Friday, May 19, 2006

Co-product from biodiesel production: Glycerine Renenue

The primary co-product from the production of biodiesel is glycerine. Glycerine is a clear, odourless and gel-like susntance that is comonly used in products such as pharmaceuticals, toothpaste, and cosmetics. It is usually defined as any product whose primary component is glycerol. It can be produced naturally as a co-product of fatty acid, fatty alcohol, or biodiesel production. As well, it can be produced synthetically. The production of biodiesel creates crude (low grade) glycerine that can be purified further at the plant site or sold to refineries that continue purification and in turn sell the glycerine for use as a raw material in other products.

Glycerine markets are renowed for their complecity and unpredictabiliyt. The demand, supply, and pricing of glycerine is determined through world market forces. Because glycerine is produced primarily ad a co-product, demand for the primary products influences the amount of glycerine produced. For example, in Europe the demand for biodiesel influences the amount of glycerine available for sale. As well, there are hundreds of potential end uses for glycerine, some of which can use competing products.

Glycerine has a variety of characteristics that make it ideal for numerous applications. Glycerine can remain colourless and odourless for a long period of time. When cold, glycerine does not freeze, but merely gels. Glycerine is about 55% to 75% as sweet as sugar. It is also non-toxic and does not irritate the skin.

Although glycerine has more than 1,500 uses, many prominent applications can be segmented into the categories of oral-care, food, tobacco, urethane foams, and pharmaceutical products.

Demand estimates for the consumption of glycerine by source type for Europe and North America is estimated at 50 to 60 % for vegetables/synthetic kosher quality of which 40 to 50 % is vegetable kosher only.

Some of the highest quality glycerine produced in the world us supplied by Malaysia and Indonesia. Both countries are big producers. Their glycerine is predominantly kosker certified and is produced from palm oil, whereas U.S> production is primarily synthetic or tallow based.

The glycerine produced by biodiesel plnats is a crude glycerine. In order to attract the higher prices of purified glycerine it must be upgraded.Crude glyrine can contain up to 10% water, 10% ash and 2.5% of other organic materials. It is generally upgrade by vacuum istillation or ion exchange refining. Both approahces increase the capital and oeprating costs of the biodiesel operation.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Chevron Invests in Large-Scale Texas Biodiesel Facility

SAN RAMON, Calif., May 11, 2006 -- Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) today announced it has invested through a subsidiary in a Texas-based company that is building one of the first large-scale biodiesel plants in the United States. The facility will have the potential to produce 100 million gallons per year of this clean-burning renewable fuel – an amount that would more than double the current production volume of biodiesel in the United States.

Chevron, through its subsidiary, Chevron Technology Ventures LLC (CTV), has taken an equity position in Galveston Bay Biodiesel LP (GBB). The Houston-based company is constructing a biodiesel production and distribution facility in Galveston, Texas, scheduled for completion by the end of 2006.

GBB will produce biodiesel from soybeans and other renewable feedstocks. GBB has the option to sell pure biodiesel or biodiesel blended with off-road or on-road diesel into marine, commercial, trucking and industrial markets in the Galveston and Houston metropolitan areas.

"This investment is another example of how Chevron takes a proactive, practical approach toward the development of emerging new energy sources," said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer, Chevron Corporation. "We believe biofuels are a component of the diversification of the fuel supply to meet future energy demand."

GBB will have initial production of 20 million gallons per year, representing almost a 27 percent increase in total U.S. biodiesel production of 75 million gallons in 2005. The facility has the capability to expand operations to produce 100 million gallons of fuel per year.

"The biodiesel industry in North America is at an early stage of development, typified by small operations producing small quantities of fuel. This is an opportunity to engage in one of the first large-scale biodiesel production operations, providing renewable fuel to industry in Galveston, Houston and surrounding areas," said Dana Flanders, president of CTV. [Press Releases]

Turning sewage into biodiesel in New Zealand

New Zealand's Aquaflow Bionomic announced late last week that they have successfully produced a sample of biodiesel from wild algae in sewage ponds. This announcement means Aquaflow Bionomic is the first to get the fuel from algae that were not specially grown in the laboratory. The algae clean the sewage water (or industrial waste streams from farmers or food processors) while making the biofuel. A company spokesman said, "The market potential for this product is almost unlimited in the peak-oil environment we are in."

