Project Synopsis

Provide process engineering support to aide in bringing a mothballed biodiesel plant back on-line by providing plant test run support.

Project Summary


The client owns a mothballed biodiesel plant and a collocated operating fuel distribution terminal with tank farm in South America.  The client wished to restart the biodiesel plant, and contracted with Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) to provide an engineering evaluation of the process and operations as well as propose improvements to increase the plant’s operational flexibility.  The work consisted of three phases: (I) evaluation of the biodiesel process, (II) review of, and assistance with a 24 hour test run, and (III) evaluation of process alternatives.  The following synopsis is for Phase II of this project.

The Phase II project objectives included:

  • Provide a technical review of the 24 hour plant trial test plan
  • Develop a comprehensive, detailed mass and energy balance for the plant using PROCESS’ licensed commercial computer process simulation software.  Model one set of design conditions and ‘tune’ the model to match the client’s existing mass and energy balance information
  • Evaluate the design and prior operation of the decanters and develop a preliminary scope of supply for a centrifuge package to serve as a possible alternative to the existing Decanter Unit
  • Observe the 24 hour plant trial with a focus on those process areas which had been previously identified for improvement opportunities, e.g. the Decanter Unit
  • Review the data and results of the 24 hour plant trial.

The client implemented key process improvements in preparation for the plant trial: Coriolis type flow transmitters on the methanol and Na-methylate streams were installed, DCS programming changes were made, and a set of P&IDs for the process were generated. PROCESS also developed the simulation model for the biodiesel process and generated a mass and energy balance.  Important design criteria for the decanters were respective light and heavy phase densities, surface tensions, viscosities, and temperatures.

The 24 hour test run identified numerous maintenance and process issues that need to be addressed.

Industry Type

  • Biodiesel Production

Utilized Skills

  • Process simulation
  • On-site plant trail support
  • Process improvement.

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