INSIDE: USE OF SEPARATORS, DECANTERS IN BIODIESEL PROCESSING March/April 2014
Next-Gen Coproduct Research University Students Delve into Glycerin, Coproduct Application Development
Whole Energy’s New Glycerin Reﬁnery, Patent-Pending Gas Scrubbing Technology
Biodiesel Puriﬁcation: Upstream and Downstream Considerations Page 26
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MARCH/APRIL 2014 VOLUME 11 ISSUE 2
The Next Generation of Biodiesel Coproduct Research
Biodiesel Separation, Washing and Polishing: Upstream and Downstream Considerations
New research broadens applications for glycerin, other coproducts
Pretreatment, reaction, separation effectiveness play big roles in fuel purification
BY RON KOTRBA
BY RON KOTRBA
CONTRIBUTION 30 GLYCERIN Breaking New Ground with Glycerin
30 Advertiser Index 36 2014 National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo 12 ALX Enterprises LLC 18 AMERIgreen Energy 24 Crown Iron Works Company 25 EcoEngineers 9 Genscape, Inc. 22 HERO BX 11 Iowa Central Fuel Testing Lab 39 Jatrodiesel, Inc. 31 Kyte Centrifuge, LLC 32 Menlo Energy, LLC 5, 28 NBB National Biodiesel Board 19 Oil-Dri Corporation 29 Schroeder Industries 13 Whole Energy
Whole Energy’s new glycerin refinery, patent-pending approach to gas scrubbing
BY ATUL DESHMANE
DEPARTMENTS 4 Editor’s Note Bringing Glycerin Back
BY RON KOTRBA 6 Legal Perspectives Protecting Your Developments: Patent or Trade Secret
BY THOMAS B. MCGURK 7 Talking Point Use of Separators, Decanters in Biodiesel Processing
BY TED NEUMAN 9 Biodiesel Events 10 FrontEnd Biodiesel News & Trends
14 Inside NBB 18 Business Briefs Companies, Organizations & People in the News
On the Cover USU student Michael Morgan, pictured at the Bonneville Salt Flats, is working to develop coproducts from yeast biodiesel for enhanced commercial viability.
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There is no shortage of biodiesel purification schemes employed throughout the industry, but getting producers to talk on the record about their specific techniques and approaches is not easy. Fortunately,
several producers have been kind enough to share with me—off the record, of course—how they tackle the important tasks of washing and polishing their fuel. But to produce an article on this topic, information I can publish is necessary. So in order to produce “Biodiesel Separation, Washing and Polishing: Upstream and Downstream Considerations,” on page 26, I reached out to numerous companies whose business it is to sell products and services in this field. I would like to give a special thanks to Schroeder Industries, MidContinental Chemical Co., ALX Enterprises LLC, Oil-Dri Corp. of America, Frazier, Barnes & Associates and Kyte Centrifuge LLC for addressing my questions on biodiesel purification. As you read the article, you may note that distillation, the final treatment as some would call it, is only briefly mentioned at the beginning of the article. For an in-depth look at distillation, be sure to check out our article “The Many Faces of Distillation,” in the March/April 2013 purification issue. Glycerin is always a hot topic of interest, which is why we combined coproduct utilization with this issue’s theme of biodiesel purification. In “The Next Generation of Biodiesel Coproduct Research,” on page 20, I speak with Darol Brown with Oregon-based Sego International Inc. for some background information on the glycerin market, and then with three Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel, about their promising work using glycerin as a carbon substrate for increasing lipid production in algae, gasifying glycerin to power a modified V8 engine coupled with an electric generator, and development of coproducts from yeast biodiesel. We also feature a contribution article from Atul Deshmane, president of Whole Energy, who discusses the project development and commissioning of his company’s new glycerin refinery in Mt. Vernon, Wash., along with cutting-edge use of glycerin as a scrubbing agent to cleanse natural gas, both fossil and renewable. Whole Energy’s use of glycerin to scrub natural gas is patent-pending. Speaking of patents, intellectual property attorney Thomas B. McGurk talks about the trade-offs between trade secrets and patents in the Legal Perspective column on page 6 in “Protecting Your Developments: Patent or Trade Secret.” Finally, GEA Mechanical Equipment U.S. Inc.’s Ted Neuman gives us this month’s Talking Point column, a historical and technical account of the overarching role separators play in biodiesel production. Be sure to check out “Use of Separators, Decanters in Biodiesel Processing” on page 7.
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Protecting Your Developments: Patent or Trade Secret BY THOMAS B. MCGURK
When you develop a new product, process or formulation, deciding how to protect this development can have longlasting ramifications for you and your business. Two ways for protecting such developments
are by patent protection and trade secret protection. Each option has advantages and disadvantages that must be weighed in determining which one is the better choice for a particular development. To understand which form of protection may be more appropriate in a given situation, it is best to understand what each one is and what are its advantages and disadvantages. In general terms, a patent is a government grant of the right to exclude others from making, using, selling or importing the claimed invention. A patent is enforceable in the jurisdiction in which it is granted and expires after a predetermined time period. In the U.S., a patent is enforceable for 20 years from the filing date of the patent application. A patent can be viewed as a contract with the government. In order to obtain the government-granted exclusivity provided by the patent, an inventor must provide a detailed and enabling disclosure of the invention. Thus, once a patent is issued (or a patent application published), the inventorâ€™s disclosure is publically available for all to see. There is no guarantee that a patent will be granted simply because an application has been filed. The claimed invention must meet all the requirements for patentability, including patentable subject matter, novelty and nonobviousness. As defined by the Uniform Trade Secret Act, a trade secret is information, including a formula, pattern, compilation, program, device, method, technique or process that derives actual or potential independent economic value from not being generally known to or readily ascertainable through appropriate means by other persons who might obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy. Unlike patents over which the federal government has exclusive authority, trade secret protection derives from state law. Patent rights protect against all making and use of an invention whether copied, independently developed or reverse engineered and as such provide far more effective protection than trade secret protection can provide. Patent litigation can be expensive to defend against and can result in damages being tripled against a willful infringer. The cost of defending against a patent infringement suit 6
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and the chance of a substantial damages amount being awarded if unsuccessful deters many would-be infringers from ever attempting to compete with the patent holder. Patents can be expensive to pursue and may not be granted if the claimed invention does not meet the requirements for patentability. Patents make public the details of how to make and use the protected invention, and, thus, provide a means for others to copy the invention when the patent expires. Trade secret protection arises immediately upon taking the steps reasonably necessary to maintain secrecy and can extend indefinitely, unlike patents, which eventually expire. Trade secret protection can be far less expensive to implement and can keep would-be competitors from ever learning the details of the protected development. Trade secret protection does not protect against independent development, reverse engineering, or copying of publically disclosed developments. Once a trade secret has become publically disclosed it is no longer protected; and recourse is available only against those who wrongfully disclosed or misappropriated the trade secret. Inventions that have not been publically disclosed more than one year and are both novel and nonobvious are potential candidates for patent protection. In particular, those inventions that would be publically observable if used would be more difficult to protect as trade secrets, especially if they could be reverse engineered. Certain types of information, articles and processes tend to be better candidates for trade secret protection than others. Developments that are not publically observable during normal use, nor are easily reversed engineered or likely to be independently developed are better candidates for trade secret protection than those that are. If time to implementation and initial cost are overriding factors, then trade secret protection may afford the more immediately effective alternative. If the development is such that its commercial utility has a limited life span, or its design can be easily ascertained in the course of its use, then patent protection may be the better alternative. The most appropriate form of protection can be determined only after careful contemplation of all the technical and business considerationsâ€”and no form of protection is ideal in every respect. Author: Thomas B. McGurk Attorney, McGurk Intellectual Property Advisors 678-825-3100 email@example.com
Use of Separators, Decanters in Biodiesel Processing BY TED NEUMAN
not noted in the rapeseed-based product, although additives were developed to improve cold flow properties in Europe. Downstream purification processing has moved to distillation for purity and color improvement. Although most biodiesel production uses sodium methylate as the catalyst, there are plants using potassium hydroxide, which produces salts and opportunities for decanter removal of the salts at nies developed their own continuous process at moderate high temperatures. temperature and ambient pressure to convert rapeseed Higher priced soybean oil pushed many plants to shut (canola) oil into biodiesel by transesterification. Both processes utilized self-cleaning, explosion-proof centrifuges in down completely and exit the biodiesel market, or move to alternate feedstocks including tallow, lard, waste greases the transesterification and water-wash sections to remove and corn oil recovered via centrifuge or three-stage decanter glycerin and other impurities instead of traditional gravity in ethanol plants. The recovered corn oil is roughly 4 to 5 settling tanks. The patented technology has since been incorporated worldwide into 40 high-volume biodiesel plants percent of the ethanol plant capacity and is high in FFA and wax content, which presents challenges for use in transby Westfalia/GEA Mechanical Equipment. esterification. Centrifuges are used to dewax and degum the Europe was the leader in high-volume production of oil. biofuels beginning in 1995, which was followed in North To further improve the efficiency of manufacturing America in 2004-’05. Centrifuges and decanters were biodiesel, companies focus on catalyst/feedstock, mixused in the pretreatment of feedstocks, mostly rapeseed ing techniques including high-shear mixers ( IKA, BWS, (Europe) and soybean (North America) oils. Pretreatment Fristam, Silverson) and cavitation mixers from Arisdyne, degumming and neutralization reduced phosphorous and free fatty acids (FFA) to acceptable levels for efficient trans- HydroDynamics and CTi. All work to upgrade product quality and reduce use of catalyst by increasing the reaction esterification reactions. In Europe, the esterification process for biodiesel was zone dynamics between