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Vegetable-oil-based chemicals plant soon to be fully operational

By Chemical Engineering |

In spring of this year, Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM; Decatur, Ill.; www.adm.com) plans full operation of a chemical plant based on soybean and canola oils as renewable feedstock. Products of the plant will include refined glycerin, propylene glycol and ethylene glycol. Crude vegetable-derived oils are obtained through a process in which soybeans and canola seeds are crushed, dehulled and conditioned, and vegetable oil is extracted. The crude vegetable oil is refined, and a transesterification process generates crude biodiesel fuel and glycerin. A series of distillation and evaporation steps yields glycerin that meets U.S. Pharmacopeia specifications for purity. The glycerin can also be subjected to a catalytic hydrogenolysis process to produce propylene glycol (PG), the first renewable route to a chemical with both industrial uses — such as engine coolants, antifreeze, paints and coatings, and liquid detergents — as well as high-purity uses in personal care products, food flavorings and in pharmaceutical excipients. Key to the development of the renewable PG process was a selective catalyst for converting glycerin to PG that was licensed by ADM from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, Wash.; www.pnl.gov). ADM…
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