Biodiesel’s Cutting Edge
Biodiesel’s Cutting Edge
Biodiesel Magazine profiles technologies, products and services which are on the frontline of change in this industry. Here you may find an excerpt of the article.
Packaging the highly variable process of retrofitting disparate biodiesel facilities with unique operations into an executable program for the industry requires mastery gained over decades. This is precisely what Austria-based BDI-BioEnergy International GmbH has done with its RetroFit Program. BDI has performed dozens of retrofit projects around the world. “Each retrofit project is always unique,” says Hermann Stockinger, BDI’s vice president of global sales. Christine Riedl, BDI’s technical sales manager, says customers engage BDI for retrofits to increase profitability, capacity, energy efficiency, product quality and yield; and to modernize their process and utilize waste materials as feedstock. She says retrofits involve much more detailed discussions than greenfield builds. Safety standards, which vary by law and from one company to another, must also be considered early on.
BDI’s RetroFit Program comprises eight steps, beginning with an evaluation of the existing plant, customer requirements, a rough cost estimate, preliminary concept preparation and summary of results and recommendations. Next is pre-engineering, including feasibility and mass balance studies, layout planning, integration and interface management. Third, an offer is made with scope of work and detailed costs, followed by the authorization procedure, which includes data preparation for permitting, assistance and risk analyses such as HAZOP studies. Steps five through eight are engineering and delivery; implementation; commissioning; and aftersales service.
The customized optimization of BDI’s retrofits often involves integration of a proprietary pretreatment process to remove feedstock impurities and a biodiesel distillation column to meet stringent fuel specifications. In its RetroFit Program, BDI also offers a patented esterification process for high free fatty acid (FFA) feedstock, as well as glycerin distillation to achieve technical- or USP-grade glycerin. In many instances, BDI is approached to improve a facility’s energy efficiency, which begins with installation of an economizer. The return on investment (ROI) for energy efficiencies is measured in months while, for a complete retrofit, an ROI of two to three years is commonly requested, Stockinger says.
Another cornerstone of BDI’s biodiesel offerings is its multifeedstock technology, elements of which are utilized in its RetroFit Program. “We have different solutions for various processes,” Stockinger says. “Based on that, we take out separate units or technologies and select the right ones for our customer’s retrofit project. You need complex and comprehensive knowledge of biodiesel processes, in general, and quite a lot of experience in what to do in certain situations. What we provide our retrofit customers is based on that huge set of knowledge.”
In addition to knowhow, what makes a project successful is brainstorming, communication and discussion from different expert points of view. “The North American market is quite interesting for us,” Stockinger says. “Our customers there are very open to discuss their requirements with us. We appreciate the level of experience they have.” Riedl says she enjoys working with North American customers because they are goal-oriented. “They focus on solving the main problems first, and afterwards discussing the ‘color of the pump’,” she says. U.S. customers want problems solved quickly and properly, Stockinger says. “It’s a good approach,” he says. “The challenge in the U.S. is the ROI must be quicker too.”
Author: Ron Kotrba
Editor, Biodiesel Magazine