catalyst and the reactant. Different disc stack designs and turbidity meters have been added commercialized by Austria-based BDI-BioDiesel Interto the biodiesel processing centrifuges to enhance process national AG (now BDI-BioEnergy International), which control and increase yields. utilized lower quality feedstocks—tallow, lard, grease and In the pretreatment area, the trademarked Alcohol used cooking oils. Today we find decanter centrifuges as the first stage in low-quality feedstock processing to remove Neutralization process was developed to optimize catalyst efficiency by taking excess sodium in the catalyst to be an bulk solids, followed by a centrifuge clarifier to produce a FFA neutralization reagent instead of caustic soda. Exploclean feed to traditional degumming/neutralization. The sion-proof separators designed for this activity include gear trademarked TOP Degumming process is frequently used drive, direct couple drive and nitrogen blanketed machines. to achieve phosphorous values of less than 10 parts per In some countries a belt-driven, frame-blanketed machine million prior to esterification or transesterification. is installed. U.S. biodiesel production was initially based upon Biodiesel plant centrifuges and decanters now exhibit degummed or refined, bleached soybean oil using technoloheavy-duty, explosion-proof sight glasses, pneumatic opergies from Crown Iron Works, Desmet Ballestra, Westfalia ating water solenoids and higher-efficiency, intrinsically safe and a myriad of independents, which employed centribarriers in the control panels. All improvements are made fuges in on-site pretreatment, and water-washing finished product. Smaller, used centrifuges saturated the low-volume with the Safety First incentive. Technologies for process improvement move into the production market where many were found to be misbiofuel arena every day and will continue as the need for rematched to the application. duced costs is raised. Many of these, such as enzymatic and Soybean sterol glucosides moved into the spotlight as fixed bed catalyst systems, will require a purified feedstock plants found the impurity to be a major factor in biodiesel and G Forces between 4,000 and 12,000 found in decantquality problems involving low-temperature performance. ers, separators and clarifiers—a process parameter to be Methods developed to meet the quality challenge include diatomaceous earth filtration, distillation and clarification reckoned with and utilized by all. via centrifuge at the end of the process. The clarifier centrifuge is gaining popularity due to its lower maintenance, Author: Ted Neuman Market Manager, Oils & Fats Processing, North America no significant disposal costs, and continuous operation with GEA Mechanical Equipment US Inc. low labor requirements. Simple water-washing of finished 201-784-4345 biodiesel is not effective. Similar glucoside problems were Theodore.Neuman@gea.com
Usage of centrifuges in biodiesel processing began with Oelmühle Leer and Vogel & Noot in 1990 in Germany and Austria. Large-scale biodiesel production was still five to 10 years away. These compa-
MARCH | APRIL 2014
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International Biomass Conference & Expo MARCH 24-26, 2014 Orange County Convention Center Orlando, Florida Organized by BBI International and produced by Biomass Magazine, this event brings current and future producers of bioenergy and biobased products together with waste generators, energy crop growers, municipal leaders, utility executives, 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 biomass industries. 866-746-8385 | www.biomassconference.com
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National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo OCTOBER 13-15, 2014 Hyatt Minneapolis Minneapolis, Minnesota Produced by BBI International, this national event will feature the world of advanced biofuels and biobased chemicals—technology scale-up, project finance, policy, national markets and more—with a core focus on the industrial, petroleum and agribusiness alliances defining the national advanced biofuels industry. With a vertically integrated program and audience, the National Advanced Biofuels Conference & Expo is tailored for industry professionals engaged in producing, developing and deploying advanced biofuels, biobased platform chemicals, polymers and other renewable molecules that have the potential to meet or exceed the performance of petroleum-derived products. 866-746-8385 | www.advancedbiofuelsconference.com
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Biodiesel News & Trends
MAJOR ACCOMPLISHMENT: UT Austin assistant professor Hal Alper has produced the highest concentration of lipids reported through fermentation, using a genetically modified version of the yeast strain Yarrowia lipolytica. PHOTOS: COCKRELL SCHOOL OF ENGINEERING, THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
UT Austin researcher rewires yeast to produce 90 percent lipids Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering have developed a high lipid-producing variety of yeast from genetically engineered cells and ordinary table sugar. This yeast produces lipids that can be used for biodiesel production. Assistant professor Hal Alper, in the Cockrell School’s McKetta Department of Chemical Engineering, along with his team of students, created the new cell-based platform. Given that the yeast cells grow on sugars, Alper calls the biofuel produced by this process “a renewable version of sweet crude.” The researchers’ platform produces the highest concentration of oils and fats reported through fermentation, the process of culturing cells to convert sugar into products such as alcohol, gases or acids. This work was published in Nature Communications on Jan. 20. The UT Austin research team was able to rewire yeast cells to enable up to 90 percent of the cell mass to become lipids, which can then be used to produce biodiesel. “To put this in perspective, this lipid value is approaching the concentration seen in many industrial biochemical processes,” Alper says. “We took a starting yeast strain of Yarrowia lipolytica, and we’ve been able to convert it into a factory for oil directly from sugar. This work opens up a new platform for a renewable energy and chemical source.” The biofuel the researchers formulated is similar in composition to biodiesel made from soybean oil. The advantages of using the yeast cells to produce commercial-grade biodiesel are 10
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that yeast cells can be grown anywhere, do not compete with land resources and are easier to genetically alter than other sources of biofuel. “By genetically rewiring Yarrowia lipolytica, Alper and his research group have created a near-commercial biocatalyst that produces high levels of bio-oils during carbohydrate fermentation,” says Lonnie O. Ingram, director of the Florida Center for Renewable Chemicals and Fuels at the University of Florida. “This is a remarkable demonstration of the power of metabolic engineering.” So far, high-level production of biofuels and renewable oils has been an elusive goal, but the researchers believe that industryscale production is possible with their platform. In a large-scale engineering effort spanning four years, the researchers genetically modified Yarrowia lipolytica by both removing and overexpressing specific genes that influence lipid production. In addition, the team identified optimum culturing conditions that differ from standard conditions. Traditional methods rely on nitrogen starvation to trick yeast cells into storing fat and materials. Alper’s research provides a mechanism for growing lipids without nitrogen starvation. The research has resulted in a technology for which UT Austin has applied for a patent. “Our cells do not require that starvation,” Alper says. “That makes it extremely attractive from an industry production standpoint.” The team increased lipid levels by nearly 60-fold from the starting point.
Measures to identify, stop grease thieves in their tracks
Grease theft has been a hot-ticket item of concern in the rendering and biodiesel industries ever since the value of this raw material began rising with increased biodiesel production. In a high market, opportunists and bootleggers are responsible for the loss of 40 to 50 percent of inedible kitchen grease (IKG) product, according to David Isen, asset protection manager for Imperial Western Products, who spoke on an IKG theft panel at the California Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Conference in San Diego in January. In a low market, Isen says 20 to 30 percent of IKG is lost to grease thieves. Isen says 80 percent of grease theft is committed by unlicensed bootleggers, who not only steal product but sometimes whole containers and try disguising them to cover their tracks. They employ tactics to cut, damage, or destroy containers, or even buy container keys from competitors, to illegally obtain product. He says to identify these bootleggers, watch for expired or fake IKG sticker on their truck or no sticker at all. Their trucks will also often lack company signage and a California business license number. Grease thieves can also be spotted by their dirty and atypical collection vehicles, and may be lacking a TK or TL sticker indicating it’s a licensed truck or trailer. Isen also says to be wary of collectors operating between the hours of 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. Isen says the “Stop Grease Theft Now” program plans to disseminate the message on highway billboards offering $500 rewards for information leading to the arrest of individuals responsible for stealing IKG. “File police
reports,” Isen says to anyone hit by grease thieves, “because this is not a victimless crime.” Paul Roos, a special investigator for the CDFA, says victims include legitimate haulers, restaurants, passersby who may slip on the mess left behind, and the environment, to mention a few. The CDFA has an IKG crime reporter website, which the panelists encouraged people to utilize. Isen says businesses can use GPS and tracking cameras to help protect their assets, and improved communications between licensed companies, and a call to action from legitimate grease haulers, are highly recommended. Dwight O. “Spike” Helmick Jr., a retired California Highway Patrol commissioner, says legislation has been drafted and will be introduced this year in the state assembly to give law enforcement the tools they need to help stop grease theft. Existing law already requires licensed renderers to record and keep paperwork for two years, including specific information such as name, address and registration number of IKG transporters that have made deliveries. The draft legislation intends to increase the penalties for noncompliance (lack of records or lack of willingness to produce records upon demand from law enforcement) from $500, $1,000 and $2,000 for first, second and third offenses, respectively, to $1,000, $2,000 and $10,000. Currently, the transport of IKG without CDFA registration, and without being in possession of a valid registration certificate issued by the department, is prohibited. The draft legislation would require possession of a manifest for the IKG being transported. The draft bill would also authorize law enforcement to remove a vehicle if it is involved in the theft or movement of stolen IKG, or if the vehicle is transporting IKG without being properly licensed. It authorizes police to seize and impound any vehicle involved in theft or transportation of stolen IKG after citation or arrest, for up to 30 days. “After 30 days at $150 a day, the intent is to get these vehicles off the road,” Helmick says. Finally, the draft legislation would require every vehicle transporting IKG to display both a specified decal and certain information on the front doors of the vehicle.