Aquaflow Bionomic processes the algae into a pulp and then extracts liquid oils and turns it into biodiesel. The company expects to be producing a million liters of biodiesel a year once the program gets up and running next April.

Clean Energy Technology Creates Jobs

Check out this very well done article by Joel Joel Makower of Clean Edge entitled, "Clean Technology: Where the Jobs Are" here.

Suncor Energy signs biodiesel contract with Toronto Transit Commission

Ontario (May 9, 2006) – Suncor Energy Products Inc. and the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) have teamed up to help clear the air in Toronto. An agreement has been reached for Suncor to supply biodiesel to the TTC’s fleet of 1,491 buses. This sales agreement extends to December 2007.

Suncor biodiesel is an environmentally responsible diesel fuel created by blending petroleum diesel with soy-based biodiesel. Biodiesel reduces carbon monoxide and particulate emissions, which are major contributors to smog.

Over the next 20 months, Suncor will supply the TTC with over 120 million litres of this cleaner burning fuel.

"Suncor's unique 'in-line' blending process will deliver a higher quality and cleaner-burning fuel to the TTC," said Don Smith, director of distribution operations and national sales for Suncor.

Residents of the Greater Toronto area will benefit from this agreement. "Using biodiesel fuel in TTC buses will contribute to cleaner air in Toronto," said Smith.

The introduction of biodiesel is Suncor's next step in providing sustainable energy solutions in Ontario. This summer, Suncor will be opening Canada's largest ethanol production facility in St. Clair Township, near Sarnia. Ethanol-blended gasoline, sold at Sunoco branded retail sites across Ontario, reduces vehicle-based carbon monoxide emissions up to 30 per cent. Pending regulatory approval, Suncor expects to later this year begin construction on a 76-mega watt wind power project in Ripley, near Kincardine. This project is expected to generate enough zero-emission electricity to power 22,000 homes.

This news release contains a forward-looking statement identified by the words “to supply”, which is based on Suncor’s current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions made in light of its experiences and the risks, uncertainties and other factors related to its business. Actual events could differ materially as a result of changes to Suncor’s plans and the impact of events, risks and uncertainties discussed in Suncor’s current annual information form, annual and quarterly reports to shareholders and other documents filed with regulatory authorities.

Suncor Energy Products Inc. is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Suncor Energy Inc., an integrated energy company. In addition to a refinery in Sarnia, Suncor Energy Products has a network of 281 Sunoco-branded retail and Fleet Fuel cardlock sites and has a 50 per cent joint venture interest in over 200 Pioneer and UPI retail sites. Suncor Energy Products Inc. manufactures, distributes and markets transportation fuels, heating oils and petrochemicals primarily in Ontario. For more information, see the Sunoco website at or

Sunoco in Canada is separate and unrelated to Sunoco in the United States, which is owned by Sunoco, Inc. of Philadelphia. Suncor Energy (U.S.A.) Inc. is an authorized licensee of the Phillips 66® brand and marks in the state of Colorado.

Ethanol, Biodiesel Eats Into US Corn Stockpiles

WASHINGTON - The booming ethanol industry will consume 20 percent of this year's US corn crop, the government forecast on Friday, and soy-based biodiesel also is taking off.

Biofuels will bolster corn and soybean prices, the Agriculture Department said in its first look at this year's crop harvest. Voracious demand for corn from ethanol makers will help cut the corn (maize) surplus in half by fall 2007, or 1.14 billion bushels.

"Renewable energy is making a difference" in the corn and soybean markets, said USDA chief economist Keith Collins.

Some 2.15 billion bushels (54 million tonnes) of this year's corn crop was projected to go to ethanol plants, up 34 percent from the 1.6 billion bushels (40.6 million tonnes) now being used yearly.

USDA projected 2.3 billion lbs (1 billion kg) of soyoil would be used in biodiesel in the year beginning Sept. 1, up 1.1 billion lbs (500 million kg) from this year.

"We may get US$3 (a bushel) corn on the farm this year," said private consultant John Schnittker, because of ethanol and a big demand for exports. It has been a decade since the season-average farmgate price was that high.

