a chemical that helps speed up the chemical process without actually participating in it. How a homogenous catalyst such as sulfuric acid or sodium methylate differs in this is also an important part of the discussion. There are two kinds of catalysts typical to any biodiesel process: homogeneous and heterogeneous. Homogeneous catalysts function in

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PROCESS such as NaOH or KOH can split apart, or dissociate, in a fashion that gives Na+ and OH(or K+ and OH-) in which the protons and electrons are not evenly distributed, leading to charged particles. Thus, having the same charge, Na+ or K+ can replace H+ here.


The Process

SKILLED APPROACH: Some suggest moving to base-catalyzed transesterification if FFAs are less than 4 percent, but Jatrodiesel doesn't recommend it.

the same phase (liquid, gaseous, etc.) as the reactants. Typically, homogeneous catalysts are dissolved in a solvent with the substrates. Heterogeneous catalysis is the opposite of homogeneous catalysis, meaning it occurs in a different phase than the reactants. Most heterogeneous catalysts are solids that act on substrates in a liquid or gaseous reaction mixture. Diverse mechanisms for reactions on surfaces are known, depending on how the adsorption takes place. The total surface area of solid has an important affect on the reaction rate; the smaller the catalyst particle size, the larger the surface area for a given mass of particles. Homogeneous catalysts for biodiesel production have been around for quite some time, but heterogeneous catalyst is a fairly newer development in the realm of biodiesel production. Typically sulfuric acid is used as the homogeneous acid catalyst for the esterification of FFAs. Sometimes though, hydrochloric acid is also used.

Reaction An ester can react with another alcohol. In that case, the new alcohol is derived from the original ester formed, and the new ester is derived from the original alcohol. Thus, an ethyl ester can react with methanol to form a methyl ester and ethanol. This process is 36



called transesterification. Transesterification is extremely important for biodiesel. Biodiesel as it is defined today is obtained by transesterifying the triglycerides with methanol. Methanol is the preferred alcohol for obtaining biodiesel because it is the cheapest, and most available, alcohol. For the reaction to occur in a reasonable time, however, a catalyst must be added to the mixture of the oil and methanol. Often present in small amounts, catalysts accelerate the speed of a reaction and, in many cases, virtually no reaction would occur without one. The catalyst used for carrying out transesterification is usually sodium hydroxide (NaOH) or potassium hydroxide (KOH) or sodium methylate (SMO). These compounds belong to a class of materials known as bases and also are inorganic compounds, often used in organic chemistry for carrying out or catalyzing reactions. Other bases are also suitable for the transesterification reaction. The counterparts of bases are known as acids. Many acids can also be used as catalysts for transesterification. However, the base-catalyzed reaction has advantages such as a higher reaction rate. A fatty acid and base react to form a new compound, called soap and water. Compounds such as soap, in which the hydrogen (proton) of an acid has been replaced with a metal ion, are often called salts. The reason that such compounds exist is that materials

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The most common homogenous catalysts used in the biodiesel production is sulfuric acid during esterification and sodium methylate during transesterification. Typical biodiesel processing that involves high FFA oil is comprised of two steps, esterification and transesterification. During esterification, a predetermined quantity of sulfuric acid based on the FFA content of the oil being processed, is added to oil with high FFA and methanol. There are various ways of processing esterification, at atmospheric pressure and 65 degrees Celsius to 70, or under high pressure and high temperatures, etc.. The important byproduct of esterification process is water, which dilutes the catalyst thereby hindering in the esterification process. One of the points to note here is transesterification also occurs in the presence of sulfuric acid apart from esterification. Repeated experiments by various researchers show a majority of transesterification would have occurred by the time esterification has reached its equilibrium. After reducing the FFA of the oils through the esterification process to less than 1 percent, the oil goes into the transesterification phase. Another point of interest here is that some technologies do recommend going straight into transesterification if the feedstock FFA content is less than 4 percent. The downside to this, however, is that there would be a lot more usage of catalyst. It also results in substantial product loss due to the formation of soap. Higher process costs are also possible, due to acid number issues that need to be fixed so the fuel can meet the ASTM D6751 specification. During transesterification, once the calculated amount of catalyst (SMO) and required amount of methanol is dosed into the reactor, the process would not change whether using batch or continuous, the temperature is maintained around 65 degrees Centigrade. The reaction kick starts.