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Blue Sun launches commercial-scale enzymatic biodiesel process Blue Sun Energy announced the implementation of the company’s new enzymatic biodiesel processing technology at its 30 MMgy production facility in St. Joseph, Mo. “We have fully commercialized the enzymatic process technology and the plant is operating at full commercial scale,” says Blue Sun CEO Leigh Freeman. Sean Lafferty, vice president of technology and new business, says, “Blue Sun can use essentially any feedstock without limit to free fatty acid content. This reduces pretreatment requirements and costs significantly. Blue Sun’s feedstock advantage alone can yield a savings of 10 cents per pound of feedstock, or 75 to 80 cents lower cost per gallon of finished biodiesel.” Blue Sun’s process is more efficient in methanol recovery and use, further reducing costs. Also, the value of the glycerin produced is much higher than in standard biodiesel operations—20 to 30 cents per pound versus less than 10 cents per pound traditionally. “Commercial operations using the enzyme would not have been possible without the many discoveries and inventions of the skilled engineers at Blue Sun, and the support of our partner, Novozymes,” says Bruce Baughman, chief operations officer. Its process utilizes Novozymes’ Callera Trans L enzyme. Blue Sun says it will soon announce its next technology breakthrough, a major milestone in renewable diesel.
HIGHER QUALITY: In addition to launching its enzymatic process, Blue Sun also installed a distillation column last year to improve product quality. PHOTO: BLUE SUN ENERGY
Biodiesel technical progress achieved at ASTM, NREL The technical data needed to ballot legacy-safe blends of biodiesel-blended heating oil up to B20 has finally been obtained, a necessary step to ballot the measure at ASTM, according to Steve Howell, with Marc-IV Consulting and senior technical advisor for the National Biodiesel Board, and Scott Fenwick, NBB’s technical director. This will broaden the market opportunities for biodiesel, particularly in the Northeast, for higher biodiesel blends in existing oilheat burners. In addition, one major limiting factor to shipping biodiesel through pipelines has been concerns of jet engine manufacturers that biodiesel trailback into jet fuel batches would cause contamination and potentially compromise jet fuel quality, putting airline passengers at risk. A 5 ppm limit, a level nearly impossible to detect, has virtually kept biodiesel out of the pipe, disallowing the cost benefits associated with pipeline product movement. After years of work testing jet fuel with 400 ppm of biodiesel, a level four times that being sought for approval, Howell says a measure to allow up to 100 ppm of biodiesel in jet fuel will be balloted next semester. Finally, Howell notes at the national event that Golden, Colo.-based NREL has finally concluded a long study that demonstrates antioxidant-dosed biodiesel can remain on-spec for up to three years.
BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS: Steve Howell tells the general session audience at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego about the technical achievements made over the past year. PHOTO: RON KOTRBA, BIODIESEL MAGAZINE
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Developing a solid biodiesel request for proposal
DEFINING MESSAGE: Santos addresses the audience in a market transparency breakout session at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in San Diego. PHOTO: RON KOTRBA, BIODIESEL MAGAZINE
At the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference in San Diego, Dolores Santos with OPIS spoke about how to develop a solid request for proposal (RFP). Santos says to specifically define the biodiesel type (e.g., corn oilbased biodiesel) to be bought or sold, define the city or market and price benchmark index that will be used to price the fuel, and have a backup city or alternative price formula written into the contract. Clearly define the product specifications, she says, and specify whether BQ-9000 is a requirement, and if routine testing will be conducted. Determine whether the RINs associated with the fuel will be transferred to the buyer, or if the value of the RINs is included in the price. If the California market is at play, there needs to be an understanding whether the low carbon fuel standard carbon intensity value is included in fuel, or if the supplier is selling nonobligated product, she says. Regarding benchmarking, do research, Santos says. Find out what cities will be used, and if there is more than one supplier in the identified location. “Most only have one or two suppliers,” she says. “Know who your supplier is.” Santos also suggests using a combination of rack posting and swap prices to develop a sound RFP.
Annual biofuel demand forecast at 51 billion gallons by 2022
SOURCE: NAVIGANT RESEARCH
A new report from Navigant Research suggests global demand for biofuels for road transportation will grow from 32.4 billion gallons in 2013 to 51.1 billion by 2022. “Developed nations in Europe and North America are beginning to see declines in liquid fuels consumption from the road transportation sector, due to increased vehicle fuel efficiency and growing interest in alternative fuel vehicles,” says Scott Shepard, research analyst with Navigant Research. Petroleum consumption by the road transportation sector in the U.S. is expected to peak in 2016, according to the report, as biofuels grow to account for 8.7 percent of demand. Major stakeholders, including the airline industry and the U.S. Department of Defense, stand to benefit greatly from advances in drop-in biofuels and will continue to spur development of the technology, driving the price per gallon down to competitive levels.
The Next Generation Adds to Biodiesel Sustainability and Growth When National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe addressed the biodiesel industry at the recent conference in San Diego, he reminded us of the importance of history in understanding how we got to where we are. The history of the U.S. biodiesel industry can be traced back to a university laboratory— actually at my alma mater, the University of Missouri-Columbia. Just as our roots are in scientific reDon Scott, search, as biodiesel grows and adapts to our Director of Sustainability, changing energy landscape, the future of the National Biodiesel Board industry also lies in what science can produce. Undoubtedly laboratories at academic institutions will continue to shape the science that defines us. That is why NBB initiated the Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program in 2010. During the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in January, we were honored to have 36 young scientists attending as part of this program. For the first time, we hosted a student-led breakout session, and we are fortunate to share in some of their research. These bright students have projects ranging from developing improved fuel quality test methods to enhancing the efficiency of biodiesel production and coproduct utilization. They also have numerous projects exploring new feedstocks, including soybean yield improvement, explorations into lipid-producing algae and microbes, and processing trap grease into biodiesel. I congratulate these young scientists for exploring untested methods, some of which may be perfected to bring more biodiesel to market in the future. The biodiesel industry would be nothing without the open minds of scientists looking for better solutions. In the political sphere, there seems to be a battle between the open minds, pursuing better energy policy, and the limited thinkers who can’t escape the status quo. It’s a battle between science and the pseudoscience conjured by those who want to keep us addicted to oil, or perpetuated by those who think we will always be limited by feedstock. Many of the student scientists have now dipped their toes into these political waters, coming to biodiesel’s defense in January by submitting comments to the U.S. EPA about the proposed cuts to the federal renewable fuel standard. In addition, the four co-chairs of NGSB submitted original comments to EPA, saying, “We see your support as an investment in our future. As scientists, we can contribute to the sustainable growth of biodiesel and make it an even more valuable product 14
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University students shared their research with conference attendees through a student-led break out session and an expo hall poster session as part of NBB’s Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel program.
for the nation’s fuel supply….Our greatest hope is that the United States will remain the top producer of biofuels among any country, consistent with our tradition of excellence, creating opportunities for youth, and leading the world by example.” The biodiesel industry is evolving, becoming more diverse and more efficient. Growth fosters these changes. We can’t say exactly how much biodiesel we can produce in 2030 or beyond, but it’s safe to say that it will be significant—if our progress continues. We’ve already met our goal to produce 5 percent of U.S. diesel fuel volumes ahead of our 2015 target. Now our sights are set on 10 percent by 2022. Implicit in these goals is that we grow sustainably according to feedstock availability. Responsible growth incentivizes the development of more feedstocks and more effective utilization of existing feedstocks. Our industry track record proves that we are good at setting responsible goals for biodiesel volume growth. While setting those goals requires some balance between overreaching and stagnation, we cannot overreach when it comes to investing in science. When early U.S. biodiesel research began a little more than two decades ago, some of the student scientists we met in January hadn’t even been born. Yet they are the ones who will lead us down the path to exploring every available option. Each of them has the potential to discover successful breakthroughs, like those who have brought us to where we are today. Someday, they will take us to the next generation of biodiesel. Don Scott, Director of Sustainability, National Biodiesel Board
NBB Industry submits wave of RFS comments, advocacy continues
Biodiesel supporters submitted more than 6,300 comments to U.S. EPA for stronger biodiesel volumes in the 2014 RFS.