Corn and wheat futures prices shot upward at the Chicago Board of Trade, based on USDA's forecasts of smaller crops than last year and tightening supplies. At mid-day, corn for July delivery sold for US$2.57-1/2, up 10-1/4 cents a bushel. July wheat was up 11-1/2 cents, to US$4.03-1/2 a bushel. July soybeans were US$6.13-1/2, up one-half cent.

There are nearly 97 ethanol plants in the United States with a capacity of 4.5 billion gallons (17 billion liters) a year. There are 44 projects under way that will add 1.4 billion gallons of capacity this year, says an industry trade group. Production in 2005 totaled 3.9 billion gallons (14.8 billion liters).

"We believe that by early 2007, we're going to be producing at a rate of 6.5 billion gallons (24.6 billion liters) a year," said Collins, requiring 2.15 billion bushels of corn.

Based on surveys of 14,800 wheat farmers and examination of wheat fields, USDA forecast a winter wheat crop of 1.323 billion bushels (35 million tonnes), down 12 percent from last year and the smallest crop since 2002 due to drought in the southern Plains.

Hard red winter wheat, the major flour class, would total 715 million bushels (19.5 million tonnes), down 23 percent from 2005 and smallest since 2002. Schnittker said tight supplies would boost prices.

With the planting season well under way, USDA projected a corn crop of 10.550 billion bushels (268 million tonnes), soybeans at a near-record 3.080 billion bushels (84 million tonnes), an overall wheat harvest of 1.873 billion bushels (51 million tonnes) and a cotton crop of 20.70 million bales weighing 480 lbs (218 kg).

The soybean stockpile would climb to a record 650 million bushels (17.7 million tonnes) by Sept. 1, 2007, despite near-record exports.

Kansas, the No. 1 winter wheat state, was forecast to reap 319.6 million bushels, compared to 380 million bushels last year. Texas will harvest 35 million bushels, one-third of last year's crop, due to drought. Oklahoma was forecast for 68.2 million bushels, half of last year.

Building mobile refineries to convert rape-seed oil into bio-diesel

LONDON & PLANT CITY, FL – Kwikpower International plc, a diversified renewable energy and fuels company offering ‘carbon recycling’ solutions, and UTEK Corporation (AMEX: UTK; LSE-AIM: UTKA), an innovative technology transfer company, announced today the completion of a technology transfer to Kwikpower International in a securities exchange transaction.

The technology transferred is the licence to a process enabling the continuous conversion for onward sale of plant-based oils into bio-diesel using a mobile refinery. This system uses a tubular oscillatory flow reactor and was demonstrated for the first time at the Clean Energy Technology Show in London earlier this year. Conventional bio-diesel plants require the use of large tanks which must be emptied and cleaned after each batch.

A substantial potential market for bio-diesel has been created by the European Directive 2003/30/EU which sets a target that, by the end of 2005, 2% of all road transport should be powered by bio-fuels, aiming for 5.75% by 2010. The UK government provides a rebate of 20p on the duty of every litre of bio-diesel. The technology was developed by Professor Malcolm Mackley and his team in the Department of Chemical Engineering at the University of Cambridge and is being licensed by Cambridge Enterprise on behalf of the University.

Dr. Jim Watkins, CEO and Chairman of Kwikpower International said: “This technology transfer of the bio-diesel intensification process with Cambridge and UTEK will allow us to rapidly expand Kwikpower's opportunities in the bio-fuels markets. We see major growth opportunities in both the USA and Europe.

“Our KP Wellman engineering subsidiary is already working on integrating the new reactor design into an innovative continuous production module which will fit into a 40 ft container. This technology offers real promise to allow us to reduce the time and cost of production of bio-diesel from a variety of feedstocks, allowing bio-diesel to compete on a level playing field with crude oil derived diesel.”

Dr. Clifford M. Gross, CEO and Chairman of UTEK said: “We are very pleased to have completed our first technology transfer to a UK based company since UTEK’s admission to AIM in April this year. It demonstrates clearly that our U2B technology transfer model works well on both sides of the Atlantic and can be used by UK companies to develop their product portfolio with university discoveries.”

Biodiesel Delivery Infrastructure Model

How is biodiesel manufactured?

The manufacture of biodiesel is a deceptively simple process, so much so that it may be done on a small scale in a home laboratory. Operations may be scaled up to large-volume operations using the same basic process. However, for biodiesel to be marketed commercially as fuel, it must meet the ASTM Standard Specification for Biodiesel Fuel (B100) Blend Stock for Distillate Fuels (D6751-02).

