Market found for portable biodiesel processors

By Nicholas Zeman | May 11, 2009
Posted June 8, 2009

While industrial size plants have gotten built without opening-signaling the struggles of the commercial biodiesel industry-there's a company known as Springboard Biodiesel in Chico, Calif., that's flourishing. Its business model, based on the sales of portable biodiesel processing units capable of producing only 36,000 gallons per year, is experiencing accelerated growth. "There is market out there for serving the small-scale biodiesel producers that aren't going to sell the fuel, but process it for their own uses," said Matt Roberts of Springboard.

Proprietary fluid separation technology marketed as the Induced Coalescent Separator (INCOSEP) can help home brewers dramatically speed up the process of local refining, therefore, increasing production capacity. "This type of equipment has no precedent- that we know of in our industry," Roberts said.

The portable biodiesel processors are made of 304 stainless steel and all industrial-grade components. It allows customers to make ASTM grade biodiesel very cheaply-for less than $1 per gallon. Ninety-nine percent of its users make biodiesel from recycled vegetable oil, according to Springboard. "We've sold a large number of our machines to small businesses, universities, municipalities and co-operatives in the United States," Roberts said.

"This technology (INCOSEP-Pro) is capable of inducing secondary fluids to 'coalesce' out of the raw biodiesel," Roberts said. "It can rapidly separate glycerol and water from the fuel."

The BioPro 190 biodiesel processor, Springboard's flagship product, is capable of producing a 50 gallon batch of ASTM quality biodiesel every 48 hours. "With INCOSEP-Pro installed on the equipment, however, we can reduce that time to 21 hours," Roberts said. Also, if existing users purchased a BioPro processor before the start of 2007, they can have their machines retrofitted to incorporate Springboard's new technology.

Springboard also offers a dry wash system for biodiesel processing. The dual resin tower design, the SpringPro 76, helps double the capacity of "any biodiesel processor," the company stated and can purify 480 gallons per day. "This is a dry wash column that uses resins to clean and polish the biodiesel," Roberts said. "Water is a commodity that is becoming more and m ore scarce, especially in California."
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