New technology drives biodiesel plant investment

Paul Boughton

The future of biofuels in Europe received a vote of confidence in June when Biofuels Corporation raised £15m on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM). The company is using the AIM cash towards building the first of two biodiesel processing plants on the Simon Storage site in Seal Sands, Middlesbrough, England. The Tees Valley location offers a deepwater port and a well established infrastructure. This will be the world's largest biodiesel complex with an initial investment of over £48million.

Traditional diesel is produced from mineral crude oil. Biodiesel is produced from a variety of vegetable oils, including but not limited to rape, canola, soy, linseed, palm, coconut, mustard and cotton oils. It can also be manufactured from tallow oil and yellow grease (used cooking oils).

Biodiesel has emerged as a realistic and desirable alternative, or blended addition, to mineral diesel and is becoming an increasingly valuable contributor to the world's response to greenhouse gas emissions.

It has been in general pure use for the last 10 years in continental Europe. However, the majority of the UK biodiesel produced is expected to be used as a five per cent blend with mineral diesel. As an additive to ULSD a blend of biodiesel will restore lubricity, lost due to the reduction of sulphur compounds, as well as adding environmental benefits.

Advantages of biodiesel include the following: Negligible sulphur content. Zero aromatic content (toluene and benzene). Comparable energy and power content. Flash point of 300°F against 137°F for mineral diesel. Significant reduction in particulates (soot) and hydrocarbons. 70percent reduction of carbon monoxide emissions in diesel exhausts. Non toxic and biodegradable; it is fully degraded from a waterway environment within approximately 20 days; and Significant lubricant characteristics enabling a reduction in wear and extended efficiency for injectors, for all engines using ULSD, hence resulting in lower maintenance costs.

Biofuels Corporation is using biodiesel technology developed by Austrian specialist Energea.

Known as continuous trans esterification reactor (CTER) technology, it optimises the conversion of biogenic fats and oils.

Although the method has been known since the 1930s, Energea says the significant advantage of this technology is the acceleration of the transformation process. Now it only takes a few minutes to produce high-quality standardised biodiesel from the raw materials.

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