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Technology can boost biofuels’ production; while at the same time political and important social issues can rein it in.
reFOCUS looks at some some cutting edge BioFuel processing technologies (below); and the country case study on page 52 charts Brazil’s progress to date as it strives to overcome its difficulties and develop a major biodiesel program ripe for export.
(Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether) component used in many of the world’s petroleum products. The change from fuels with an MTBE component started as an environmental issue in locations such as the West Coast of the USA, New York City and Europe. The US ethanol industry is the fastest growing energy industry in the world, with ethanol being blended in 30% of the nation’s gasoline. As of May 2006 there were 97 E85 (and 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline fuel) plants in the USA with a total operating capacity of 4.5 billion gallons per year. A further 35 are currently under construction, nine are being expanded and a further 145 each with capacities of between 7 million and 140 million gallons a year are in the planning stage. Ethanol has been recognised as the natural choice for replacing MTBE and the need for blending Ethanol into petroleum products is now a global requirement. Brazil has long been the world’s leader when it comes to fuel ethanol capacity, but the USA is poised to exceed this and other countries in the western hemisphere are rapidly growing their production. European legislation has set substantial The general BioDiesel production process is depicted. A fat or oil is targets for the coming degummed, and then reacted with an alcohol such as methanol in the years and EU Directive presence of a catalyst to produce glycerin and methyl esters.
ecent advancements in distillation and blending technologies are being widely recognised as influencing the global proliferation of Biofuels. The idea of Biofuels is not new; in fact Rudolf Diesel envisaged the significance of Bio-fuels back in the 19th century stating: “… the use of vegetable oils for engine fuels may seem insignificant today. But such oils may become in the course of time, as important as petroleum and the coal tar products of the present time.” Rudolph Diesel’s first compression ignition engines ran on peanut oil at the World Exposition in Paris. The current drive towards greater use of bio-fuels is being pushed by the diversification of energy sources using renewable products, as reliance on carbon based fuels becomes an issue, and the need to replace the MTBE
2003/30/EC promoting the use of Bio-fuels in transport sets a target of 5.75% use by 2010. Standards for bio-fuels have already been established, with the undiluted base products being defined as B100 (100% Bio-Diesel) and E100 (100% Ethanol). Subsequent blending will modify this number, e.g. a blend of 80% petrol and 20% Ethanol defined as E20, or a blend of 95% diesel and 5% bio-diesel defined as B5. Properties for unleaded fuel to be sold in the EU are defined by EN228:2004 and allows up to 5% Ethanol. BioDiesel can be used in any concentration with petroleum-based diesel fuel and little or no modification being required for existing diesel engines. BioDiesel is a domestic renewable fuel for diesel engines and is derived from vegetable oils and animal fats, including used oils and fats (see diagram below). Soybean oil is the leading vegetable oil produced in the USA and the leading feedstock for BioDiesel production. BioDiesel is not the same as a raw vegetable oil; rather it is produced by a chemical process which removes the glycerine and converts the oil into methyl esters. For producers of bio-fuels, the massive growth signifies a greater requirement for pumps, mixers and integrated processing systems.
“Utilising the current petroleum distribution infrastructure, blending is typically carried out at the storage or loading ter-
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minal,” reports Jon Denis of Enraf Fluid Technology. “The most common locations for blending are the storage tank, the load rack headers or most effectively at the load arm (see image, right). The most important requirement for this process is the accurate volume measurement of each product. This can be done through sequential blending or ratio blending, but most beneficially utilising the side-stream blending technique.” Whereas petroleum products containing MTBE could be blended at the refinery and transported to the truck or tanker loading terminals via a pipeline or railcar, Ethanol blended fuel contains properties that make this difficult. Ethanol, by nature, will attract any H2O encountered on route or found in storage tanks. If this were to happen in a 10% blend and the concentration of H2O in the blended fuel reaches 0.4%, the combined Ethanol and H2O drops out of the blend. The exact point of drop out depends on the Ethanol percentage, make-up and temperature. If this drop out occurs the Ethanol combines with the H2O and separates from the fuel, dropping to the bottom of the storage tank. The resulting blend goes out of specification and getting back to the correct specification requires sending the contaminated Ethanol back to the production plant. “The solution to this problem,” says Jon Denis “is to keep the Ethanol in a clean and dry environment and to blend the Ethanol with the petroleum products when loading the transport trucks and tankers. Moving the blend point to the loading point minimises the risk of fuels being contaminated by H2O.” To make this procedure possible, Enraf Fluid Technology has developed an ATEX Zone 1 certified Multi-Stream Ethanol blender specifically for positioning at the loading rack (see image on page 50). The blender utilises multiple product streams, the monitored stream being referred to as the Wild Stream and the controlled streams referred to as the Blend Streams. The MicroBlend controller monitors the Wild Stream and controls the Blend Stream to the programmed blend ratio. The Multi-Stream Blender utilises intelligent control electronics and high accuracy linear control valves and is configurable in any arrangement, both horizontal and vertical, for between 2 and 6 arms. This allows
The most common locations for blending are the storage tank, the load rack headers or most effectively at the load arm.
