Submitted to: Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/17/2012
Publication Date: 9/10/2012
Citation: Ngo, H., Yee, W.C., Mcaloon, A.J., Haas, M.J. 2012. Process and cost modeling of saturated branched-chain fatty acid isomer production. Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research. 51:12041-12045.
Interpretive Summary: The development of economically viable technologies for producing environmentally friendly fluids for the tribology technologies from renewable materials is desirable since these can potentially replace non-renewable and poorly degradable petroleum-based products. Saturated branched-chain fatty acid materials (sbc-FAs) are of interest to the chemical industries because of their biodegradability, low temperature properties, good high temperature stability and excellent lubricity. We have recently developed an efficient and effective process for converting unsaturated fatty acids to sbc-FAs. To evaluate the capital and process costs of the technology for large-scale production, a process model was created using the computer software SuperPro Designer. The results from the case study indicate that the process is cost effective for the conversion of fatty acids into high-value sbc-FA products.
Technical Abstract: For decades, lubricants and hydraulic fluids were almost entirely based on petroleum. In recent years, the potential health risks of these materials as a result of their poor biodegradability have stimulated public awareness and concerns. It is therefore becoming increasingly important to implement environmentally friendly biobased fluids for the chemical industries. The development of new heterogeneous chemocatalytic processes for the conversion of vegetable oils and animal fats into high-value biobased industrial products can also have important positive impacts on the US agriculture industry. Saturated branched-chain fatty acid isomers (sbc-FAs) such as isostearic acids, which are produced from renewable materials, are of interest because of their excellent lubricity and potentially enhanced biodegradability. These unique features make them attractive in many important applications. Currently, sbc-FAs are produced as a byproduct of industrial dimer acid production, are synthesized in small quantities and are costly to produce. In this paper, an efficient and effective isomerization process that produces predominantly the sbc-FA materials is presented as a case study to evaluate the potential of the technology to be implemented at the industrial scale. The case study was simulated by SuperPro Designer software to estimate the capital and process costs for producing sbc-FAs at an annual production of 45,000,000 kg (10,000,000 lb). The studies show that the process is cost-effective, with an estimated sbc-FA production cost of US$1.94/kg ($0.88/lb).