PROCESS At the same time when the triglycerides are converted to diglycerides and monoglycerides, the FFAs are converted to soaps. The higher the FFA content is when starting, the greater production of soap there will be. Almost 90 percent of the soap goes into the glycerin phase in the settling process or centrifuging. Contrary to some of the claims out there, to completely eliminate soaps before water washing or dry-wash step is nearly impossible. There is also some residual homogenous catalyst left over from the biodiesel process, which has to be removed in the washing stage as well. Potential issues with high FFA feedstock processing using the traditional homogenous catalyst include higher acid number, yield losses, higher post-cleaning processes, quality of glycerin, product consistency, and process consistency due to changing starting FFAs. If proper care is taken and quality is monitored, these issues can be addressed.

Advantages and Drawbacks There are some advantages and some drawbacks to using homogeneous catalyst such as sulfuric acid or SMO in the variable FFA materials, especially those with high FFA content and multifeedstock product. Due to the general availability of the products, the price is fairly competitive and there are little issues with product supply. Another advantage of the homogenous catalyst is its usability. Since the operations occur in the same phase as your reactants, the handling becomes that much easier. Handling all liquids is easier than handling one liquid and one solid or a combination of them. Some of the drawbacks of using the homogenous catalyst for biodiesel production are: 1) Water formation during acid esterification hinders the process. Care should be taken to get rid of water via drying, and this adds to the cost. 2) Reusability—though there are claims of reusing the catalyst, it’s rarely seen if ever done on a production scale, due to the costs involved. 3) Corrosive nature of the catalysts involved. The popular acid (H2SO4) and base (SMO) catalysts currently used in the biod-

iesel production process are fairly corrosive in nature and need to be handled extremely carefully. 4) The SMO tends to absorb water and needs to be under a nitrogen blanket. For shorter storage durations or when the liquid has short turnaround, blanketing can be avoided. As always, plan for the worst in a production environment so you are not caught flatfooted. 5) SMO tends to settle and potentially lose its original power over a period of time if unused and sitting. The related troubleshooting and fixing is extremely time-consuming and expensive. 6) Multiple stages of processes (multistage esterification, and multi-stage transesterification). 7) With multiple stages involved, there is loss of heat, transfer time, wear and tear and employee training time to address all processes.

Where is the Industry Going? The heterogeneous, enzymatic and other kinds of catalysts are picking up in the market with some of the major developments coming in the past year. With continued developments and improvements, the cost and operational advantages a recyclable heterogeneous catalyst would provide will outweigh the homogenous catalyst. Numerous companies including Jatrodiesel have developed heterogeneous catalysts that are recyclable and provide a tremendous cost and operational advantage to the customer. With more and more feedstocks coming online such as pennycress, algae and other potentially high-volume feedstocks with variable FFAs and characteristics, the process and the associated catalysts should be ready for the challenge. Will the homogenous catalyst still be the norm in future? Time will tell. Authors: Raj Mosali , Sharath Bobbili President, Refinery Deployment Manager, JatroDiesel Inc. (937) 847-8050

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Cost of Operations: ULSD vs. B20 Toledo's transportation authority and a local university compare costs of using biodiesel and conventional diesel BY DAVID M. NELSON, MARK VONDEREMBSE, S. SUBBA RAO AND STEPHEN ATKINSON