The U.S. EPA closed the comment period Jan. 28 on the pending proposal for volumes under the renewable fuel standard (RFS). After weeks of discussions, NBB and its members submitted thousands of comments on behalf of a strong biodiesel volume in 2014 and 2015. The final rule won’t be announced until late spring at the earliest, but the industry submitted thorough and compelling evidence supporting a higher volume. In its formal comments, NBB submitted more
than 400 pages of information, including new studies demonstrating economic and environmental benefits of biodiesel. NBB’s comments were developed by a working group that included representation from a wide variety of biodiesel producers and stakeholders, with feedback from every corner of the biodiesel economy. “NBB’s comments incorporated input from across the industry and included the best data available about the positive benefits of increased biodiesel production,” said NBB Chairman Steven J. Levy. “I want to personally thank everyone who participated in the process, and particularly those members of our working group who spent extensive hours in meetings and conference calls helping to make sure we put our best foot forward. It was a lot of work, but in the end we made a very compelling case to the administration that their proposal should be changed and that biodiesel can continue growing in a cost-effective and sustainable way.” NBB also thanked everyone who submitted individual comments to the EPA. Through the NBB website, conference, and other related letter-writing campaigns, at least 6,300 comments were submitted on behalf of the biodiesel industry—significantly exceeding the goal of 5,000 comments. Finally, all biodiesel stakeholders are encouraged to continue to be vocal and aggressive in pressing the administration to improve this proposal. Advocacy remains important beyond the close of the official comment period as the decision-making process will continue until the final rule is announced.
Quality assurance plans bring confidence to RIN markets The renewable fuel standard (RFS) continues to be the driving force behind record biodiesel production volumes in the industry, and as the volumes grow, the integrity of the compliance mechanism of RINs becomes increasingly important. There are a number of private sector RIN integrity programs, but the Genscape RIN Integrity Network, developed with the support of the National Biodiesel Board and its members, is one of the most robust quality assurance plans (QAP) for RIN verification. Genscape provides U.S. EPA preregistered QAP services and a number of other RIN integrity, RFS and low carbon fuel standard services to more than 40 renewable fuel producers, obligated parties, and midmarketers across three continents. QAP has translated into increased RIN value for Genscape producers. QAP provides additional value not just for producers with smaller balance sheets or for producers who are new to the industry, but
also for larger, well-established producers. In one example, a longstanding biodiesel producer looked to Genscape to provide RIN integrity guidance and proof of RIN assurance to two new buyers. This is an indicator that buyers are starting to rely more on third-party RIN integrity, like QAP, even for larger, more well-established producers. One of the biggest successes of the Genscape QAP service is that its clients observed a premium to the cash price midpoint. In November, the premium was more than 15 cents to the midpoint for Genscape QAP clients. Prior to QAP, these same producers were regularly getting paid a deficit of 5 to 15 cents to the midpoint. QAP has made a huge difference in the overall ability of producers to get the best prices for RINs, secure longer-term deals, grow their buyer base, and meet the increasing demand for QAP RINs in counterparty agreements. Once the rule becomes final, Genscape expects another large market push for QAP assurance. There are still companies that are skeptical about QAP and only the final rule with assurance of affirmative defense will make those skeptics believers. For more information on the program, please visit www.genscape.com/rin. MARCH | APRIL 2014
Biodiesel conference showcases latest, greatest biodiesel-powered vehicles One of the highlights of the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo was the ride-and-drive event where attendees had the chance to get behind the wheel of some of the newest biodiesel-powered diesel vehicles to hit showroom floors. “The conference ride-and-drive was a great opportunity to test drive some great new diesel vehicles and see them up close and in person,” said Harvey Earles, owner of Alliance Tank and a conference exhibitor. “In fact, after the test drive I decided to buy a new Ford F-350 truck and I’m also considering purchasing a new Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel. I love the fuel economy and performance of these vehicles and, of course, the fact that I can run them on biodiesel is another big plus.” Conference attendees experienced firsthand the power and performance of biodiesel during the ride-and-drive, which featured the 2014 Chevy Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel—the first light-duty passenger car in the U.S. to be fully approved for use with B20 biodiesel blends nationwide, and the winner of the biodiesel industry’s Innovation Award for 2014. Additionally, conference goers were able to test-drive the Hino COE 195h hybrid truck, the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee diesel, and the 2014 Ford F350 Super Duty truck. U.S. consumers now have more options than ever before in their quest to drive cleaner, more fuel-efficient vehicles capable of running on biodiesel. More than 44 new 2014 clean diesel car, truck, and SUV models are beginning to arrive at dealerships nationwide.
Attendees got to see and test drive some of the newest biodiesel-capable models from OEMs with one conference exhibitor actually purchasing a new truck on the spot.
The vehicle showcase, held in the conference expo hall, featured several other diesel vehicles and automakers, fleets, and consumers shared their thoughts about why the use of biodiesel—America’s advanced biofuel—in today’s new technology diesel engines is truly a winning combination. To read more about the biodiesel-powered vehicles showcased at the conference visit www.blog.biodieselconference.org.
Highest biodiesel awards honor industry champions The honorees NBB recognized with the 2014 Eye on Biodiesel awards are:
Few states have as significant an impact on environmental regulations as the state of California. As the industry honored those who have made significant impacts on the biodiesel industry during the National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in San Diego recently, it is fitting that multiple award winners reside within the Golden State. “The biodiesel industry would not be what it is without champions and supporters like these Eye on Biodiesel honorees,” said National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe.“We are proud to honor our award winners who have made a substantial impact in getting biodiesel to where it is today, a fully commercialized advanced biofuel that is produced from coast to coast.” 16
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Impact: The California Air Resources Board. The State of California continues to serve as a national and world leader in regulations related to environmental sustainability, and the California Air Resources Board is at the heart of those efforts. Innovation: General Motors, the B20-Approved Chevrolet Cruze. General Motors continues to be a leading biodiesel supporter among OEMs. This year the company took another step forward introducing the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel—the first lightduty diesel passenger sedan in the U.S. to be fully approved for use with B20 blends. Industry Partnership: Kirk Leeds, Iowa Soybean Association. Kirk Leeds, CEO of the Iowa Soybean Association, has been a leader among soybean organizations in supporting biodiesel efforts since the industry’s inception. ISA’s support of NBB over the years has allowed the industry to prepare and face the challenges of being a billion-plus-gallon advanced biofuel. Inspiration: Len Hering, RADM, USN, California Center for Sustainable Energy. Rear Admiral Len Hering Sr. (U.S. Navy, retired), is a prominent military and civilian sustainability leader instrumental in bringing B20 to naval bases. In his 32 years of Navy service he was known as a top expert in base operations and facility support with an emphasis on sustainability. Along with the annual Eye on Biodiesel awards, NBB also honored Don Borgman of John Deere, and Mike Haas of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service with Lifetime Achievement awards.
2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo sets the stage for success
NBB CEO Joe Jobe set the tone for the conference with a rousing state of the industry speech, calling on the industry to come together to fight for continued advancement.
Breakout sessions featured in-depth information from industry experts on state and federal policy, technical advancements, sustainability initiatives, and many other key areas.
More than 1,100 members of the biodiesel industry joined forces in San Diego at the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo in late January. Attendees celebrated another year of record growth with more than 1.8 billion gallons of biodiesel produced in 2013, while at the same time waging a battle against the U.S. EPA volume proposal for the 2014 renewable fuel standard (RFS). While the future of the industry and the RFS was a major focus, the conference was full of rich content, inspiring speakers, and numerous networking opportunities. None of it would have been possible without the support of conference sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, and NBB governing board members who helped make the 2014 National Biodiesel Conference & Expo one of the best ever. Those who weren’t able to attend can find stories, pictures, interviews, and recaps of conference activities at www.blog.biodieselconference.org And don’t forget to save the date for the 2015 National Biodiesel Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, Jan. 19-22, at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
The conference continues to be a place to conduct biodiesel business as the entire industry gathers together. Opportunities included the exhibit hall, official networking events, and extended breaks between sessions.
NBB welcomes new members
Rear Admiral Len Hering Sr. (U.S. Navy, retired) closed out the conference with a keynote on his experience bringing biodiesel and other sustainability initiatives to U.S. Naval bases and the tremendous opportunity biodiesel has with the U.S. military.
Atlantic Trading & Marketing Inc.—Houston Universal Green Consultants—Westhampton Beach, N.Y. Mid America Bio Energy—North Platte, Neb. NCP Fuel Services LLC—Zeeland, Mich. Puma Energy Caribe LLC—San Juan, Puerto Rico Channel Biorefinery & Terminals LLC—Houston Diamond Green Diesel LLC—Norco, La. Smith, William—Blacksburg, Va. Patriot Fuels Biodiesel—Annawan, Ill. Tenaska Commodities LLC—Omaha, Neb. California Biodiesel Alliance—San Francisco MARCH | APRIL 2014
PHOTO: BDI-BIOENERGY INT'L
Another biodiesel plant remodeled by BDI-BioEnergy International AG in Volos, Greece, owned by Elin Biofuels S.A., was officially opened in early February. BDI contracted for this major retrofit commission in Greece, worth â‚Ź3.6 million ($4.86 million), at the beginning of 2013. The aim of the retrofit optimization project was to increase both raw material flexibility and the quality of the final biodiesel product. Capacity of the newly optimized facility is about 33,000 tons per year (10 MMgy). The distilled product will meet stricter quality requirements under the new EU biodiesel standard, CEN 14214/2013, according to BDI.
