Irish company develops new biodiesel catalyst

By Erin Voegele
Posted Sept. 14, 2010

Ireland-based Ceimici Novel Ltd. recently announced it has developed an innovative catalyst for use in new and existing biodiesel plants. According to the company, use of its unique catalyst can reduce production costs, increase profitability and results in 'greener' biodiesel production.

The catalytic material SCRO-80, which has been titled "Smart Catalyst," facilitates the transesterification process in minutes rather than hours, said Ben Engelen, Ceimici Novel's market developer. While Engelen was unable to disclose any information regarding the chemical structure or composition of SCRO-80, he did note that that the catalytic material "will not suffer from obsolescence."

Unlike traditional biodiesel diesel catalysts that are consumed during the biodiesel production process, SCRO-80 can be recovered and reused.

"The transesterification is realized in a single stage and allows a full continuous operation," said Engelen. "Smart Catalyst performs the transesterification reaction as a true catalyst should-without being consumed. It is heterogeneous, which allows for easy recycling. It has high activity, which allows for the reaction to be taken to completion in a single reactor and the glycerol produced is a 98 percent grade. Good glycerol and a recycled catalyst provide about 80 percent of the benefits in switching to Smart Catalyst."

According to Engelen, SCRO-80 can be employed in both new and existing biodiesel plants. Most existing plants are able to use the equipment that is already in place, he said.

"Without any problem, the smart catalyst can be added to the reactor as a direct replacement for the caustic catalyst," Engelen continued. "This requires no investment…The next stage would be to install intensive inline mixing equipment."

This is projected to cost approximately $70,000 for a 10 MMgy facility. "The loop is complete when you install further separation equipment to recycle the catalyst," he said, noting that this cost is relatively minor.

"Existing plants can increase their production capacity a number of times without major investment," Engelen continued. "We just have to solve possible bottlenecks in the rest of the plant, such as storage capacities."
New plants designed specifically to utilize SCRO-80 can be built with a much lower capital investment than traditional biodiesel facilities, Engelen said.

Ceimici Novel has tested SCRO-80 on the lab and demonstration scales. "We built a semi-continuous unit pilot plant that produces 1,800 kilograms of biodiesel per hour (540 gallons per hour), Engelen said. "Now we work with a 1000 kilogram (300 gallon) batch demonstration unit in the Netherlands, where in a simple CSTR (Continuous Stir Tank Reactor) we can achieve ASTM and EN 14214 specifications in the order of 6 minutes with triglyceride levels below 0.01 percent," he continued, noting that Ceimici Novel also has plans to perform a 10 ton (3,000 gallon) production demonstration for a group of South American-based biodiesel producers in mid-September.

According to Engelen, Ceimici Novel began to market SCRO-80 in July and recently appointed a U.S.-based distributor.

"At the moment we are working out the parameters for the savings and conditions of the technology license and royalty agreements," he said. "[When those] agreements are in place, we will be able to do any size scale test at customer's plants."

Ceimici Novel currently expects its catalyst to be employed on a commercial scale by late 2010 or early 2011.
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