Mass transportation, energy conservation and cost reduction are global issues. Many, if not all, major cities and transport authorities seek less dependence on foreign oil and new technologies such as hybrid-electric transport and biofuels. While pursuing these, they can also address global warming by reflecting on a broad perspective of issues such as energy conservation and waste reduction, in addition to products with longer life cycles and reduced carbon footprints. For transit authorities, one of the primary focuses is fuel. In Toledo, Ohio, transport vehicles at the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority utilize two types of diesel fuel. One is

conventional ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD), and the other is a B20 blend, or 20 percent biodiesel mixed with 80 percent conventional ULSD. Use of either of these fuels has benefits as well as drawbacks. For example, in comparison to conventional diesel fuel, biodiesel has its benefits, such as helping lessen dependence on foreign oil while achieving reductions of adverse environmental effects such as hydrocarbon emissions. However, there are also disadvantages with the use of biodiesel. Increased nitrogen oxide vehicle emissions, as well as higher fuel costs, were found when compared to conventional diesel fuel. The added cost of biodiesel is due to increased processing re-

quirements above and beyond that of conventional diesel fuel, often found in more labor and transport costs. There are also other ways of comparing the costs of both fuels. In order to explore the differences in use of B20 and ULSD, an internal segment reflecting life-cycle cost (LCC) was selected. These costs typically represent all projected fees associated with a product throughout its lifespan. In this study, the fuel use costs were investigated, including price of fuel, vehicle wear and maintenance. To compare the entire array of costs throughout the life cycle of the vehicles in the TARTA fleet is beyond the scope of this paper. To facilitate comparison, after discussing the study with TARTA

The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily refl ect the views of Biodiesel Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).




JUNE 2011


management, it was believed that feasible cost results could be found by looking at interdepartmental segments within the transport agency. To accomplish this, LCCs of the departments selected were then partitioned into operational segments. The newest vehicles in the fleet, Blue Bird buses, were selected for testing. These vehicles represent the ones scheduled to replace the older buses. Vehicles in the study were found to historically have 30-year life spans. Consequently, this was the life-cycle length assigned to them. The economic performance of alternative fuels used in buses can be measured by comparing the projected total cost of operating a bus fleet during the transport vehicle’s projected 30-year life. Product unit costs were selected, which are referred to as internalized operations. Costs are one of the primary indicators of how viable a product or service is when comparing the potential for longevity. Vehicle LCCs were selected for buses operating on either ULSD fuel or B20 fuel in the TARTA fleet. LCC analysis is important for investment since accurate projection of the total cost of products and services is very important for businesses to survive. During the recent prolonged recession, companies have been impacted by a reduction of purchasing power in tandem with rising inflation. Given this, many firms seek instruments for investing that will result in the least cost with highest profit margin. A variety of methods for cost comparison have been developed and utilized over time. Some of these are given below, and one of them was selected for use in this study. Cost-Benefit Analysis: CBA compares two categories, the total expected cost and the total projected benefits, in order to determine the most optimal selection of time, material, equipment and other cost issues. In this type of analysis, the costs and benefits are monetary, with adjustments for the time value of money so that all benefits and costs over time are represented in terms of their present value (PV). Time value is a term that reflects the

specific value of money at a designated point. Since the buses typically have 30-year life spans, a CBA can be used for comparison. For this study, a discount rate is selected for computing all projected future costs and benefits in present value. Calculations of CBA typically encompass the time value of money which is generated by converting the future expectations of both costs and benefits into a present value amount. In practice, CBA tries to compare “apples to apples” by putting all pertinent costs and benefits on the same level. A discount rate is then chosen, which is then used to compute all relevant future costs and benefits in present-value terms. Discounted Cash Flow: DCF represents some of the logic utilized in CBA. It reflects the amount a group of investors is willing to pay today in order to receive the anticipated cash flow in the future. This is found by converting future earnings to today’s money. With this information, the future (projected) cash flow is then discounted in order to determine the value of a project, such as the comparison of diesel and biodiesel fuels in this study. Net Present Value: NPV is related to the total PV of a time series of cash flows. It is a standard method for using the time value of money to appraise long-term projects. The NPV of an income stream is the sum of the present values of all contributions from the stream. This is useful in comparing various alternatives. For example, the net present value of an investment could be illustrated in comparing two potential revenue options; either that from a projected investment, or interest gains from loans. For this study, it was decided to reflect on NPV with the discounted value formula for analysis of LCCs in order to determine which option provides the best alternative. The time frame for the base year utilized was the second year of the TARTA study from June 2007 through May 2008. To achieve feasible results within the time frame allotted, boundaries were defined based on internal departments in TARTA,

