Time Has Come Today
by Ron Kotrba (Biodiesel Magazine) The synergies between co-located ethanol and biodiesel production have been discussed for a decade. The existing infrastructure to share process essentials, an in-house feedstock in distillers corn oil (DCO), and use of ethanol rather than methanol for biodiesel reactions are the more obvious benefits. Biodiesel technology providers want contracts in this highly sought-after market. For ethanol producers, the attraction is added value through biodiesel rather than crude corn oil sales, and D4 RIN generation. But it’s also about diversification and fulfilling the renewable fuel standard’s (RFS) vision.
Less than two hours south from Lena is Annawan, Ill., where Jatrodiesel Inc.’s first commercial supercritical biodiesel plant, a 5 MMgy facility, is being installed at the 120 MMgy Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC ethanol refinery. “Jatrodiesel is a small company, but they have vast experience building smaller biodiesel plants that convert the harder-to-process feedstocks,” says Rick Vondra, vice president and general manager of PRF. “For the scale and scope of what we wanted to do, it looked like a pretty good fit. Corn oil is not the easiest to convert.” Vondra says permits are not yet in hand, but he expects to have them soon. “We had an official groundbreaking although we haven’t started construction yet,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll get that completed in a few weeks, and start putting some steel in the ground.” While the EPA’s 2014 RFS proposal to stall biomass-based diesel at 1.28 billion gallons and reduce the ethanol RVO, in addition to the lapse of an important $1-per-gallon biodiesel tax credit, are on everyone’s minds in the biofuel sectors, Vondra says he’s convinced the project is viable even without a tax credit.
“We generally see a lot of business advantages when a biodiesel plant is vertically integrated into an existing feedstock-producing plant,” says Raj Mosali, president of Jatrodiesel. In a traditional process, acid esterification is employed to convert FFA to biodiesel, and base transesterification using a catalyst such as sodium methylate converts triglycerides into biodiesel. “In the Super process, we eliminated the use of catalyst—acid or base, or an enzyme—altogether,” Mosali says. “In a nutshell, we send a mixture of methanol and oil and out comes the biodiesel and glycerin. The advantages are savings in catalyst costs, simplicity of the process, true multifeedstock capability, up to 100 percent FFA capability and high-quality glycerin.”
Another option available to ethanol producers is Cereal Process Technologies LLC’s MarketFlex, a capital-intense system of dry fractionation that separates the corn upfront to get higher quality oil, and much more of it, along with a traditional biodiesel process. “I think it’s strictly a matter of how much money they want to make,” says Pete Moss, president of CPT, on why ethanol producers might choose this route. “A lot of the emphasis in the past has been on the value of ethanol, but now the focus is edging more toward oil.”… READ MORE