Genuine Bio-Fuel Inc., a privately funded Florida-based biodiesel producer, utilizes a new proprietary, revolutionary production process to refine biodiesel fuel in seconds using ultrasonic shearing technology, while other plants spend hours to produce the same amount of biodiesel fuel in batch reactors.
Batch reactors would not satisfy Executive Vice President Jeff Longo’s vision for an efficient, environmentally friendly biodiesel plant. “Batch reactors are too cumbersome and limiting,” Longo said. “The batch process is time consuming, taking anywhere from a couple of hours to days to complete. Plus, it is not conducive for using a variety of alternative feedstocks of variable quality.” Aside from being a lengthy process, batch processing is inflexible and does not lend itself to future innovation in the alternative energy industry.
During batch processing the liquefied feedstock is placed in a huge tank, then a catalyst comprised of trace amounts of acid, methanol and potash or lye is added. Once added, it is either mixed mechanically with an agitator or pumped continuously through the tank with the ultimate goal of causing a chemical reaction and forcing the two components together. After the mixture is emulsified, it sits for about 12 hours to a day for the raw form of the fuel to separate from the glyceride. The top layer of raw fuel is then removed and the process is repeated. In the meantime, companies are tying up multiple tanks with this intensive process. In an effort to increase production speed, they utilize extreme heat and very high pressure. However, this Band-Aid solution adds onto overall production expenses and energy costs along with many safety issues. Finally, the fuel is transferred into another tank and water washing takes place. Sprayed with a mist of water, which is heavier than biodiesel, this filters the impurities and cleanses the fuel. The result is varying qualities of biodiesel fuel, byproducts, water consumption and contaminated water discharge.
Instead of using the batch method, Longo invested more than a year and a half researching new technologies that would cut operational costs, reduce energy usage and produce high quality fuel. “We wanted to have a true continuous flow facility, and one of the ways that we could accomplish this was with ultrasonics, so that's what we did,” he said. The advantage of using ultrasonics allows GBF to produce greater quantities of finer quality biodiesel fuel, while reducing costs and enabling us to utilize a wide variety of feedstocks.
As opposed to the batch process, which mechanically mixes various chemicals together, ultrasonic shearing uses sound waves to bond catalyst to feedstock, creating the chemical reaction. During the ultrasonic process, the feedstock and catalyst are simultaneously added to the tank and passed through a chamber of ultrasonic sound waves. These sound waves jumble the elements so violently that they become instantly bonded together. After GBF gets this reaction, the mixture flows into another tank where any remaining raw components will be expelled through a centrifugeunlike the batch process, which uses water. From there the fuel is passed through an ion exchange polishing tank to polish the final product.
GBF spent 18 months procuring the proprietary data, which gives the proper flow rates, catalyst percentage, and injection rates along with the proper frequencies to be utilized. In addition to reducing production time and costs, the energy used during GBF's refining process is about 60 percent below the current industry average. Through ultrasonic technologies, Longo and the GBF team have developed a process that produces high quality biodiesel without the need for excessive heat and pressuretwo of the largest energy costs of batch plants.
October, 16, 2012