Wednesday, May 2, 2007 - 2:00 PM

Biodiesel production: A sensitivity study over the economics of a conventional production plant

Jorge Mario Marchetti, Marisa Noemí Pedernera, Noemí Susana Schbib, and Alberto Felipe Errazu. Chemical Engineering Department, Planta Piloto de Ingeniería Química. Universidad Nacional del Sur, Camino La Carrindanga Km 7., Bahía Blanca, Argentina

Biodiesel is an attractive fuel diesel substitute due to its environmental benefits and moreover it can be made from renewable sources such as vegetable oils or animal fat. The main reaction involved is the transesterification of triglycerides in the presence of an alcohol and a basic homogeneous catalyst.
Several studies had shown that different technologies are suitable for biodiesel production from a technical and an economic point of view. They used solid resin, homogenous basic catalyst alternative with acid preesterification, etc. Only a few authors have done some sensitivity analysis, studying the influence of the raw material cost and the biodiesel selling price.

In this paper the conventional process for biodiesel production using a homogenous basic catalyst was applied. A sensitivity study taking into account economics parameter, such as biodiesel selling price, oil cost, catalyst price, molar ratio alcohol/oil, among other; and how each of them affects the internal return rate as well as the payback time, was done.
Based on these results, a correlation involving all variables was proposed in order to maximize the intern return rate of the biodiesel production minimizing the payback time at the same time. For this purpose a process simulator software was employed to carry out the simulation of the biodiesel plant and the economic evaluation.