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Published on November 4th, 2008 | by Nick Chambers

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Home Mini-Refinery Makes Ethanol & Biodiesel Simultaneously

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A Texas-based company has announced the “world’s first mini-refinery” for consumer use that can produce both ethanol and biodiesel from the same small machine at the same time. It’s capable of generating up to 120 gallons per day of ethanol and 450 gallons per day of biodiesel.

Consisting of two pieces of equipment — an ethanol boiler and the mini-refinery — the whole system can fit into an area of less than 30 square feet with 8 feet of clearance and is completely automated.

According to Adam Allard, President of Allard Research and Development, the EB120 ethanol boiler is their “core” product, acting as the “heart” of their systems. The AFS125 mini-refinery uses the boiler as part of its system, but the boiler and mini-refinery are sold separately.

As Allard says, “The boiler has a computer built-in, and that’s used for running boiler-specific tasks, as well as controlling the still. So although the boiler is sold also as a separate product, it would require an external distillation column, fermentation tanks, etc.”

The mini-refinery is computer touch screen controlled and features an Apple Mac Mini as its primary automation computer. When the boiler and the mini-refinery are used together, the Mac Mini also controls the boiler operation.

According to the Allard Research website, “The mini-refinery has 275, 60, 30, and 15-gallon tanks built in, and also comes with controls and ports for easy expansion to almost unlimited size. The computer includes built-in networking for both Ethernet and wireless 802.11. The system can be remotely controlled through the network, and multiple systems can be easily connected together to scale daily output capacity.”

Geared towards a wide range of users, such as businesses, municipalities, farms, and even home users, the Allard mini-refinery system is well-positioned to appeal to a diverse audience with various production scale needs.

The mini-refinery can accept a large variety of feedstocks for the production of biodiesel including oil from crushed seeds, waste vegetable oil, and straight vegetable oil. For ethanol production, the system can accept such feedstocks as corn mash, sugar and even waste alcohol from restaurants and bars.

Interestingly, if your only desire was to produce ethanol from waste alcohol, all you’d need would be the ethanol boiler and some sort of storage tank. The use of waste alcohol as a feedstock for ethanol production is gaining traction around the US and as Allard says:

“There is a growing movement to reclaim waste alcohol from restaurants and bars. I find this very intriguing as there appears to literally be thousands of gallons of beer, wine, and spirits thrown away everyday. Collecting these and running them through the system essentially reduces your feedstock cost to whatever gathering costs are involved. It also reduces the process time as the fermentation steps are skipped.”

Allard says that the lowest cost to make ethanol might be around 70 cents per gallon if waste alcohol was used, and then only an additional 5-10 cents per gallon of biodiesel if waste vegetable oil was used because some of the ethanol produced is used in the making of the biodiesel (instead of the typical methanol).

If you were in a situation where you could use the maximum output of the mini refinery every day — and had enough waste vegetable oil and alcohol — based on today’s prices for gas and diesel, making your own fuel with the mini-refinery could save you around $1,800 per day. Regardless, even if you went with crushed oilseed and sugar, your savings could still be considerable.

Okay, now for the bad news — at least for people who are reading this and fantasizing about making all their own fuel at home — the AFS125 mini-refinery costs $28,995 and the boiler cost $995. But if you’re a municipality that uses all 120 gallons of ethanol and 450 gallons of biodiesel per day, and you could get a line on free waste vegetable oil and alcohol, you might save nearly $500,000 per year.

Even if you’re a home user, I’d imagine that the system could pay for itself in 5 years time if you’re a heavy driver and your family uses several automobiles. And in a state like Oregon, where I live, if you’re a business (even a sole proprietorship with no employees) there’s a good chance this would qualify for a 50% tax credit that can be paid to you in cash at a lower 35% rate using a pass through option.

That means that as a dude with an online consulting company in Oregon, I could buy the mini-refinery, a flex fuel vehicle, a biodiesel capable car and a biodiesel tractor for growing my own seed and have all of those costs listed under a single “project.” This would then make me eligible for a cash payment for 35% of the cost of the project or a tax credit worth 50% of the cost of the project.

So, even though it’s an expensive little system, given the right home use circumstances or if you’re a small municipality that fuels a fleet of police cars, buses, and fire trucks or you own something like a taxi company, this system might be exactly the thing you’re looking for and could save you wads of money during a time when the money’s tight.