for a very small footprint and maximises placement options for a complete load rack solution. The Multi-Stream Blender also incorporates an additional hydraulic powerpack. This allows for stable control of the individual control valves, by eliminating the dependency on fluctuating product line pressures.
In designing the Multi-Stream Ethanol Blender and also the recently introduced Micro-Blend system (see image on page 50), Enraf Fluid Technology has overcome the major difficulties associated with mixing petroleum products with Ethanol. “Experience has shown that during the mixing process, the volume exhibits growth, with the amount of
volumetric growth varying with multiple factors,” continues Jon Denis. “To capture this growth for fiscal purposes, it is necessary to ensure that the blend point is up-stream of the custody transfer meter. With this arrangement, operators can capture what ever the actual growth turns out to be.” A further issue that Enraf Fluid Technology blenders have over come is the slight residue that Ethanol appears to deposit on the internals of the load rack piping. Although it is very slight, it can affect the accuracy of the turbine meter by shifting its K factor by a small amount. This mostly goes undetected until the meters are proved and then it is too late. Some terminal operators remove the meters from the line for periodic washing with H 2 O to avoid the K factor shift. The solution offered by these Enraf blenders is to use PD meters as the slight film does not affect the accuracy of a PD meter. It has been mentioned that both the Multi-Stream Blender and the MicroBlender use high accuracy linear control valves. This is because traditional load rack diaphragm valves powered by the pressure of the product have difficulty in controlling the Ethanol flow at the low end flow rate requirements. A consequence of this is the possibility of the blend going out of specification if a premature shutdown and non-repeatable opening/closing speeds
occur. The Enraf solution to this problem lies with its valve designed specifically for linear flow throughout the valve travel and which uses external power, like an aircraft hydraulic oil to power the valves.
In general BioDiesel processing, the fat or oil is degummed then reacted with alcohol, such as methanol, in the presence of a catalyst to produce glycerine and methyl esters (BioDiesel). Methanol is supplied in excess to assist in quick conversion and the unused portion is recovered and re-used. The catalyst employed is typically sodium or potassium hydroxide, which has already been mixed with the methanol. Bran + Luebbe, an SPX Process Equipment company, is now offering BioFuel producers customised production packages for high efficiency and safe product blending (see image on page 51). Whereas Enraf Fluid Technology is more focussed on Ethanol and BioDiesel blending at the loading rack, Bran + Luebbe is targeting potential users of bio-generation systems looking to produce between 5 -20,000 litres (although not necessarily limited to this volume) of BioDiesel from either virgin oil or waste oil in a single batch. The manual and fully automated systems developed by Bran + Luebbe bring together pumps and batch counters for dosing a specified volume into a tank, full PLC systems for controlling and monitoring pumps, valves and instrumentation or SCADA-based systems with data-logging capabilities for providing process traceability of the product. “When blending BioFuel with Petrol or PetroDiesel, the desired result is a uniformly mixed product,” comments John Cousins, Bran + Luebbe Systems Engineer. “Using Bran + Luebbe or Plenty Mirrlees pumps combined with top entry static mixers and filters, producers can achieve the correct blend both for batch and continuous operations.” Bran + Luebbe’s systems range from simple manually operated single pump packages through to fully automated batching and mixing plant and are custom built to meet the end user’s requirements. The
Enraf Fluid Technology has developed an ATEX Zone 1 certified Multi-Stream Ethanol blender specifically for positioning at the loading rack.
