Licensed Processes

Biodiesel

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Introduction

Biodiesel, being derived from plant-based natural oils, offers great environmental benefits as a renewable alternative to conventional diesel made from fossil fuels.

However, a potential drawback of this product is its requirement for high-quality virgin oil feedstocks, which are available only from vegetation used as food. Consequently, the environmental demand for renewables competes with the imperative to feed the world’s growing population and causes high-quality virgin oil prices to increase.

JM Davy’s biodiesel process offers a solution to this problem. Our flowsheet can employ inexpensive low-quality non-edible feeds, in addition to virgin and higher-quality oils.

The Davy biodiesel flowsheet is evolved from our natural detergent alcohol (NDA) and butanediol (BDO) processes. Our biodiesel process converts fatty acids from upstream hydrolysis to biodiesel-grade fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). This process also yields a high-value clean glycerol coproduct.

In summary, the Davy biodiesel production route offers extensive environmental and economic benefits by converting a high-acid-content, low-value feed into a high-value renewable fuel.

Process Flowsheet

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Key Reactions

Biodiesel production involves converting fatty acids to their equivalent methyl esters:

Process Description

This process centres on a reactive distillation stage that yields biodiesel as mixed methyl esters.

Process feedstock

The biodiesel flowsheet accommodates a wide range of oils, fats and greases. Although ideally suited to low-quality non-edible feeds, our process can also utilise conventional vegetable oils and animal fats.

Hydrolysis

Conventional oil hydrolysis produces the fatty acid intermediate plus a clean water/glycerol stream:

The molten fatty acid then passes to the esterification reaction column.

Esterification

The pre-heated liquid fatty acids feed to the top of the esterification reaction column, in which they react with methanol vapour to form their equivalent methyl fatty esters:

Biodiesel-small-equation2

The reaction proceeds in the presence of a proprietary solid catalyst, achieving complete conversion to the methyl ester product.

The water produced in the esterification reaction is stripped out of the methyl esters by excess methanol. This methanol/water mixture leaves the reactor as overheads and moves to a methanol column for separation, with the resulting dry methanol recycling back to the esterification reaction column.

The crude liquid methyl esters exit from the bottom of the column then proceed to purification.

Product purification

A two-stage flash system removes any small amounts of methanol from the crude methyl ester product.

Following pre-heating, the product stream enters flash pot#1 which, operating at atmospheric pressure, removes most of the methanol present.

Flash pot#2, operating under vacuum, removes any final methanol, leaving market-quality biodiesel which is sent to storage. The flashed methanol recycles back into the process.

+Process option: different feeds

+Process option: glycerol to propylene glycol

The JM Davy Advantage

Our biodiesel technology converts low-value, high-acid feed oils into a high-value renewable fuel. We achieve this by using our advanced esterification technology.

Learn more about the benefits of Davy biodiesel here:

+Feedstock flexibility:

  • A unique combination of catalyst and reactive distillation technology allows the conversion of a wide variety of low-value feedstocks, containing up to 100% free fatty acid, into high-quality biodiesel.

+Simplified catalysis, process efficiency:

  • The esterification catalyst remains in its reaction column, eliminating the need for catalyst separation and neutralisation at any stage of the process.
  • The esterification catalyst can also be changed at 100% load without any downtime or loss of production.

+High-value glycerol by-product:

+Reaction selectivity:

  • The optimised reaction conditions employed in JM Davy’s esterification reaction column minimise side reactions.
  • This achieves close to 100% selectivity, with all feed converted to biodiesel product.
Core Technologies & Related Processes

Esterification is the key chemical transformation of the Davy biodiesel flowsheet. Explore our unique reactive distillation technology that underpins this process here:

The Davy biodiesel process has evolved from our advanced technologies for the production of butanediol (BDO) and natural detergent alcohols (NDA). Learn more about these Davy processes here:

In addition, see how we convert the biodiesel by-product, glycerol, into propylene glycol (PG):


Core Technologies

Esterification is the key chemical transformation of the Davy biodiesel flowsheet. Explore our unique reactive distillation technology that underpins this process here:


Related Processes

The Davy biodiesel process has evolved from our advanced technologies for the production of butanediol (BDO) and natural detergent alcohols (NDA). Learn more about these Davy processes here:

In addition, see how we convert the biodiesel by-product, glycerol, into propylene glycol (PG):