Companies, Organizations & People in the News
Renewable Energy Group Inc. is acquiring renewable chemical technology developer LS9 Inc. for a purchase price of up to $61.5 million in cash and stock, forming REG Life Sciences LLC. REG also broke ground on a $13.2 million upgrade to its Newton, Iowa, biodiesel plant, REG Newton LLC, to allow processing of cheaper feedstocks. The upgrade includes adding distillation. The company also recently formed REG Energy Services LLC to sell petroleum-based heating oil and diesel fuel in the Northeast. Simadan Holding recently announced it is investing â‚Ź65 million ($88.6 million) in a 150,000 ton (45 MMgy) biodiesel plant expansion in Amsterdam. The plant will be operated by Simadan subsidiary Biodiesel Amsterdam. The investment includes a glycerin distillation plant scaled at 50,000 tons per year of pharmaceutical-grade product. According to BDI-BioEnergy International AG, the company contracted for the plant expansion using its multifeedstock technology, Biodiesel Amsterdam began operating its 30 MMgy bio-
diesel refineryâ€”also built by BDIâ€”in 2010. The expansion will bring total plant capacity to 75 MMgy. BDI-BioEnergy says the contract, worth â‚Ź47 million to the company, is its largest commission to date.
Crimson Renewable Energy LP was awarded a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commissionâ€™s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program to support expansion of its biorefinery in Bakersfield, Calif. Crimson expects to begin construction of the first portions of the expansion project this spring, with completion in 2015. The project will allow Crimson to increase use of ultra-low carbon materials such as corn-oil byproduct from ethanol plants.
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BUSINESSBRIEFS Sponsored by Lanxess recently introduced Baynox Extra, a highly concentrated liquid stabilizer for biodiesel, to its range. The easy-to-meter additive effectively prolongs the shelf life of biodiesel, even when it contains polyunsaturated fatty acids. This combination of the two established antioxidants Baynox and Baynox Plus has an active ingredient content of 50 percent. Baynox Extra is added to biodiesel in a concentration of 200 to 500 ppm. As the stabilizer does not crystallize, it can be reliably used at temperatures as low as minus 10 degrees Celsius. Keystone Biofuels Inc. and KBI Industries Inc. have retained Heritage Equity Partners to seek a buyer, investor or joint venture partner for their biodiesel refinery in Camp Hill, Pa. Both entities filed Chapter 11 in March 2013. The technology was designed by Pacific Biodiesel, and production started in 2008. In 2010, the refinery was relocated from Shiremanstown, Pa., to its present location and underwent considerable design and process upgrades. The facility maintains its multifeedstock capability utilizing
acid esterification/base transesterification and is rated for 33 MMgy by the EPA, but actual capacity is between 15 and 18 MMgy. Portugal-based biodiesel technology provider Incbio announced it has signed an agreement with Saudi Arabiabased Bio Renewable Energy Factory to supply a 40,000-ton-per-year (12 MMgy) ultrasonic biodiesel refinery. BREF plans to use animal fats from the Saudi rendering industry. Incbio stated this will be the first of several projects planned by BREF. The companies expect the plant to be complete by fourth quarter. Marathon Petroleum Corp. has signed an agreement to purchase a 60 MMgy facility in Cincinnati, Ohio, from Felda Iffco
Sdn Bhd, Malaysia. The plant produces several products including biodiesel and glycerin. The transaction is expected to close in April. BF Commodities recently announced it will open the first biodiesel refinery in the Swiss canton of Ticino. The plant, to be called BF Commodities Biodiesel, will be constructed in the city of Lugano. Carlo Pasquinetti with BF Commodities tells Biodiesel Magazine that Biolatina is designing and building the facility. Construction is slated to begin in April with completion expected in June. The plant will be capable of producing 1.5 MMgy of biodiesel from animal fats and used cooking oil. 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@ bbiinternational.com. Please include your name and telephone number in each correspondence.
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CARBON SUBSTRATE: Clemson University doctoral student Karthik Gopalakrishnan is researching use of crude glycerin as a carbon substrate to increase biomass and lipid production in the algae strain Chlorella protothecoides. PHOTO: CLEMSON UNIVERSITY
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The Next Generation of Biodiesel Coproduct Research Trailblazing work on glycerin and biodiesel coproduct development is underway at universities across the U.S. BY RON KOTRBA
In the early days, the quality of crude glycerin produced at biodiesel plants was of little concern to biodiesel producers. “U.S. biodiesel producers were mainly interested only in the fuel aspect of the business and paid little attention to the byproducts they produced, even though crude glycerin production is 10 percent of the final product,” says Darol Brown, president of Portland, Ore.-based Sego International Inc. “Most did not pay attention to whether they could find a market for the glycerin, or what level of purity the market required. It was generally considered that a market for the crude would develop without their involvement, so they put no time or effort into understanding the total end result of the process.” Brown says in the 1990s, he was the largest importer of refined glycerin in the U.S. “What they needed to consider, and what they have now learned, is that the price they get for their byproducts helps offset their cost of production and profits,” he says. “Those who did not understand this have generally been bought out, or they have gone out of business.” There are many grades of glycerin beyond crude, including technical- and pharmaceutical-grade (USP). USP Glycerin is 99 percent minimum with very tight limits on a multitude of potential contaminants, Brown says, and each shipment of USP requires a certificate of analysis. The applications for USP glycerin are endless. It’s used in an almost unlimited number of products. USP-grade glycerin is found in pharmaceuticals, food materials, nutraceuticals, cosmetics and personal care items. Some are less known applications, such as its use on raisins to keep them chewy, or as a cleanser for dairy cow udders to ward off infection. There really is no set specification for crude glycerin, Brown says. “But each potential buyer has his own limits,” he explains. “Crude sellers must supply a lab test showing the assay of glycerin, the amount of methanol, ash, salts, and water and, in some cases, the amount of fatty acids. In general, unless you have changed the raw materials used, the plant will produce a consistent product and, if you know the producer, you can have some surety that the product will not vary, although most still require the test results to come with the shipment.” Some of the more common applications for crude glycerin include propylene glycol (anti-freeze), dust control and use an animal feed ingredient. “Crude glycerin is a cheap source of carbon and can be used in place of corn, grains or molasses in cattle feed, but it’s the lowest price and gives the least return to the producer,” Brown says. “Dust control is a major user of crude glycerin, but it is formulated with many other additives and is a rather cheap net back to the producer of the glycerin.” MARCH | APRIL 2014
COPRODUCTS Brown says other applications are somewhat small and dependent on low-cost product. “In the long term,” he says, “most glycerin should be refined to USP and sold into the high-end markets, and these refiners are starting to produce more refined product every day, but it does require a better quality of crude to make it feasible.” In the early days, biodiesel producers were producing low-quality crude with 35 to 60 percent glycerin content with high ash, methanol and fatty acid content, and while some producers today still produce similar low-value material, many plants have installed means to recover excess methanol and neutralize the caustic glycerin solution with acid to float out the fatty acids, which are suspended by the high pH of the reaction, and subsequently remove the ash and salts from the neutralization process. Water removal is also necessary to lower shipping costs. Sego International’s crude glycerin spec calls for a minimum of 80 percent glycerin, less than 1 percent methanol, and no more than 3 percent inorganic salts, 18 percent water, 1 percent ash, 0.5 percent free fatty acids, 1 percent matter organic not glycerin (MONG), and a pH between 6 and 8. The uses of glycerin—crude, USP-grade or otherwise—and other byproducts from biodiesel production are virtually limitless. Profiled here is the glycerin and coproduct research of three Next Generation Scientists for Biodiesel.