and metrics from the literature. A one-year time frame offers insight into the cost segment selected for the study. The internal operations department selections were as follows: administrative services/field support services (supervisor labor, bus operator, reception operator); marketing services (all pertinent labor, support materials, supplies, information technology and advertising); bus alteration for biodiesel (all pertinent labor, modification, components); refueling (fuel); maintenance and repair (planned, engine rebuilding, repair, insurance, and loss of ridership); and infrastructure overhead (utilities such as heating, cooling, sewer, gas and electric, maintenance, supplies and support materials). Cumulative results were based on discounted present value amortizing (30-year) internal operations cost from vehicle data for Blue Bird buses. Results show the average annual biodiesel cost at $280,930, whereas the average annual cost of ULSD was $229,070. Based on this analysis, it was found that use of 20 percent biodiesel fuel in Blue Bird buses cost 22.6 percent more than that of ULSD. While this seems to be a sizeable increase in costs, it is important to note that this cost represents only the internalized operations, and not all costs incurred over the entire product life cycle. There are also other factors to consider when reflecting on whether to use conventional diesel or B20 biodiesel. Adverse effects of pollution, for example, may be an important issue. Also, due to the current administration’s focus on alternative energy support, along with growing economy of scale in fuel production, an end result could be that biodiesel fuel becomes more affordable to purchase over time. Ultimately, factors other than cost alone must be considered when evaluating whether to pursue this type of alternative energy. Authors: David M. Nelson, Mark Vonderembse, S. Subba Rao and Stephen Atkinson University of Toledo, TARTA (Atkinson) (734) 662-1627

JUNE 2011





Centrifugal vs. Coalescing Separation Technologies A qualitative and quantitative comparison of biodiesel separation equipment BY MARIA ANEZ-LINGERFELT

Biodiesel from vegetable oils or animal fats is becoming an important renewable alternative to diesel fuel. It’s biodegradable, nontoxic, and has a low-emission profile compared to petroleum diesel.i An important advantage is that it can be used with no modification of the current diesel engine. Right now there are 30 countries using biodiesel blends, and many others are developing frameworks to begin usage.ii In 2006, the EU produced about 77 percent of the world’s biodiesel (4.9 million tons), with the U.S. being the second largest producer (0.75 million tons).iii

The most common way to produce biodiesel is by transesterification of vegetable oils or animal fats, which contain triglycerides. The triglycerides are converted to fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), or biodiesel and glycerol in the presence of methanol and a basic catalyst. After the reaction is complete, the major process steps that follow consist of separating the biodiesel from glycerol and unused reactants such as methanol and catalyst, and any solids that may have formed. Two of these major unit operations involve liquid-liquid separations, highlighting the importance of efficient phase separation throughout the process.

After the reaction is complete, glycerol must be separated from the biodiesel. Inefficient separation of the glycerol can cause the biodiesel to be off-spec, increasing the production costs and delaying the production time. Too much glycerol in the final product has been known to cause injector coking, filter plugging, and sediment formation, and shorten the biodiesel shelf life.iv Once the glycerol is separated, a water wash is typically used to remove any remaining water-soluble components such as residual methanol, glycerol and soaps. The wash water must then be efficiently removed before the biodiesel is further dried to meet

The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily refl ect the views of Biodiesel Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).




JUNE 2011


the required specifications. The more water removed at this step the more savings in the downstream purification steps such as less energy input to the dryer, for example, or longer resin life.