Here's how biodiesel is produced from vegetable oils in a non-technical nutshell: Vegetable oils are primarily triglycerides, containing 7-13% glycerin. The biodiesel process turns the oils into esters (i.e., the combustible biodiesel), and separates the esters from the glycerin. The denser glycerin sinks to the bottom and the biodiesel floats on top, facilitating separation.

The biodiesel process is called transesterification. Chemically, what happens is that alcohol (typically methanol because of low-cost simplicity of the chemical process) is used to react with the vegetable oil in the presence of a caustic catalyst (typically caustic soda -- NaOH or sodium hydroxide or lye). The caustic catalyst causes the methanol to react with the oil forming glycerin and crude biodiesel. Approximately 90% of the input oil is converted into combustible biodiesel fuel. The products are then processed further ("chemically washed") to remove excess methanol and unreacted catalyst, which may be reused. The main byproduct/co-product of the process is glycerin, which is used extensively in the cosmetic industry and for other chemical processes.

As stated in the first paragraph of this page, for biodiesel to be marketed commercially as fuel, it must meet the ASTM Standard Specification for Biodiesel Fuel (B100) Blend Stock for Distillate Fuels (D6751-02). The ASTM standard includes requirements to meet specifications for flash point (min. 130 deg/C), water and sediment (<0.05 vol %), kinematic viscosity at 40 deg/C (1.9-6.0 mm2/sec), sulfated ash (<0.02 wt %), sulfur (<0.05 wt %), copper strip corrosion (#3 max.), Cetane (47 min.), cloud point, carbon residue (0.05 wt %), acid number (<0.80 mg KOH/gm), free glycerin (<0.02 wt %), total glycerin (<0.24 wt %), phosphorous content (<0.001 wt %), and distillation temperature (< 360 deg/C).

While, small-scale biodiesel operations can produce biodiesel that will perform in diesel engines, these kinds of operations are unlikely to consistently produce ASTM-certifiable biodiesel. Using non-ASTM certified fuel in an engine increases the potential risk of plugging fuel injectors, resulting in costly repairs.

Using Soybean Oil as Feedstock:

According to a recent market analysis, if soybeans are used to produce biodiesel on a small market scale, the fuel will cost approximately $0.66/liter ($2.50/gallon). Biodiesel produced at this cost is generally marketed as an additive to conventional diesel fuel and mixed to produce various biodiesel blends. The high cost (virgin oil) feedstock, such as soybean oil, is the main reason why even B10 and B20 mixtures are not as price-competitive with conventional diesel fuel, as soybean-based biodiesel producers would like. It takes about 7.3 pounds of soybean oil, which costs approximately 20 cents per pound, to produce a gallon of biodiesel. Feedstock costs alone, therefore, could be as high as $1.50 per gallon for soy biodiesel.

Malaysia Building First Biodiesel Refinery

Malaysia Building First Biodiesel Refinery
24 April 2005

Bernama. The Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) and Golden Hope Plantations are partnering to build a biodiesel plant in Labu in Negeri Sembilan—the first in the country.

MPOB is investing RM 40 million ($10.5 million) in the plant, according to Plantation Industries and Commodities Minister Datuk Peter Chin Fah Kui.

Expected to be completed in three years, the plant will produce 5,000 tonnes (approximately 36.5 thousand barrels or 1.15 million gallons) of biodiesel a month.

The biodiesel is slated for export to Europe. Port Dickson, also in the state of Negeri Sembilan, is a major oil terminal and site of the largest refinery in the country (Shell Port Dickson).

Chin said the fuel could not be used in Malaysia as the existing infrastructure of the major oil companies in the country to blend the biodiesel with petroleum diesel was insufficient.

The companies would have to work together with MPOB and Golden Hope Plantations to develop the infrastructure, he said, adding that there weren't any legal provisions for the alternative fuel in the country at the moment.

“That is why we have to export. In terms of marketing, we do not see any problems,” he said

Asked why the government started this project, Chin replied that it was to put Malaysia on the world map in coming out with alternative fuels.

(See earlier post on the development by a Malaysian company of a new clonal oil palm designed to increase oil yield by 20%.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Biodiesel: The Future Clean Energy