Karthik Gopalakrishnan is a doctoral student at the biosystems engineering department at Clemson University. Gopalakrishnan has
FEEL THE POWER: Derek Pickett earned his master's degree from University of Kansas and stayed on as a research scientist to further develop glycerin gasification for power production. PHOTO: UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS
been researching the use of crude glycerin as a carbon substrate to increase biomass and lipid production in the algae strain Chlorella protothecoides. “Glycerin is a three-carbon sugar alcohol that can be consumed by algae as a carbon source to produce oils,” he says. “The algae I grow in the lab produce about 60 percent oleic acid, which is an Omega-9 fatty acid.” Gopalakrishnan says in autotrophy mode, carbon dioxide is a
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COPRODUCTS carbon source when coupled with sunlight or artificial light, and oxygen is produced in the process. “In the heterotrophy mode, organic carbon sources like glycerol and glucose can be used,” he says. “The presence of glycerin accelerates the growth of this algal species when compared to carbon dioxide alone.” In addition to crude glycerin, Gopalakrishnan provides other nutrients like yeast extract (a nitrogen source), some phosphate salts (a phosphorous source), vitamins and micronutrients. He says 1 gram of glycerol yields about 0.5 grams of algae containing 50 to 60 percent lipids. “From my research, methanol has proven to decelerate the growth of the microalgae Chlorella protothecoides,” Gopalakrishnan says. “Other researchers have proved that Chlorella protothecoides has high salt tolerance, as high as 35 grams per liter, which can be equivalent to sea water.” The goal of his research has been to increase biomass and lipid productivities, an important requisite for commercialization, and to do that, Gopalakrishnan built on previous research on the effect of the carbon/nitrogen ratio, which is “very important for lipid accumulation,” he says. “This was identified [by Yen-Hui Chen and Terry H. Walker at Clemson University] and I have used that in my research for improved biomass and lipid productivities.” Gopalakrishnan has yet to work with commercial partners on his research, but says, “I would love to work with someone, to see my research into commercial production. Algae is the future of our lives, and I do envision algae biodiesel a reality in the future.” For this to happen, he says, focus must be put on furthering research and receiving government help in the form of grants.
Derek Pickett began as an undergraduate at University of Kansas in 2007 in the mechanical engineering program. Pickett recently earned his master’s degree with honors and is currently working at the university as a research scientist to improve a rig developed to gasify glycerin for combustion in a Chevrolet 350 V8 engine coupled with an electric generator. Pickett says the project was first developed by Bill Ayres from R3 Sciences LLC as a way to produce power from glycerin. The project was initially manufactured by the Biomass Energy Co. of Golden, Colo., and components of the initial rig were then donated to the University of Kansas in 2008 to get the system working repeatedly. “The glycerin is converted to syngas through partial oxidation over a nickel catalyst on 22 millimeter aluminum oxide support spheres,” Pickett says. “The reformer catalytic material is first preheated with propane and once the appropriate temperature is reached, the glycerin is supplied.” At this point, the propane is shut off and the reaction continues without additional heat. “During both preheating with propane and the exothermic reaction of glycerin conversion, air is also supplied to control the temperature,” he says. The glycerin is broken down into hydrogen, carbon monoxide, methane, carbon dioxide and a few other trace species. Once the glycerin is converted to syngas in the reformer, Pickett says it is cooled in a heat exchanger, cooled again in an intercooler and then sent directly to the engine, which required only a few minor modifications to combust glycerin-derived syngas. “An aftermarket Woodward air-fuel valve and throttle valve were put on to allow for both pure propane
FUELING SUCCESS: In addition to developing coproducts from yeast, USU student Michael Morgan and his team conduct emissions testing on various biodiesels and even raced a USU-built diesel streamliner on the Bonneville Salt Flats. PHOTO: TERRY D. CALL
and syngas combustion,” Pickett says. The exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system was also disabled because the carbon dioxide and water vapor in the syngas act as EGR already. The generator is a Mecc Alte ECO32-2L/4 alternator. “The power generation we were able to test was a function of our loading system, which was just simply two heavy-duty electric heaters drawing power from the generator,” Pickett says. They completed three loading tests: one with no heaters applied, then one heater (3.6 kW) and then two heaters (6.5 kW). With additional loading capabilities such as more, or larger, heaters, Pickett says the generator is capable of producing 50 kW. They were able to run the engine at 1,800 RPMs and no load using about four gallons of glycerin per hour. “By increasing the flow rate of glycerin to approximately 4.8 gallons per hour, we can achieve 3.6 kW,” Pickett says, “and at 5.5 gallons per hour we achieve 6.5 kW.” He says the glycerin flow and power output trend is very linear, and to achieve the 50 kW max output of the generator, Pickett estimates it would require glycerin at a flow rate around 15 gallons per hour. So far, two different types of glycerin have been tested, according to Pickett—food-grade, and refined glycerin from Renewable Energy Group Inc. “The only effect the purity has is on required flow rates of glycerin,” Pickett says. “When using the lower-quality glycerin, a higher flow rate to the reformer was required in order to produce the appropriate syngas.” He says future work will include trying to achieve syngas production from crude glycerin. A significant amount of heat loss, mostly from the engine, leaves room for MARCH | APRIL 2014
COPRODUCTS future work on heat recovery and reuse for feedstock processing, distillation or use in an Organic Rankine cycle. “Using this technique, the heat could be used to produce useful work that could then be used to produce more power for the system,” he says. The main goal of the system is to couple the rig with the initial production of biodiesel. Once more research is completed with the system and upgrades are made, the rig could potentially use the glycerin byproduct from the initial production of biodiesel for power generation. He says the most important finding is that the overall system is possible. “As
far as I know, this is a very unique setup that no other university or company has attempted. Using glycerin for hydrogen-rich syngas production has been completed but utilizing the syngas for combustion and power generation has not been done. Additionally, once the rig is capable of operating directly with the initial production of biodiesel, there will be many commercial applications for the process.” Scaling up the system will increase the efficiency of the entire rig, Pickett says. “The Chevy 350 V8 is probably too large for the reformer we have in place, because a signifi-
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cant portion of the glycerin is just used to run the engine at idle.” The Kansas Soybean Commission and Renewable Solutions LLC provided significant funding for this project.
Michael Morgan, an undergraduate at Utah State University, began working as a research assistant, in 2009, with the USU team on biofuels projects under the mechanical engineering program, but after becoming deeply interested in lipid technologies he switched his major to biochemistry. Now he is based in the biochemistry lab of professor Lance Seefeldt. USU began researching algae production in 2007. “In 2011, we began working with other oleaginous, or lipid-producing, microbes including yeast and bacteria, and we have been able to grow these organisms on carbon-rich, low-value effluent to create higher-value compounds such as biodiesel,” Morgan says. The team successfully created and patented a direct in-situ transesterification biomass conversion, which allows conversion of all available lipids from the biomass without doing an initial neutral lipid extraction from the microbial sources. He and the microbial products team successfully created biodiesel from yeast, microalgae and bacteria to do engine testing for performance and exhaust emission characteristics, the results from which have been published in Energy & Fuels. Morgan set up a dynamometer and emissions station for testing the performance and emissions characteristics of each of the three microbial biodiesel types, for comparison to soybean biodiesel and No. 2 petroleum diesel. The team also built a diesel streamliner fueled by biodiesel from algae, bacteria and yeast and raced it on the Bonneville Salt Flats three times, setting one record and beating two current records. Morgan was lucky enough to drive the racecar during one of those timed events and produce the yeast and algae biodiesel used at the famed race spot in 2012 and 2013. “For our yeast and bacterial growths we utilize 10-liter and 100-liter fermenters, and will soon be utilizing a 500-liter fermenter,” Morgan says. “We are interested in producing high-value coproducts as part of our biodiesel production program in order to help the cost-effectiveness of biodiesel production,” which could open new funding oppor-
COPRODUCTS tunities and collaborations. “We are looking at the different biomass profiles of each of the yeast strains used in our lab,” Morgan says. “Each organism has a unique profile for proteins and lipids especially,” he says. “As biochemists, we are working to understand the sequestration pathways and the profiles of the final products so that we can best determine optimal usage for each organism in the creation of bioproducts. We are in the process of working with an industry partner to optimize protein production from a few of our yeast strains and are also using genetics to produce specific desired products that have higher value.” He says the USU-created techniques used for extraction/conversion for biodiesel creation also allow them to maintain the yeast proteins for processing into coproducts. “This allows us the benefit of having multiple end products, which increases our ability to become economically viable in creating biodiesel using microbial sources,” Morgan tells Biodiesel Magazine. “For the production of lubricants, we are partnering with other outside entities that have unique chemical processes that create or eliminate compounds that cause biodiesel to have lower energy content and reduced longterm storage ability,” specifically the removal of carbonyl groups, he says. “Each of the coproducts that we are working toward have the goal of creating valuable compounds and reducing necessary processing in an effort to create an economically sustainable microbial biodiesel and bioproducts model that can be taken to industry.” The USU team began looking into coproducts once the ability to produce sufficient quantities of biomass and FAME that analysis could be conducted on the value of the final products versus production costs. “It became apparent, especially in the case of microalgae, that we were not yet close to being economically sustainable,” Morgan says. Most of the coproduct work at USU has focused on yeast. “I believe without strong coproduct utilization and research into improving the value of the derived coproducts, the advanced biodiesel production initiatives will struggle to be funded and become or remain profitable,” Morgan says. Due to USU’s use of microbial sources for all of the university’s biodiesel production, the team has been involved only on a limited basis so far into biodiesel coproduct determination.