Enraf Fluid Technology’s Micro-Blend system has overcome the major difficulties associated with mixing petroleum products with Ethanol.
more complex BioFuel systems typically feature multiples of pumps and mixers with the associated valves and instrumentation that are required in batching and continuous production plant. These essential components have been designed either for handling hazardous materials or for operation in hazardous areas where ATEX certification US compliances will be required. “The production and processing of BioFuels demands the employment of equipment developed by specialists in processing technologies and guarantees the highest levels of operating integrity, efficiency and safety at all times,” says John Cousins. “SPX Process Equipment with its globally recognised Bran + Luebbe Pumps, Lightnin Mixers, Plenty Mirrlees Pumps, Plenty Filters and Plenty Side Entry mixers has been designing and building fluid handling technologies in the petrochemical and general chemical industries for many years, so is ideally positioned for the BioFuels industry.”. A typical plant will involve pre-filtering and then blending the raw material with methanol and possibly sodium methyl oxide using Bran Luebbe Novados pumps. These components are then mixed in large tanks and left to settle. Using a Bran + Luebbe ProCam metering pump, the glycerine that settles at the bottom of the
tank is removed. ProCam pumps are also used for injecting sulphuric acid or caustic for pH adjustment, methanol, a catalyst, denaturant and enzyme. The remaining methanol is subjected to a water wash to remove any further contaminants. Plenty Mirrlees triple screw Triro pumps are employed to ensure a high throughput and high flow rate. As with many new solutions, they create several new issues with which to deal. Due to the difficulty of adding more equipment to an already fully packed load rack, there is always going to be a limited footprint area for the blending equipment. Enraf Fluid Technology’s MultiStream blender overcomes this difficulty by coming in a vertical skid-mounted package that can accommodate all of the load arms on the loading rack and still fit comfortably on the loading island. Both the Micro-Blender and the MultiStream Blender interface with the load rack custody transfer meters, the electronic presets or the terminal automation system to control the blend rate of the component against the flow of the main
product through the load arm. By introducing these blending systems, operators are able to eliminate storage issues, exercise high accuracy linear control across the complete blend range, capitalise on blended Ethanol growth and maximise load arm flexibility, allowing blended and non-blended products to be dispensed through the same load arm. The Bran + Luebbe systems, whilst being larger and more likely to be used within a process plant as opposed to the loading rack, also overcome the problems of available space. All systems are skid mounted to economise on foot print areas and height restrictions. Most importantly for the customer, the pump technology is well proven in the oil and petroleum industries where high accuracy metering, leak-free operation and hazardous area compliance are essential issues. Whereas fuel produced from agriculture has only had marginal use, in today’s climate there are political, environmental, legislative, and financial benefits for using BioFuels. With oil prices remaining high and very unlikely to reduce, demand for
Bran + Luebbe is now offering BioFuel producers customised production packages for high efficiency and safe product blending.
bio-fuel will continue to rise and provide exciting growth prospects both for investors and equipment manufacturers. Enraf and SPX have many years of experience with traditional fuel technologies and are ideally placed to meet the demands of this growing market with both existing products and new developments.
