Project Synopsis

Develop a preliminary batch process design for a biodiesel producer to recover methanol from crude glycerin.

Project Summary


Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was subcontracted by the client, a process equipment supplier, to develop a preliminary process design for the ultimate client, a biodiesel producer, for the recovery of methanol from crude glycerin.  The primary requirements of the process were to recover overhead methanol at 99.5 weight %, reduce methanol in the crude glycerin to less than 1 weight %, and to perform the process within a specified batch cycle time.

PROCESS’ steady state commercial computer simulation software, CHEMCAD, was used to develop mass and energy balances for the process.  To simulate the batch process within the steady state simulator, a Visual Basic (VBA) interface was developed to allow for data exchange between CHEMCAD and Microsoft Excel.  This allowed the process to be modeled over discrete one minute time intervals with simulation data collected after each run.  Additional inputs, including reflux ramps and product switches, were varied and controlled from Excel to permit process design optimization.  Due to temperature increases throughout the batch cycle, heat exchanger transfer rates were modeled according to temperature differentials across a fixed area.

Using this model, PROCESS developed a set of batch operating conditions meeting the overall process objective.  A process flow diagram (PFD) was then created depicting the primary equipment requirements.  Minimum and maximum loads were determined for the equipment, and process design level equipment specifications (duty specifications) were generated.

Industry Type

  • Biodiesel Production
  • Alternative Fuels

Utilized Skills

  • Batch process development
  • Batch process simulation
  • Biodiesel process design

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