“For the most part, our look at coproducts have mainly come through results in the lab and finding the value of the products that are naturally occurring in the strains we have selected over the past seven years, and utilizing our technologies that we have developed,” Morgan says. “The methods that we use for our conversion have helped lead us to the breakthroughs that we’ve had here in the lab and approach companies that may be interested in our results. This is why we have been working mainly with proteins and recently some lubricants. We are blazing new frontiers here in our lab due to our choice of
microbial strains for biodiesel and bioproduct creation and, as such, are helping to develop new markets or enter existing markets with an alternative product source.” Author: Ron Kotrba Editor, Biodiesel Magazine 218-745-8347 firstname.lastname@example.org
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KEEP â€˜EM SEPARATED: Centrifuges, like this decanter model from Kyte Centrifuge, play an important role in biodiesel purification, from feedstock pretreatment and separation of glycerin, catalyst salts and soaps after transesterification, to removal of impurities and free water after water-washing, as well as during glycerin purification to separate free fatty acids and catalyst salts. PHOTO: KYTE CENTRIFUGE
MARCH | APRIL 2014
Biodiesel Separation, Washing and Polishing: Upstream and Downstream Considerations The cost-effectiveness of biodiesel purification methods should be evaluated based on composition of upstream product BY RON KOTRBA
of his customers coined the phrase “continuous-batch,” and the centrifuge was the critical piece to making the batch process continuous. “The real estate required is also greatly reduced,” he adds, “as centrifuges require a very small footprint relative to settling tanks and coalescers.” Sediment centrifuges have application in biodiesel production from beginning to end. Both decanter centrifuges and self-cleaning (solid-ejecting) disk stack centrifuges are biodiesel are utilized, but the story on how well these work used to separate suspended, nondissolved solids and wabegins upstream. “In many cases, it’s a better solution to ter from various feedstocks. After transesterification, they fix problems at their source rather than to treat the symp- are used to remove glycerin, catalyst salts and soaps. “By toms,” says Warren Barnes, vice president of consulting separating glycerin prior to methanol recovery, the chance firm Frazier, Barnes & Associates. “Biodiesel quality prior the reaction will reverse itself during the methanol recovery to any purification step is a critical factor in determining process will be diminished,” Kyte says. “However, it’s very procedure.” Typically the impurities to be removed in puri- difficult to meet the ASTM limit on free glycerin by centrification should be as low as possible upstream of the wash- fuge alone when even a small amount of methanol is presing method, whether the plant uses water-washing or dry- ent.” Methanol acts as a cosolvent, which keeps some glycwashing with silicates or ion exchange resins. Oil-Dri Corp. erin and soaps in solution with biodiesel. After methanol of America focuses sales of its Select adsorbents on the recovery, additional soap and glycerin will precipitate out of front side of the biodiesel process, says Bruce Patsey, vice solution with the biodiesel—another opportunity for cenpresident and general manager of Oil-Dri. “By cleaning up trifugal separation. After water-washing, a centrifuge can be the oil prior to transesterification, metals can be better con- used for separation of free, nondissolved water. “When a trolled and the reaction with the catalyst is much more ef- centrifuge is used prior to additional drying technologies ficient for producing FAME,” Patsey says. “Many biodiesel like vacuum dehydrators for separation of both free and refineries clean up their oil source with adsorbents prior to dissolved water, the total energy consumption will be greattransesterification.” After transesterification, separation is ly reduced when compared to using a stand-alone vacuum essential for the removal of glycerin, salts and soaps. Set- dehydration system,” Kyte says. Finally, centrifuges can be tling tanks, coalescers or centrifuges are all means to sepa- used during the glycerin purification process to separate rate. Rod Yawn, president of ALX Enterprises, a manu- free fatty acids and catalyst salts. facturer of DW-R10 dry-wash resins, says approximately Once the crude biodiesel is separated properly, water80 percent of biodiesel producers use simple settling tanks, washing or dry-washing occurs next. Barnes says the costabout 15 percent use centrifuges and the remainder use co- effectiveness of each method needs to be evaluated based alescers. on composition of upstream product. “Water wash and “All a centrifuge does is speed up Mother Nature,” ion exchange are the most common,” Barnes says. Other says David Kyte, president of Kyte Centrifuge. “The sepa- approaches include use of silicates, such as Dallas Group ration that takes hours for gravity settling in a settling tank of America’s Magnesol D-Sol, or products like Schroeder or using a coalescer at a G-force of one, a centrifuge can Industries’ trademarked Eco2Pure. “You must evaluate the do continuously and instantaneously at a given flow rate by overall picture since water-washing has significant wastewaharnessing the power of up to 10,000 Gs and greater. The ter treatment cost implications, and the ion exchange costfaster a reactor can be drained and process fluids separated, effectiveness is dependent on the levels of impurities enterthe faster it can be reused for a new batch.” Kyte says one ing the vessels,” Barnes says. Ryan Santelli, a process and MARCH | APRIL 2014 BIODIESEL MAGAZINE 27
Distillation is forgiving of poor pretreatment, reaction and separation, but the added capital and operating costs— not to mention yield losses—can be less than forgiving on a biodiesel plant’s bottom line. Several methods to cleanse and polish
PURIFICATION fuel product specialist with Schroeder Industries, says Schroeder does not recommend any type of wet-wash process, “as this adds more variables into the chemical reaction process,” he says. “We feel that the dry-wash process is the simplest, most effective and most economical way to produce biodiesel, regardless of the feedstock being used.” Eco2Pure is a unique, cellulose-based, natural and sustainable composition of adsorbent technologies, Santelli says, specifically formulated for biodiesel purification from any feedstock. “Eco2Pure is designed to be a filter-free wash process with no consumables in the wash stage,” he says. “Each kilogram of Eco2Pure is
capable of purifying between 80 and 190 gallons of biodiesel, making it the lowest cost drywash biodiesel purification method in existence today.” Santelli says per-gallon treat costs using Eco2Pure is as low as 1.5 cents. “Eco2Pure outperforms existing ion exchange resin technologies in terms of fuel quality, purification speed as well as price,” he says. While water-washing requires proper handling and discharge of wastewater, silicates require operation of a filter press and disposal of spent filter cake. “There is also a process loss of approximately 1:1 for silicates use,” Barnes says. “In general, there is greater mass of silicates that would have to be disposed of as opposed to res-
MARCH | APRIL 2014
in. One of the cons to silicates is the flammability of the biodiesel-containing spent cake.” On the other hand, ion exchange resin lasts longer, according to Barnes, “assuming the upstream soap content is not excessive.” In addition, he adds upkeep of a manually cleaned filter press requires more operator effort than resins. Yawn says dry-wash resins were used to purify 200 million gallons of U.S. biodiesel in 2013, a small percentage of the more than 1.5 billion gallons of biodiesel produced. Kate Mansker, a fuel additives technical manager for MidContinental Chemical Co., which distributes Dow Water & Process Solutions’ Amberlite BD10Dry resins, says silicates are viewed as a workhorse approach to dry-washing, whereas resins perform as the racehorse. “There’s an inherent preference for a simplified technology, which I think the dry wash resins offer, but much of it has to do with what the facility is starting with,” she says. “A lot of facilities are acquisitions, so it’s kind of like an inherited process. Many of the recent calls we’ve gotten are from those who are restarting plants that have been acquired.” Mansker says if an acquired plant had a filter press and used magnesium silicate powders for dry-washing, then that’s what they’re comfortable with. “Not only is it a process change, but it’s an operational mindset change too,” she says about switching from silicates to resins, what she refers to as a “quantum leap.” There are also capital costs to consider in installing resin vessels. “You get some folks who are open to it,” she says, “others have very tight constraints on expenditures and it’s hard for them to justify the changeover, even if it has a short return on investment.” Mansker says treat costs of BD10Dry is about 4 to 5 cents per gallon. Yawn says the advantages resins hold over silicates include cost, safety and manpower. “The use cost for resins ranges from 2 to 5 cents per gallon,” he says. “Use cost for silicates ranges from 10 to 15 cents per gallon.” Yawn says resins are safer to handle than silicates, which carry warnings of worker exposure to silicate dust. “Also, auto-combustion of silicate sludge is also a safety concern,” he says. Finally, Yawn says labor costs for resin dry-wash are significantly lower than silicates. “For silicates, mixing, feeding, operating the filter, and filter-cake handling all require manpower.” He adds, however, that silicates do provide some color removal, a benefit resins do not offer. Resins are very easy to handle, Mansker says, and they can be pumped out of their vessels in a slurry. “As far as adding them into a vessel,” she says, “it’s a dry resin so there can be static electricity buildup. As a precaution, you