Relative Comparison of Centrifugal and Coalescing Technologies

Separation Technology The choice of technology for the separation of glycerol and water from the biodiesel is crucial for the success of the process. This choice is determined by considering factors such as quality needed, flow rate, solid contamination and economics. The initial capital, operating, waste disposal and maintenance costs must all be considered. Additional important factors affecting liquid-liquid separations include interfacial tension (IFT), viscosity, density and temperature.v If the IFT is low (<20 dynes/ cm), there could be emulsions formed making the separation more difficult. High viscosities, low difference in densities and high temperatures can also adversely affect the ease of separation. Traditionally, gravitational and centrifugal technology has been widely used for separation of glycerol from biodiesel after the reaction and separation of wash water, after the washing step. However, PhaseSep AS liquid/liquid coalescers were developed for biodiesel production separations and provide high-efficiency and low energy consumption as a low-cost option. A more detailed description of the use of coalescers for biodiesel liquid/liquid separations was published in the August 2009 issue of Biodiesel Magazine, titled â&#x20AC;&#x153;Coalescing Technology for Liquid/Liquid Separations in Biodiesel Production.â&#x20AC;?v The following is a qualitative and quantitative comparison of centrifugal and coalescing technology for separation of glycerol and water from biodiesel. Centrifuges: Centrifugation is defined as the process of separating a multi-component system, at least one phase of which is liquid, by the application of centrifugal

SOURCE: PALL CORP. The centrifugal force is dependent on the speed of rotation, the mass of the rotating body and radius of rotation. As the inner axis of a centrifuge spins, the denser materials will move towards the outside, leaving the less dense materials closer to the center. Sedimentation centrifuges, specifically disk-stacked centrifuges, are the most commonly used for biodiesel solid/liquid/ liquid and liquid/liquid separation applications. Disk-stacked centrifuges consist of thin, cone-shaped disks that are stacked vertically. The separation occurs radially in the space between the disks. The feed enters close to the center and as the centrifugal force is applied, the solids and/or the heavier phase will move down to the ends of the disks into the bowl wall. The clarified liquid moves up the disks through small holes present around the circumference of each disk. The liquid collects at the top of the stack and is released. To correctly design and optimize a disk centrifuge, several factors are considered.vii These include, but are not limited to, number of disks and

disk angle, feed acceleration, positioning of the interface and solid discharge method. In addition, sealing materials, especially the dynamic sealing materials, must be carefully chosen to be chemically and thermally resistant. Advantages of centrifuges include providing an efficient separation in short residence times in batch or continuous operation. Also, they can separate fluids with moderately high viscosities and can handle a moderately high solid loading. Limitations of the centrifuge include high capital and operational costs as they are energy-intensive. In addition, the maintenance costs and number of incidents are higher than with static separators due to the moving parts. Another limitation is the narrow range for optimum performance with variable conditions; therefore, a much more extensive design and optimization program is required than with the static separators. Coalescers: Pall coalescers are used for liquid/liquid separations. Typical applications include oil from water, water from hydrogen peroxide working solutions, oil

JUNE 2011





from ammonia, etc. Recently, PhaseSep AS liquid/liquid coalescers were developed specifically for biodiesel production separations. The coalescing system consists of the three steps. The first step is to remove the solid contaminants using a cartridge filter. Solids can increase the stability of an emulsion and can plug the coalescer, reducing its efficiency. Removing solids will also precondition the fluid for optimum coalescence. Then the droplets to be separated from the bulk fluid are captured by the coalescer medium. The captured droplets move through the coalescer media (with progressively larger pores), are coalesced to form larger droplets and are released. Last, the phases can be easily separated in a separator (vertical units) or by gravity in the settling zone (horizontal units). PhaseSep AS liquid/liquid coalescer system consists of a coalescer element in a horizontal configuration followed by a settling zone for separation of the phases. The flow is radial from inside to outside. After settling, the lighter phase exits the top and the heavier phase exits the bottom. A prefilter cartridge is placed upstream of the coalescer to remove the solid contaminants. Advantages of coalescers include low capital and operational costs, minimal maintenance and low energy consumption. In addition, coalescers provide a high efficiency of separation and can separate fluids with low IFT (<20 dynes/cm) in short residence times. They can be included in batch or continuous processes and the size of the unit is compact. Limitations of coalescers are in separating fluids with a very high viscosity and a high solids loading. The highly viscous fluids will plug the coalescer media, reducing its efficiency. Increasing the operating temperature to reduce viscosity can help in overcoming this limitation. The prefilter used to protect the coalescer from solid contaminants provides only a polishing filtration step, therefore, bulk solids should be separated upstream of the coalescer unit.




