The biofuels market – one of the fastest growing in the UK

The biofuels market is recognised as one of the fastest growing in the UK and understandably there is increasing interest in the latest developments, initiatives and opportunities. As the appreciation of the environmental and economic benefits of these ‘alternative’ fuels spreads, so does the need for a better understanding of how to improve and enhance the production processes associated with producing a range of biofuels.

Pumps are an essential component within all liquids processing applications and the same applies to the production of biodiesel. Michael Smith Engineers, one of the UK’s leading fluids handling specialists, offer a wide range of suitable pumps and more importantly, first-hand experience from having supplied a number of biodiesel manufacturers with pumps. Many of the pumps they have supplied for biodiesel applications are of a sealless design, essentially due to the requirements for leak-free pumping by their customers. However, they have also supplied lower cost, mechanically sealed pumps to some small scale producers, with less stringent requirements.

The basis of biodiesel production involves missing vegetable oil with methanol and a catalyst (for example, sodium methoxide) together with sulphuric acid, for pH correction, and a transesterfication reaction to produce biodiesel and glycerine as a commercially viable bi-product.
On ‘packaged type’ plants many of the pumping duties involve the combination of low flow and relatively high pressures and gear pumps, such as the Liquiflo range, have been proven to be ideal for these applications. For transferring larger flows at lower pressures, centrifugal pumps, such as the Dickow KM Series, have been preferred.

Dickow pumps have proven effective in pumping vegetable oils, methanol, crude and refined biodiesel and hot bottoms liquor. Diaphragm dosing pumps have been supplied for accurate metering of sodium methoxide and sulphuric acid for pH correction.

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