PURIFICATION can either saturate them or work in a high relative humidity environment at least 60 percent, and then you donâ€™t have that factor in loading your vessel.â€? She says the BD10Dry has a low bead attrition rate compared to other resins. Yawn says DW-R10 has a 40 percent lower use cost than other resins on the market, and problems with plugging and channeling are much less frequent due to DW-R10â€™s larger bead size. ALX Enterprises also accepts the return of its spent resins and uses it as part of a product for another industry. â€œThis is an important service in some areas of the country,â€? he says. Resins can be regenerated with methanol, and Mansker says BD10Dry can be regenerated three to five times before replacement. Yawn says ALX Enterprises has developed new resins for catalyzed esterification of free fatty acids, reduction of total acid number, discharge reduction and/ or recycling of wash water, and improved performance of water-washing. â€œDry-wash resin is increasingly being used by water-wash plants to polish the fuel,â€? he says, adding that the resin will remove residual soap, catalyst, glycerol and water. With current ASTM specifications for cold soak limits, Barnes says filtration at the backend of the process is critical. Patsey says the primary use of diatomaceous earth (DE) in the backend of the biodiesel process is for the removal of sterol glucosides. â€œCrystals can form in the oil, specifically when producing biodiesel from soybean oil, when the temperature of the oil is reduced,â€? he says. â€œMany producers will reduce the temperature of the FAME and let the crystals form in the oil. Once formed, they will run the oil through a DE bed to remove the sterols.â€? Kyte says while centrifuging can only separate a mixture of nondissolved impurities, DE can be used to separate dissolved contaminants. Santelli says Schroeder customers who use Eco2Pure to dry-wash then use its K9 polishing filter to remove any trace organics. â€œThe last step of this process is to pass the biodiesel through our ColdClear filter assembly to attain the ASTM standard for cold soak,â€? he says. â€œOur patent-pending technology combines a unique filtration/adsorption technology that removes crystallization precursors from the biodiesel or biodiesel blend. ColdClear is a simpleto-use filtration system with removableâ€”and disposableâ€”filter elements designed to process on a per-unit volume-treated basis.â€? The system does not require a chiller. The trademarked ColdClear process is designed to operate between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. â€œWe have found the product works best at 80 F,â€? Santelli says. ColdClear is a three-stage system with all
filters mounted in series on a single skid. â€œThe first stage serves as a prefilter, and captures solid particulates down to three microns in size,â€? he says. â€œThe second and third stages utilize custom design elements that combine new adsorption technologies with the proven effectiveness of Schroederâ€™s high-efficiency Excellement synthetic filtering media.â€? Santelli says producers ultimately should be mindful of the total production process. â€œAdequate filtration at all steps is necessary in order to yield the highest production volumes from a given amount of feedstock,â€? he says. Barnes, however, says excessive use of filters within the process itself often points to inefficient separa-
tions upstream and could lead to unnecessary yield loss. â€œProducers should also keep the feedstock consistent,â€? Santelli says. â€œWhen producers change feedstock, the entire production process has to change as well. This will cost large amounts of downtime and creates unusable biodiesel trying to get the chemistry correct. We realize that the feedstock market fluctuates, but any short-term monetary gain realized by changing feedstock is lost due to this fact.â€? Author: Ron Kotrba Editor, Biodiesel Magazine 218-745-8347 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Advanced Fluid Conditioning Solutions ÂŽ
MARCH | APRIL 2014
PROCESS HEART: Inside Whole Energyâ€™s new Mt. Vernon, Wash.-based glycerin refinery, the core of the operation relies on the distillation skid. PHOTO: WHOLE ENERGY
Breaking New Ground with Glycerin Whole Energy has big plans for this versatile molecule BY ATUL DESHMANE
Glycerin has an amazing history as an oleochemi-
cal. It is Alfred Nobelâ€™s work with glycerin and his discovery of nitroglycerin (and associated guilt) that led to the Nobel Prize. Glycerin was originally produced through a hydrolysis process in which a triglyceride molecule was broken down into a glycerin molecule and fatty acid molecules. Today most glycerin is derived from biodiesel production. Whole Energy became interested in glycerin in 2006 as we were planning the development of a vertically integrated, regional biodiesel company with feedstock collection and marketing. Although we decided to narrow our focus on marketing and distribution of biodiesel, we also maintained a growing interest in the applications and uses of glycerin, and in ways to process glycerin.
As a chemical, glycerin has potential for being a feedstock for all kinds of secondary synthetic chemicals. To accomplish this task, however, glycerin must be available at a sufficient quality and price to support these chemical processes. We hired consultants to evaluate the various pathways to make chemicals and discovered that processes that start with very high purity glycerin already existed.
New Glycerin Refinery Opens
In 2010, we were able to secure partial funding from the state of Washington to develop a glycerin refinery. Our research had indicated that we would need to take an intermediate step in processing glycerin and targeted a purity of 95 percent and low levels of salt, methanol and water. Our funding was in place in mid-2012
The claims and statements made in this article belong exclusively to the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Biodiesel Magazine or its advertisers. All questions pertaining to this article should be directed to the author(s).
MARCH | APRIL 2014
EFFICIENT TRANSFER: Whole Energyâ€™s new glycerin refinery has rail and truck access for incoming and outgoing product. The manifold pipes carry steam, raw material and finished product. The facility can also transload biodiesel. PHOTO: WHOLE ENERGY
HEAT IT UP: A 1.5 million Btu Cleaver-Brooks boiler that produces 135 pounds of steam is used to heat the glycerin distillation process. PHOTO: WHOLE ENERGY
COOL IT DOWN: Once the distillation process vaporizes the glycerin, a chiller cools it down and condenses the purified product. PHOTO: WHOLE ENERGY
MARCH | APRIL 2014
and we completed construction in 2013. The plant is located in Mt. Vernon, Wash. The basis of Whole Energyâ€™s glycerin process is to distill off water and methanol and then allow salts and other residuals from biodiesel production to separate from the glycerin. The resulting glycerin has a purity of 92 to 98 percent and a dark color. At some point, we intend to add polishing to reduce contaminants that affect the color and odor of the glycerin that is produced. The most common method to address the color of glycerin is filtration with activated carbon. This method is widely used for bioproducts, but those products typically have much higher value. Since glycerin is a relatively low-value material, carbon treatment must be done in a way that allows for either regeneration or the ability to use a grade of carbon that is less expensive but still effective. We successfully commissioned our plant early this year and we are now working hard to align regional supply of crude glycerin with market demands for the purified product. Although the plant can process 300 tons per week, we are only processing roughly 40 tons a week at this time. The facility has both rail and truck delivery capabilities for both incoming and outgoing product. We have calibrated meters for product delivery. One challenge we are facing is the impact that low corn values (less than 10 cents per pound) have on the largest volume segment of the glycerin market, which is animal feed. Feed facilities use glycerin to help reduce losses of feed as dust. So glycerin serves a dual purpose. To date, feedrelated buyers of glycerin have not wanted to pay more for glycerin than they pay for the underlying feed. Because glycerin is not a renewable fuel, it is not negatively impacted by shifts in federal regulatory incentives under the IRS or U.S. EPA. There is potential for production to be a stable and reliable source of income for both the plant and the sup-
pliers of our raw material. Many producers see the potential for increased revenue and reduced carbon intensity as a result of our efforts. Glycerin values have changed significantly over the past few years. Glycerin used to cost around $1 a pound when made as a dedicated product. Today, the highestquality glycerin sells for around 50 cents per pound. In addition, numerous lower grades are available from 10 to 30 cents per pound. Whole Energy wants to serve the lowergrade markets for midterm and establish new applications for this grade of glycerin. Hence, we are currently underutilizing our production capacity and are working to define new markets for glycerin concurrently. Those include gas scrubbing, the processing of biodiesel raw materials, an inexpensive thermal fluid, drying and material handling of secondary agricultural commodities including feed and nutrients (where intellectual property is in development), and as a blend stock for propylene or ethylene glycol.
nants like oxides of nitrogen (NOx), hydrogen sulfide (H2S), and carbon dioxide, and allows purified methane to be used in an economically beneficial manner. A scrubbing system also needs to release the adsorbed contaminants into the air with the appropriate air permit. In 2012, Whole Energy demonstrated in a lab setting that glycerin performed well in removing contaminants from biogas. We applied for patent protection in early 2013 and then for funding from the California Energy Commission to construct a pilot facility. We were happy to learn that our project would be funded and have since focused on making the demo a success. Using results from our pilot, we will be ready to refine the technology so that we can produce quality gas for a much lower capital and operating cost. Our simpler gas
scrubbing methodology has the potential to increase the practical utilization of both renewable and geological sources of natural gas that are currently being underutilized or flared. The market value of the various grades of glycerin will increase and thereby provide a growing source of coproduct revenue to the biodiesel industry. We appreciate the opportunity to share what we are learning about glycerin while we continue developing the methods of low-cost purification and new applications for glycerin. Author: Atul Deshmane President, Whole Energy 888-600-8611 email@example.com
Glycerin for Gas Scrubbing
Gas scrubbing using glycerin has been an area of interest for us for several years. About three years ago, Whole Energy decided to grow our marketing and distribution capability to include renewable natural gas. We quickly became aware of the importance and expense of gas scrubbing. If this could be done cost-effectively at a smaller scale, we could flare a lot less natural gas. The purpose of gas scrubbing is to remove contaminants present in gas produced from the ground or from an anaerobic digestion process. The contaminants from a digester are different from those from geological gas reservoirs. In either case, the value of the gas is enhanced if the gas can be purified. Glycerin has high selective adsorption of most of the contaminants to be removed. A column is used to expose the gas to be purified to the maximum surface area possible. The glycerin adsorbs contami-
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