Producing biodiesel: From batch to a continuous process
In December 2014, Novozymes launched our first ever enzymatic process using a liquid lipase – Eversa® Transform – for the production of biodiesel. Extensive research and development has shown that the enzymatic process enables biodiesel producers to be flexible when choosing feedstock, as low quality oils, or waste oils, with high free fatty acids (FFA) can now be processed. These waste oils are typically cooking oils generated by commercial canteens, factories and fast-food restaurants, and other lower grade oils.
For more than two years, Viesel Fuel in Florida and Blue Sun Biodiesel in Missouri have tested our solution at large-scale plants operating batch processes. Since October 2014, Viesel began a new pilot plant operation with a continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) process that – as the name suggests – runs continuously. This new plant consists of four 1,000 gallon (3,785 L) reactors and has already proven to be a significantly easier set-up to manage and control than the batch process.
The data from Viesel’s CSTR pilot plant has shown consistent performance even when different oils and oil qualities were used as feedstock. These very positive results were presented via a webinar arranged by the Biodiesel Magazine in February 2015. (The recorded webinar is still available on Biodiesel Magazine’s website.)
Encouraged by the positive trial results, Viesel decided to reconstruct their existing production plant, which then consisted of six batch reactors, into a six tank CSTR unit. The plant was successfully reconstructed; however, unfortunately, right before production started, it caught fire. Luckily the accident didn’t cause any injuries, but the production line was completely destroyed.
The buildings, laboratory and pilot plant were unscathed by the fire damage, and the important development work at Viesel has and will continue as usual.
I am confident the Viesel team will be able to get back to full-scale production soon, and we expect to see the CSTR line processing low quality oils – used cooking oil or brown grease, for example – into biodiesel later this year.
Do you want to learn more?
If you’re interested in following the latest advancements in the biodiesel industry, be sure to subscribe to the Think Bioenergy blog.
You can get additional information about our experience in developing the CSTR process in the next issue of the Oils & Fats International magazine.
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