New Century Lubricants (NCL) has entered into an exclusive worldwide agreement with National Chemical Laboratory (NCL-India), a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in India, to demonstrate and commercialize NCL’s new transesterification catalyst and process for the production of biodiesel fuels and biolubricants.
The new ENSEL process, according to company President William Summers, eliminates most of the existing drawbacks of conventional transesterification processes and offers a simpler, more direct process for the production of hydrocarbon fuels. The ENSEL process involves the reaction of vegetable oils or animal fats with C1– C5 alcohols at moderate conditions using a novel, solid, reusable mixed-metal catalyst (an insoluble double metal salt). The feedstock oil can be triglycerides or mixtures of fatty acids and glycerides.
We can use less expensive unrefined oils in a truly continuous process, and generate no waste water. Furthermore, our process can make biodiesel with either methanol or ethanol. ENSEL can also manufacture premium biolubricants by running the reaction with higher alcohols such as octanol.
Adding all the advantages, we expect that ENSEL will reduce the total cost of making biodiesel by 20-25% over current practices. This competitive edge will be especially welcome if the bioenergy industry experiences any turbulence due to rising feedstock prices, increased utility rates, or unexpected swings in supply and demand.—William Summers
The ENSEL catalyst can be separated easily by centrifugation or by filtration and reused or further compounded into a solid suitable for fixed bed reactors. Conventional base catalysts incur additional expenses for catalyst separation.
The catalyst is efficient—only a small amount (1 wt% of oil) is needed to carry out the reaction, for which conditions of temperature and pressure are only moderate (25 atm, 175° C, compared to ~60 atm, 180°C–220° C for some established catlaysts). Unlike the conventional base catalysts, the NCL-India catalyst is unaffected by the presence of water or free fatty acids in oil or fat feedstock. Hence, according to NCL, there are no limitations on the quality of oil that can be used.
The ENSEL process yields a diesel oil (products conform to ATMS 6751 and EN14214), from sources such as vegetable oil or animal fat, which can be either fresh oil or used oil or mixtures. Another feature of this process is the wide choice of alcohols which have been demonstrated to be effective, including methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol, pentanol or their mixtures. The product hydrocarbon fuels comprise fatty acid esters in the range of C9– C23.
The ENSEL technology also provides a profitable solution to the glycerin glut now faced by the biodiesel industry. The glycerin recovered from the transesterification reaction is etherified with methanol, ethanol or butanol using another proprietary heterogeneous catalyst. The end products, primarily di- and tri-ethers of glycerin, are oxygenates for diesel fuels.
New Century intends to build and to operate a 1-ton per day ENSEL pilot plant in India to evaluate different feedstocks from all over the world, to generate scale-up data and to optimize catalyst performance. The pilot plant is being engineered and designed by Unitel Technologies, and will be operated under the technical supervision of NCL-India scientists. Dr. Paul Ratnasamy, former Director of NCL-India, an expert in industrial catalysis and Government of India’s Ramanujan Scholar, has agreed to serve on the New Century Board of Directors.
New Century is actively seeking the participation of strategic partners in North America and elsewhere.