Image Credits: Allard Research and Development



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  • http://www.biodieselfever.com Luis Petinga

    Why are they using non-conductive HDPE tanks in an explosion hazardous environment (methanol, ethanol?) – never heard of static electricity buildup?

    And where did you get the idea that this will produce 450 gallons per day? You need at least 24 hours for proper gravity based glycerol/soap separation – how big is that big tank in this system? 300 liter?

    Why do you people publish information without checking if the facts make sense?

  • http://www.biodieselfever.com Luis Petinga

    Why are they using non-conductive HDPE tanks in an explosion hazardous environment (methanol, ethanol?) – never heard of static electricity buildup?

    And where did you get the idea that this will produce 450 gallons per day? You need at least 24 hours for proper gravity based glycerol/soap separation – how big is that big tank in this system? 300 liter?

    Why do you people publish information without checking if the facts make sense?

  • http://www.biodieselfever.com Luis Petinga

    Why are they using non-conductive HDPE tanks in an explosion hazardous environment (methanol, ethanol?) – never heard of static electricity buildup?

    And where did you get the idea that this will produce 450 gallons per day? You need at least 24 hours for proper gravity based glycerol/soap separation – how big is that big tank in this system? 300 liter?

    Why do you people publish information without checking if the facts make sense?

  • http://www.biodieselfever.com luis.petinga

    Oh another thing: to make biodiesel with ethanol, you need 100% pure ethanol, which you don’t get with distillation. How does this system make 100% pure alcohol? If it doesn’t, you can’t make biodiesel with it.

    “The mini-refinery can accept a large variety of feedstocks for the production of biodiesel including oil from crushed seeds”

    Oh really, then how does it deal with acid degumming and high FFA oils?

    This is no news article, it’s pure advertising.

  • http://www.biodieselfever.com luis.petinga

    Oh another thing: to make biodiesel with ethanol, you need 100% pure ethanol, which you don’t get with distillation. How does this system make 100% pure alcohol? If it doesn’t, you can’t make biodiesel with it.

    “The mini-refinery can accept a large variety of feedstocks for the production of biodiesel including oil from crushed seeds”

    Oh really, then how does it deal with acid degumming and high FFA oils?

    This is no news article, it’s pure advertising.

  • http://www.biodieselfever.com luis.petinga

    Oh another thing: to make biodiesel with ethanol, you need 100% pure ethanol, which you don’t get with distillation. How does this system make 100% pure alcohol? If it doesn’t, you can’t make biodiesel with it.

    “The mini-refinery can accept a large variety of feedstocks for the production of biodiesel including oil from crushed seeds”

    Oh really, then how does it deal with acid degumming and high FFA oils?

    This is no news article, it’s pure advertising.

  • Nick Chambers

    Luis,

    You bring up some valid questions, and perhaps I can get them answered for you from the manufacturer.

    A few points:

    1) I can assure you it’s not advertising. Actually, I cannot believe how many times I have to say this in the comments section of blog posts, I’m reporting what the manufacturer states, and adding in some commentary – it’s called blogging.

    2) Do you think I have an entire legal department at my beck and call to check all details of any particular claim? Again – it’s a blog.

    3) I depend on readers who may or may not have more expertise than me in some areas to help check facts and bring up questions – like you. that’s one benefit of blogging, it’s rather instantaneously self correcting. Try getting that type of service from CNN.

    4) I’ll forward your questions on to the manufacturer and ask if he wants to respond in this forum, but, before you respond again, I’d just like to say that a little diplomacy never hurts. Sometimes sitting back and rethinking your response – making it less accusatory and more civilly critical – will get you much farther than belligerence.

  • http://www.allardresearch.com Adam Allard

    Regarding the posts from Luis…

    There are several other biodiesel systems on the market that have similar sized tanks and daily production capabilites.

    As far as HDPE tanks, again, virtually all of the other biodiesel systems on the market today use the same tanks, but those systems use methanol which is far more dangerous to deal with than ethanol. Methanol has a lower flash point and is considered much more volatile and toxic than ethanol.

    As mentioned in Luis’ second post, you don’t get 100% pure ethanol from distillation. Since ethanol is an azeotrope, it can only be distilled to 95.6% by volume. Our system uses a 3 angstrom molecular sieve to remove the remaining water.

