Sulzer Chemtech’s technology helps vegetable oil producer enter the biofuel market
Businesses interested in producing biodiesel need advanced processing solutions that can achieve high purity levels while maximizing the recovery of this fuel. When Bremfield Sdn Bhd, a leading Malaysian vegetable oil processor, was looking to add biodiesel to its product portfolio, Sulzer Chemtech’s distillation technology offered an effective solution with a quick return on investment.
Rising demand for bio-based fuels is opening key opportunities for businesses looking to enter the biodiesel sector. This alternative to conventional fossil fuels leads to lower emissions of (CO2) and particulate matter when used.
A substantial advantage for companies interested in producing biodiesel is the broad variety of feedstock available. In effect, this fuel can be obtained by processing a wide range of resources, such as animal fats, vegetable oils, or used cooking oil. Therefore, businesses can utilize the raw material that best fit their needs and capabilities or resources that are already part of their production systems.
Regardless of the chosen resource, the manufacturing process remains the same and is based on the transesterification of triglycerides in the presence of alcohol, alkaline, or enzyme catalysts. As a result of this reaction, mono-alkyl fatty esters – i.e. biodiesel – are produced, together with fatty acids, particularly monoglyceride.
After the esters are formed, their purification is the next essential step in biodiesel manufacturing, as it removes impurities and reduces the concentration of monoglyceride in the end product. Systems that can achieve a high separation performance are extremely beneficial. They help producers to deliver transparent fuels with extremely low cloud and pour points that can meet even strict winter-grade specifications. These can also be mixed with conventional diesel fuels to support, among others, customers in Europe and North America.
Tapping into new opportunities
In order to further leverage its existing oil-based resources, Bremfield Sdn Bhd wanted to set up a small-scale biodiesel facility in its oil processing plant, located in Klang, Malaysia. Creating a system with limited processing capacity of 300 tonnes of biodiesel per day and the need to obtain fuels with a minimum residual concentration of monoglyceride to meet strict winter-grade specifications, were some of the main aspects that the extraction equipment within the new production line needed to account for. To develop a highly effective solution for this application, the company contacted the leading separation technology specialist, Sulzer Chemtech.
The company was able to provide a design that could process the necessary 300 tonnes of biodiesel per day with high separation and energy efficiency while offering a quick return on investment (ROI). The solution that was developed relies on a single, compact separation column, where most of the biodiesel is extracted.
Key components within the column are Sulzer Chemtech’s MellapakPlusTM structured packings to fit a high number of theoretical stages in a limited footprint, minimizing the capital expenditure while providing the vacuum conditions required for biodiesel purification and maintaining low-pressure drops.
As the column needed to reach elevated temperatures (between 190 °C and 220 °C) to effectively separate the biofuel from various impurities, the setup was designed to maximize the energy efficiency of heating operations. In this way, the oil processor could maintain low running costs, quick ROI, and ultimately cost-competitive biodiesel prices.
Sulzer Chemtech was also responsible for basic engineering, detail engineering, procurement of equipment and accessories, project management, commissioning, and startup of the new unit. Thanks to the solution provided by the company the facility was completed in less than a year and Bremfield Sdn Bhd has met its capacity goal of 300 tonnes per day and high purity requirements by reaching monoglyceride levels lower than the necessary 0.2% w/w, thus supporting winter-grade specifications. The facility has been operating efficiently for over four years and the company has been able to support customers with high-quality biofuels.
Sulzer is a global leader in fluid engineering. We specialize in pumping, agitation, mixing, separation, and application technologies for fluids of all types. Our customers benefit from our commitment to innovation, performance, and quality and from our responsive network of 180 world-class manufacturing facilities and service centers across the globe. Sulzer has been headquartered in Winterthur, Switzerland, since 1834. In 2020, our 15’000 employees delivered revenues of CHF 3.3 billion. Our shares are traded on the SIX Swiss Exchange (SIX: SUN).
The Chemtech division is the global market leader in innovative mass transfer, static mixing, and polymer solutions for petrochemicals, refining, and LNG. Chemtech is also leading the way in ecological solutions such as biopolymers as well as textile and plastic recycling, contributing to a circular economy. Our product offering ranges from technology licensing to process components all the way to complete separation process plants. Customer support ranges from engineering and field services to tray and packing installation, tower maintenance, welding, and plant turnaround projects – ensuring minimal downtime.