Biodiesel project test areas
Biodiesel country case study –
issues in Brazil, by Tim Cowman
Brazilian biofuel to the majority of people simply means ethanol however there is another revolution sweeping across this country’s vast agricultural regions and sugar cane is not the only crop attracting attention. Uncountable numbers of fields in this South American giant are being turned over to rapeseed, castor oil plants and sunflower in pursuit of the production of biodiesel. Government incentives once again have driven this process forward and regular championing by the President have kept it in the national headlines. Good publicity alone though does not produce fuel and from the fields to the pump certain internal Restrictive policies Brazilian car owners are accustomed to the factors appear to be stalling its flow. “alcool” (ethanol) pump option at their local Ethanol alternatives filling station and with 75% of all new cars The success of the Brazilian sugar-ethanol purchased in the country being of the flexprogramme, initiated by the government in fuel variety it is a popular choice. the 1970s in response to the world’s first oil Despite various tax incentives and the passcrisis, has been well documented in recent ing of laws aimed at specifically stimulating years. Estimates suggest that ethanol already the internal biodiesel market, and harnessing represents 40 per cent of fuel consumed by the government highlighted obvious potennon-diesel-powered vehicles in the country. tial of the country, an eco-friendly diesel The established infrastructure and techno- option is still not readily available. A closer logical know-how utilised in the production examination into the exact nature of the latof the alcohol based fuel is the envy of many est laws highlights the issues raised by many nations including the US as they tentatively prospective investors and project developers begin to process their corn. in the country, namely that instead of stimuBrazilian national biofuel production pro- lating the market the government incentives grammes, since the turn of the millennium, have in some capacities restricted it. have been extended to include research and • Government purchasing rights – In 2002 the Brazilian National Petroleum Agency development of biodiesel and despite ethanol’s (ANP) expanded its authority to include media dominance large scale schemes for the the coverage of natural gas, biofuel and clean diesel substitute have commenced across all renewable energy sources. In conjuthe country. The present political administragation with this development a prevition under President Lula’s left wing workers ous law declaring that the state owned party has marked biodiesel as important for Petrobras is obliged to oversee the sale the future of Brazil both in terms of a clean of all diesel in the country was extended energy fuel source and economical significance to include biodiesel. Having allowed the for this developing nation. ethanol market to develop freely outside The Brazilian Mines and Energy Department this legal restriction the decision was in 2005 established an obligatory 5% biodiesel made to bring biodiesel back under govmix in all diesel used in the country, to be ernment control. achieved within eight years, in the first three years allowing for a 2% level. In a similar way • Selo de combustível social” (Social fuel stamp) - In falling under agricultural law to its alcohol brother, biodiesel is viewed as government incentives are available for an attractive trade product with the country specific styles of farming systems used seen as a global supplier containing potential in the production of crops for biodiesel for significant exportation to nations requiring that meet the government criteria. The clean energy sources.
“I understand the government’s reasons for attempting to protect the rural poor but...feel... they must work hard to strike a balance...and not lose out on the great job and direct investment opportunities” – Luis Castro -PROENCO
social fuel stamp is awarded to producers who gather a significant percentage of their raw product from non-mechanised family farm sources. This equates to 30% in the South and 50% in the North and results in tax breaks. • Crop prioritization – Taxes on grain production in Brazil are generally high and with recent developments in mind incentives have been offered for biodiesel creation from government selected crops. Significant tax reductions are presently on offer for the use of the crops palm kernel oil and castor oil plant (Ricinus communis). Government figures released pre-election paint a picture of rapid developed in the area of clean energy sources coupled with a strong emphasise on protection of the rural poor as a result of these newly established laws. Studies point towards that fact that the 7 current producers of biodiesel within the country have a capacity to produce 91 million litres of biofuel per year. A further 15 companies are also currently in the process of registering with the ANP. The expectation of the Ministry of Agricultural development is that before December 2007 Brazil will be in a position to produce 1 billion litres per year. This according to coordinators of the biodiesel programme, will reach the government aim of involving 200,000 small rural family producers in the process. These statistics are significant and the incentives created have undoubtedly succeeded in enhancing the Brazilian drive towards biodiesel production through the establishing of large scale projects. The question is whether these figures represent the true capacity of a country the size of Brazil. Despite the numerous projects under construction and on the verge of entering into production there is no doubt that significant investors have been turned away from the market by the restrictions generated by the new laws. Profitable production of biodiesel within Brazil is still considered by many as unfeasible. The present situation means that companies working closely with the government and within its incentives framework are producing fuel at a much lower price
