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Process intensification of biodiesel production through reactive distillation and supercritical fluids

Risteski, Timothy (2016). Process intensification of biodiesel production through reactive distillation and supercritical fluids. Bachelor of Engineering (4th Year Project) Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Risteski, Timothy
Title Process intensification of biodiesel production through reactive distillation and supercritical fluids
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2016-10
Thesis Type Bachelor of Engineering (4th Year Project)
Supervisor Thennadil, Suresh
Koblov, Alexander
0904 - Chemical Engineering
Abstract The process of biodiesel production through vegetable oil feedstock (triolein) was analysed, primarily through the use of a reactive distillation column and compared to a conventional production technique. The use of supercritical fluids for biodiesel production was also assessed through a thorough literature review and qualitatively compared to reactive distillation and a conventional CSTR method. With both reactive distillation and supercritical fluids being process intensification mechanisms, methods will be determined on how to optimise and further process intensify them.

The reactive distillation column uses the process integration of reaction and separation in a single unit as a means of reacting fatty acids (vegetable oil) and methanol, whilst at the same time separating the products (biodiesel, glycerol, water) for a continuous process. Computer simulations were implemented to model a reactive distillation system for biodiesel production, and further investigation was explored in order to determine methods to optimise and process intensify the system. Parameters and specifications such as energy used, yield produced, temperatures, pressures, reactive distillation column size, reflux ratio, reboiler heat duty, methanol to oil feed ratios, size of reactive zones were investigated and manipulated for the purpose of process intensification. Computer simulation was completed using Honeywell’s UniSim as an optimisation tool. Biodiesel production using supercritical fluids was also analysed through a literature survey.

All three methods were critically analysed in order to provide a review of the feasibility and realistic possibility of reactive distillation and supercritical fluid use, being applied industrially and as future biodiesel production techniques.
Keyword process intensification
reactive distillation
supercritical fluids
fatty acids
vegetable oil

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