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A Process Integration Approach to Strategic Design and Scheduling of Multi-Feedstock Biodiesel Plants

René D. Elms1, Grace Nworie2, and Mahmoud M. El-Halwagi1. (1) Texas A&M University, 3122 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, (2) Chemical Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77845

Various feedstocks may be utilized to produce biodiesel. These feedstocks include soybean oil, waste oil from the food industry (e.g., waste cooking oil), as well as a variety of other oils such as palm, sunflower, jatropha, olive, rapeseed, cottonseed, safflower, and seasame oils. With changing prices, supply, and demand of these feedstocks, there is a need to design flexible plants that can process various inputs. The objective of this work is to develop a systematic procedure for the design and operation of flexible biodiesel plants that can accommodate a variety of feedstocks. In particular, the proposed project will employ a holistic approach and a combination of process simulation, synthesis, and integration techniques that will result in the:

1. Synthesis of innovative processes for the cost-effective production of biodiesel from various feedstocks

2. Integration of energy and mass resources within the process

3. Optimization of process design and scheduling for the flexible plant

4. Techno-economic and environmental assessment and sensitivity analysis of the proposed schemes

The developed simulation, integration, and optimization models along with the integrated experiments will provide a new platform that can systematically provide a complete market-sensitive strategy for innovative pathways for producing biodiesel. These new techniques will lay the foundations for fundamental research in the emerging area of sustainable biofuels. A case study is solved to demonstrate the merits and applicability of the devised procedure.