than the average producer. Production prices rise significantly for those companies unable to secure their raw materials from family agricultural units. Climatic conditions also determine that southern producers are unable to work with the government priority crops of palm kernel oil and castor oil plant. The stark differences in production costs are then not reflected in the selling price as Petrobras determines this level. Exportation to Europe The restrictive laws have turned Brazilian investment eyes towards potential export markets and the EU with its 5.75% biofuel target is an obvious first port of call. Re-focus spoke to Luis Castro Sans the director of PROENCO an entrepreneurial environmental business group responsible for the development of an ambitious project looking to drive forward Brazilian biodiesel through exportation to Europe. “The group of experts assembled is aiming to establish a large scale profitable crop to fuel integrated project. Involving the combined generation of seeds, vegetable oil and meal in Brazil and resulting in biodiesel processing in Europe for its market”. Luis went on to explain that the vast project which is presently undergoing its final feasibility study could ultimately witness 4 million hectares of land across the south of Brazil turned over to sunflower and rapeseed. A crushing plant will be based in the state of Parana and the subsequent oil created transported by rail or road to a specially constructed port with appropriate facilities to allow for reception and storage. Shipments of up to 15,000 tonnes will then be transported to the newly erected biodiesel processing site in a pre-selected city in Europe twice a month. An initial production capacity of 100,000 tonnes per year of biodiesel has been targeted for 2007 with subsequent years seeing a potential rise to 400,000 tonnes annually. The ambitious and unique nature of the project has resulted in the need to overcome numerous obstacles beyond those created by the government laws. Following years of seed testing productivity results are reaching optimum levels and secure contracts are being established with local farming cooperatives. The flow of a guaranteed amount and quality of oil is the key to the feasibility of the project and convincing farmers to turn sizeable amounts of land to sunflower, a virtually
unknown crop in Brazil, has been a time consuming task. Away from the field discussions are coming to a close with Brazilian governments for the port construction and with Europeans nations with regards to the processing plant location.
tration through the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism will ensure this. Biodiesel future As various large scale biofuel for export projects begin to take seed in the fields of Brazil their success could go a long way to determine the immediate future of biodiesel globally. The economic drive stimulated by the Kyoto protocol among other processes is creating a global movement towards clean fuels and within present technological constraints the world requires the fields of countries such as Brazil. President Lula and his country have the immediate task of making the most of this business window as with alternative fuel technologies such as Hydrogen developing rapidly the time is now. There are numerous factors however still stalling the development of this market both in terms of global trends and national regulations that need to be redesigned first. Brazil faces the questions of how best to take advantage of its present position whilst leading itself on the correct path of development. Globally countries will need to get used to switching some of their fuel attention to the fields of large developing nations where agricultural market trends will determine the supply of their energy. It remains to be seen how this uneasy relationship between the worlds of agricultural and fuels develop. Barriers will need to be deconstructed before a regular supply of biofuels to meet the world’s needs is online. Ambitious holistic vast projects are what is needed to meet demands and in reality international government interaction will be required to make the whole process of biofuel production and use more attractive for buyer and seller alike.
”Today there are 29 companies with a social fuel stamp. Of these, 17 have signed contracts with Petrobras and have started or should be starting shortly to produce biodiesel” – Arnoldo Campos (Ministry of Family Agriculture)
In the increasingly likely event of a successful implementation of the project Luis argues that the benefits have the potential to be wide reaching for both Brazil and the recipient European nation. He states that in the first instance the use of sunflower in a country presently under a rapidly growing dominance of soya and sugar cane is of strategic importance due to the diversity it offers. An added advantage will see the production of high quality protein rich meal from the seed husks for the numerous diary farms in the region. The scale of the infrastructure required for the scheme will lead to the generation of numerous new employment opportunities and medium size business growth in both continents. The European host country, of which Portugal and Ireland have been singled out, will benefit from long term contracts for a renewable energy source reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels. Glycerin, a by-product of the process is also a financial consideration with new innovative uses injecting value into this once saturated market. Efforts have also been made to ensure that a percentage of the raw oil will be produced locally in Europe . Areas in agricultural decline have been highlighted such as those previous farmed by the now underemployed Irish beet producers. Luis has no doubts about the financial feasibility of the project and also states that money The ECOdiesel production site in the North East potentially generated through projects regis- of Brazil (photographer - Fabiana Rodrigues).
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