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Simulation and Optimization of the Process Used in Colombia for the Production of Biodiesel from Palm Oil: a Kinetic Analysis and An Economical Approach

Federico Velosa Orduz and Jorge Mario Gomez. Department of Chemical Engineering, Los Andes University, Carrera 1 No 18A - 10, Bogotá, Colombia

Colombia as a developing agricultural country interested on the progress of the biofuel industry, has acknowledged the oil market juncture, creating a legal frame to become one of the main biofuel players in the region. As the palm growers and the industry invest on the developing industry, the academy develops technical and economical tools that allow a promising start.

A simulation and optimization of the process used in Colombia for the production of Biodiesel from palm oil under homogenous alkali catalysis was developed. Biodiesel production was chosen as the objective function, obtaining a purity of 99.8 wt% according to the specifications established, as minimum conditions, by the ASTM D 6751 standard (99.6 wt%). Biodiesel and glycerin yields, as well as the water flow rate were found to be the most significant factors affecting the objective function. The production increment compared with the base case (kg/hr), using numeric optimization was 5%, and the concentration of the glycerin obtained, as a result of the simulation, was high enough to sell it as a commodity product (99.4 wt%), making a more profitable business.

Key Words: Palm oil, homogenous alkali catalysis, simulation and optimization.