The diagram shows a relative comparison summary of the separation technologies discussed for use in biodiesel separation applications. A constant production flow rate is assumed for all cases. Pall’s Scientific and Laboratory Services has conducted field pilot tests demonstrating PhaseSep AS liquid/liquid coalescer performance placed in parallel or after an existing centrifuge. In all cases the coalescer was able to remove additional glycerol or water when placed in parallel or after the existing centrifuge. When the coalescer was placed after the existing centrifuge separating glycerol from biodiesel, the coalescer was able to remove an additional 1,757 parts per million (ppm) of glycerol. In the cases where the coalescer was placed in parallel to the wash water centrifuge, the coalescer was able to remove 230 and 1,100 ppm of additional water. In the cases where the coalescer was placed after the wash water centrifuge, it was able to remove a range of 500 to 5,550 ppm of additional water. In addition, the separation was improved by the coalescer regardless of feedstock used, which demonstrates the robustness of the technology. The results show that the PhaseSep AS coalescing system can provide a much higher efficiency of separation than the centrifuge when used in place of the centrifuge or used as a polisher step after the centrifuge. Highly efficient separation of glycerol and wash water will decrease the inputs to the downstream purification steps which directly improves the production time and economics. Pall Corp. has developed a tool, the Biodiesel Value Proposition Calculator, which allows biodiesel producers to calculate the estimated savings obtained when using coalescers instead of centrifuges. With specific inputs of energy and maintenance costs, the calculator provides return on investment and payback for new and retrofit opportunities, looks at both the glycerol and water from biodiesel applications, and creates a range of savings and payback

JUNE 2011

period based on estimated reduction in energy and operational costs. In one case, the estimated savings obtained from using the coalescer was $100,000.

Conclusions The importance of liquid-liquid separations to the success of the biodiesel process is widely known. Highly efficient separations upstream will lead to a more economical purification downstream. Centrifugal technology is typically used for liquid-liquid separations in the biodiesel process. However, it was shown that PhaseSep AS coalescers provide a robust, low-cost, low-energy consuming and more efficient option. Pall Corp. is committed to the advancement of the renewable energy industry and will continue to work to provide new separation solutions as the market evolves. References i Meher, L.C., Vidya Sagar, D.,, “Technical aspects of biodiesel production by transesterification – a review,” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 10 (2006) pp. 248-268. ii Tammy Klein, “Global Biodiesel Harmonization Efforts and the Global Biodiesel Market,” Executive Director of Global Biofuels Center. Presented at the 2009 National Biodiesel Board Conference in San Francisco, CA. iii Canakci, M. and Sanli, H., “Biodiesel production from various feedstocks and their effects on the fuel properties,” J Ind Microbiol Biotechnol 35 (2008) pp. 431-441. iv Steve Howell, “Update on ASTM Biodiesel Specifications and Fuel Quality,” Chairman, ASTM Biodiesel Task Force. Presented at the 2009 National Biodiesel Board Conference in San Francisco, CA. v Maria Anez-Lingerfelt, “Coalescing Technology for Liquid/Liquid Separations in Biodiesel Production,” Biodiesel Magazine, August 2009 vi Philip A. Schweitzer, “Handbook of Separation Techniques for Chemical Engineers,” 2nd ed. vii Kopf, M.H. and Bergjohann, G.,“Biodiesel – The importance of separation technology for energy production from renewable energies,“ F&S International Edition 8 (2008) pp.6-14. Author: Maria Anez-Lingerfelt Staff Scientist, Pall Corp.

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