Retrofit of distillation columns in biodiesel production plants

Nghi Nguyen, Yaşar Demirel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Column grand composite curves and the exergy loss profiles produced by the Column-Targeting Tool of the Aspen Plus simulator are used to assess the performance of the existing distillation columns, and reduce the costs of operation by appropriate retrofits in a biodiesel production plant. Effectiveness of the retrofits is assessed by means of thermodynamics and economic improvements. We have considered a biodiesel plant utilizing three distillation columns to purify biodiesel (fatty acid methyl ester) and byproduct glycerol as well as reduce the waste. The assessments of the base case simulation have indicated the need for modifications for the distillation columns. For column T202, the retrofits consisting of a feed preheating and reflux ratio modification have reduced the total exergy loss by 47%, while T301 and T302 columns exergy losses decreased by 61% and 52%, respectively. After the retrofits, the overall exergy loss for the three columns has decreased from 7491.86 kW to 3627.97 kW. The retrofits required a fixed capital cost of approximately $239,900 and saved approximately $1,900,000/year worth of electricity. The retrofits have reduced the consumption of energy considerably, and leaded to a more environmentally friendly operation for the biodiesel plant considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1625-1632
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2010


  • Column grand composite curves
  • Exergy loss
  • Retrofitting
  • Thermodynamic analysis
  • Thermodynamic efficiency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Pollution
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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