|The Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETD) repository holds full-text theses and dissertations submitted for higher degrees at the University (including submissions from former Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon).|
Conversion of a batch biodiesel plant from homogeneous to heterogeneous catalysed process: modelling, optimisation and techno-economic analysis
Mbadinga, Monique Anais Bakoussou
MetadataShow full item record
Most biodiesel plants operate batch-wise using homogeneous alkali catalysts. Recently, several heterogeneous catalysts have been suggested in literature, as they have shown potential for overcoming most of the challenges associated with the application of homogeneous catalysts. Previous published techno-economic comparisons of the two technologies on large-scale processes located in the developed world, have revealed the economic superiority of heterogeneously catalysed processes. Hence, prospect exists for current homogeneously catalysed process plants to be converted to heterogeneously catalysed ones. The objective of this research was to investigate the actual cost benefit of converting a small-scale batch biodiesel plant from homogeneous to heterogeneous catalysed process. For this purpose, a small-scale batch biodiesel plant located in South Africa was taken as the base case homogeneous process. Aspen Batch Process Developer® software was used to perform the process simulations. The homogeneous process was converted to the heterogeneous one and results from process simulation were used to evaluate the economics of both processes, which were compared in terms of fixed capital cost, total manufacturing cost and profitability indicators. During economic evaluation, two types of cost factors were used: one prevailing in developed world and the other one relevant to South Africa. The sensitivity analysis of both processes was further performed in order to investigate the impact of some uncertain parameters on their profitability. Finally, a debottlenecking study was carried out. Results obtained from this study showed an increase in the annual throughput of biodiesel as well as significant savings in the total capital cost for the heterogeneous catalysed process relative to the homogeneous one. As regards the estimation of the total unit manufacturing cost of biodiesel, significant differences arose when using the two types of cost factors. Results of economic analyses estimated using cost factors relative to South Africa suggest an increase in the unit manufacturing cost of biodiesel while using the developed world’s cost factors suggests the opposite. This is due to the higher raw material and energy requirement for the CaO process, while knowing that the direct costs are a bigger proportion of the manufacturing costs estimated using the South African cost factors. Profitability and sensitivity analyses only provided positive results when estimated using the South African cost factors. In all cases, the heterogeneous catalysed process was found to be more promising than the homogeneous one over the prescribed project life. The study showed the importance of using cost factors relevant to a particular economic environment during techno-economic assessment of a process. It was also shown that there are economic benefits when replacing settling with centrifugation in biodiesel production processes. In summary, this thesis makes some important contributions. It presents the first process simulation for biodiesel production using Aspen Batch Process Developer® software and thereby proposes a methodology that is currently scarce in the literature. It also reports the first techno-economic analysis applied to the biodiesel field in South Africa and provides a preliminary insight to owners of biodiesel plants as regards the decision to convert or not their homogeneous catalysed plant to heterogeneous one.