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Novel Design for Simultaneous Production of Biodiesel and Glycerol Carbonate from Soybean Oil

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journal contribution
posted on 13.11.2018, 00:00 by Cuixia Xu, Qiang Xu
Glycerol is the byproduct of biodiesel production plants. The rapid increase of biodiesel production and demand has resulted in excessive glycerol supply in the market. Converting the cheap glycerol into high-value glycerol carbonate (GC) is a potentially valuable solution to the current worldwide excessive glycerol supply. In this paper, a novel process for simultaneous production of biodiesel and GC (SBD&GC) from soybean oil has been developed and demonstrated, where annual productivities of biodiesel and GC are 35.4 and 4.4 kilotonnes, respectively. First, the proposed SBD&GC process has been investigated, modeled, and simulated. The glycerol is used as the feedstock for the GC production; meanwhile, the byproduct of GC production, methanol, is recycled as the feedstock of the biodiesel production. Second, the optimization of the columns duties has been performed via thermal analysis analyzing the Column Grand Composite Curves (CGCC). In addition, a mathematic model for the heat integration of the SBD&GC process has been built to minimize the total utility cost. Based on the optimal solution, the detailed heat exchange network (HEN) design has been accomplished and demonstrated. Finally, economic evaluations for the newly designed SBD&GC process have also been performed. The results show that the developed SBD&GC process is very profitable, with a net present value (NPV)­of $28,720,000 and a discounted cash flow return rate (DCFRR) of 60%.