BIOFUELS - Biodiesel and Bioethanol Process Optimization

The operation of any biofuel production process should follow the same design principles traditionally used for crude oil based products. The various plant oil refining processes to produce biodiesel feedstocks can be examined in the same way as conventional oil refineries. The issues of heat integration, waste processing, minimization of water consumption, and maximizing production are all key elements in both types of refining operations; oil or biofuel. 

Even for the smaller scale biodiesel operations it is important to close both the material and energy balance around the plant. It is important to track where everything is going and to determine where savings can be made. Alcohol recovery and reuse is an issue, as is effective use of catalyst, and control of the process to generate the optimum amount of biodiesel. 
An issue with the biodiesel manufacturing processes compared to conventional petroleum cracking processes is that for biodiesel production extra chemicals are added in the transesterification process. The by-products of the chemical reactions then need to be removed at some later stage. The by-products can typically be converted into saleable products, but this requires more processing. To achieve the best ROI requires that the entire process be studied and optimized, not just the biodiesel production step. 

The difference between conventional oil refining and biofuel processing is that for biofuels both chemical and biochemical engineering experience is required to create a fully optimized process. ChemSim is able to provide that unique blend of chemical and biochemical engineering expertise to these process simulation problems. 

Process Simulation in Design 
In design, process simulation is used in the initial phases of plant design to determine the overall flowsheet and the sizing and economics of the plant. Mapping the process determines the flow of feed materials into the plant, the flow of materials through each unit operation and the flow of biodiesel and waste products from the plant. 
To determine the process economics requires a complete mass and energy balance for the plant. 
We can also compare different processes to determine which process is more economic. 

Process Simulation in Operations
Once the plant is operating, process simulation can be used to study how well the plant is operating compared to the design expectations, and to optimize the process, and determine possible plant retrofits.

Once a process is operational there are two extremes of operation: 
1. Maximize productivity - this means maximizing biodiesel production but possibly at the cost of higher operating costs or higher chemical consumption. 
2. Minimize cost - this means operating the plant in the most cost effective manner, which may mean operating below maximum throughput, and focusing on minimizing waste products, tuning recycle streams, etc. 

Check back with us as we add more information about feasibility studies and optimization of commercial biofuels operations.
For more information on Biodiesel and Bioethanol, such as brewing your own, look at the links below or search Google...


Biodiesel Links

Biodiesel defined from the Wikipedia  

National Biodiesel Board 

Search Amazon for introductory and reference books on Biodiesel, including books on how to make your own biodiesel!  



For insight into the current operations and management of commercial Biodiesel plants, check out the Biodiesel Magazine