Minnesota scientists create new biodiesel manufacturing process
That's right: after the ethanol producers use up the corn, this biodiesel company will take the leftover "waste" and turn it into very, very cheap biodiesel. So the next time you hear someone claim that making ethanol from corn is not energy efficient, ask them whether they are counting ALL of the energy that comes from the corn.Along with fellow scientist Ben Yan, Gyberg and McNeff built and tested a column that mixed oil and alcohol with the catalyst under high heat and pressure until the mix became supercritical, a state where the mixture contains properties of both a gas and a liquid. Under the right conditions in the column, the oil and alcohol were converted into biodiesel in six seconds. Gyberg said the column allows for continuous production of biodiesel – as opposed to the current batch method of production. A column about 4 inches in diameter and two feet long will be able to produce 3 million gallons of biodiesel per year. The process can also convert glycerin into dimethyl ether, which is more valuable in the current market.
McNeff, Gyberg and Yan named the method, the Mcgyan process, and have applied for a patent.
For the past six months a pilot plant using the Mcgyan process has been using a wide range of feedstocks with no problems, Gyberg said.
McNeff has formed the company, Ever Cat Fuels LLC, to build a commercial-sized 3 MMgy facility in Isanti, Minn. The company broke ground in November, and if permitting is on schedule, the plant should be operating by October. The plant will use hydrous ethanol, rather than methanol, and corn oil extracted from distillers grains as the feedstock. Gyberg said the feedstock will have up to 20 percent free fatty acids, which renders it almost useless for traditional biodiesel production, however, the Mcgyan process converts free fatty acids to biodiesel as easily as virgin vegetable oil. “The process converts it 100 percent to biodiesel with essentially no waste,” Gyberg said. At the end of the process, the finished biodiesel doesn’t need to be washed. And he added, the use of feedstocks from a nearby ethanol plant, will make Ever Cat Fuels' cost of production nearly $2 per gallon lower than other biodiesel plants.