    None of these things are technologies that are proprietary to us, and all have been successfully proven in industrial use for years. We simply packaged together all of the proven off-the-shelf processes into one system.

  • http://www.allardresearch.com Adam Allard

    Regarding the posts from Luis…

    There are several other biodiesel systems on the market that have similar sized tanks and daily production capabilites.

    As far as HDPE tanks, again, virtually all of the other biodiesel systems on the market today use the same tanks, but those systems use methanol which is far more dangerous to deal with than ethanol. Methanol has a lower flash point and is considered much more volatile and toxic than ethanol.

    As mentioned in Luis’ second post, you don’t get 100% pure ethanol from distillation. Since ethanol is an azeotrope, it can only be distilled to 95.6% by volume. Our system uses a 3 angstrom molecular sieve to remove the remaining water.

    None of these things are technologies that are proprietary to us, and all have been successfully proven in industrial use for years. We simply packaged together all of the proven off-the-shelf processes into one system.

  • Luis Petinga

    Hello Nick,

    1. “I’m reporting what the manufacturer states, and adding in some commentary – it’s called blogging.”

    That’s a matter of definition. A lot of bloggers just publish info the manufacturers give them, even the bogus info.

    2. You could check the facts with the manufacturer you are talking to :) Which I will do in a minute.

    Luis

  • Luis Petinga

    Hello Nick,

    1. “I’m reporting what the manufacturer states, and adding in some commentary – it’s called blogging.”

    That’s a matter of definition. A lot of bloggers just publish info the manufacturers give them, even the bogus info.

    2. You could check the facts with the manufacturer you are talking to :) Which I will do in a minute.

    Luis

  • Luis Petinga

    Hello Nick,

    1. “I’m reporting what the manufacturer states, and adding in some commentary – it’s called blogging.”

    That’s a matter of definition. A lot of bloggers just publish info the manufacturers give them, even the bogus info.

    2. You could check the facts with the manufacturer you are talking to :) Which I will do in a minute.

    Luis

  • Luis Petinga

    Adam,

    “There are several other biodiesel systems on the market that have similar sized tanks and daily production capabilites.”

    Don’t hide behind what others say. Many people in this industry advertise nonsense anyhow. (And a lot of blogs copy it)

    Assuming a minimal settling time of 8 hours (I know from experience) you can probably squeese almost 3 times 4/5th of the volume of the reactor tank in one day. But the biggest conical tank looks like only 300l. So 3 * 250l is 750l, about 200 gallons per day.

    Does the unit have a centrifuge or any other settling acceleration method? If not, how do you explain the advertised capacity?

    “As far as HDPE tanks, again, virtually all of the other biodiesel systems on the market today use the same tanks, but those systems use methanol which is far more dangerous to deal with than ethanol.”

    Ethanol is less toxic than methanol, but it has almost the same flash point. Ethanol 13’C and Methanol 11’C. Do you think an ethanol oxygen mix is less likely to explode with a spark from a statically charged HDPE tank than methanol if it operates at 50’C? Think again.

    You didn’t answer the question on degumming crude oils. Maybe you can also comment how the unit deals with high FFA oils and containing water?

  • Luis Petinga

    Adam,

    “There are several other biodiesel systems on the market that have similar sized tanks and daily production capabilites.”

    Don’t hide behind what others say. Many people in this industry advertise nonsense anyhow. (And a lot of blogs copy it)

    Assuming a minimal settling time of 8 hours (I know from experience) you can probably squeese almost 3 times 4/5th of the volume of the reactor tank in one day. But the biggest conical tank looks like only 300l. So 3 * 250l is 750l, about 200 gallons per day.

    Does the unit have a centrifuge or any other settling acceleration method? If not, how do you explain the advertised capacity?

    “As far as HDPE tanks, again, virtually all of the other biodiesel systems on the market today use the same tanks, but those systems use methanol which is far more dangerous to deal with than ethanol.”

    Ethanol is less toxic than methanol, but it has almost the same flash point. Ethanol 13’C and Methanol 11’C. Do you think an ethanol oxygen mix is less likely to explode with a spark from a statically charged HDPE tank than methanol if it operates at 50’C? Think again.

    You didn’t answer the question on degumming crude oils. Maybe you can also comment how the unit deals with high FFA oils and containing water?

  • Luis Petinga

    Correction, I should say 5/6th of the reactor volume, assuming it is 300l, makes 250l. This based on a rough estimation of the dosing oil:methhoxide = 5:1.

  • Luis Petinga

    Correction, I should say 5/6th of the reactor volume, assuming it is 300l, makes 250l. This based on a rough estimation of the dosing oil:methhoxide = 5:1.

  • Luis Petinga

    Correction, I should say 5/6th of the reactor volume, assuming it is 300l, makes 250l. This based on a rough estimation of the dosing oil:methhoxide = 5:1.

  • http://www.allardresearch.com Adam Allard

    After a few minutes researching Internet domain registration information, I found that Luis’ website (BiodieselFever.com) has the same registrar info as a company called BioDys.com that makes and sells biodiesel processing systems. It would appear our ‘neutral and unbiased’ friend Luis has a reason for posting negative and alarmist comments about other companies in this space.

    So, Luis, what exactly is your connection to BioDys?

    Funny how often those who have a hidden agenda will be the first to stand up and point their finger at someone else.

  • http://www.allardresearch.com Adam Allard

    After a few minutes researching Internet domain registration information, I found that Luis’ website (BiodieselFever.com) has the same registrar info as a company called BioDys.com that makes and sells biodiesel processing systems. It would appear our ‘neutral and unbiased’ friend Luis has a reason for posting negative and alarmist comments about other companies in this space.

    So, Luis, what exactly is your connection to BioDys?

    Funny how often those who have a hidden agenda will be the first to stand up and point their finger at someone else.

  • http://www.allardresearch.com Adam Allard

    Luis,

    You are obviously a competitor who is angry that your products are not receiving as much press coverage as ours. Since this will be my last post to this thread, and as one business person to another, I leave you with this bit of friendly advice: If you focus your time and energy on designing and engineering innovative and technically superior products, you won’t have to resort to these tactics…

    Adam

  • http://www.allardresearch.com Adam Allard

    Luis,

    You are obviously a competitor who is angry that your products are not receiving as much press coverage as ours. Since this will be my last post to this thread, and as one business person to another, I leave you with this bit of friendly advice: If you focus your time and energy on designing and engineering innovative and technically superior products, you won’t have to resort to these tactics…

    Adam

  • http://www.allardresearch.com Adam Allard

    Luis,

    You are obviously a competitor who is angry that your products are not receiving as much press coverage as ours. Since this will be my last post to this thread, and as one business person to another, I leave you with this bit of friendly advice: If you focus your time and energy on designing and engineering innovative and technically superior products, you won’t have to resort to these tactics…

    Adam

  • Luis Petinga

    Hi Adam,

    If you would just publish the right specifications, you wouldn’t have to run away from questions.

    That registrar is a domain discreet registrar in Madeira. Thousands of domains share this registrar information. Dig up further and you can connect me to a internet service provider, an accountant’s office and a lawyer office suing several companies in this industry. But all that has nothing to do with this.

    Instead of digging, stand by your product.

    Don’t give up that quickly. Claiming superiority is easy, but when somebody like me starts asking a few plain questions, instead of defending the superiority of your products with facts and figures, you only backup you claims by referring to existing products that are similar and then you run away. Why? Just answer the questions, they are not that hard. How can a 300l tank produce 450 gallons per day?

    Because if you can backup these claims your product is truly superior and I will even confirm that in an article on biodieselfever.com and permanently link to your website.

    From what I can see your product is quite unique because it combines ethanol and biodiesel production, avoiding the use of the toxic methanol and it looks pretty too. There is no other such product out there and there is no competition for such a product at this time. And this deserves much more coverage than plain biodiesel processors out there. No doubt about it.

    But your specs don’t make sense and your replies on my questions are evasive…so the question rises, how do you deal with customers who have similar questions?

  • Luis Petinga

    Hi Adam,

    If you would just publish the right specifications, you wouldn’t have to run away from questions.

    That registrar is a domain discreet registrar in Madeira. Thousands of domains share this registrar information. Dig up further and you can connect me to a internet service provider, an accountant’s office and a lawyer office suing several companies in this industry. But all that has nothing to do with this.

    Instead of digging, stand by your product.

    Don’t give up that quickly. Claiming superiority is easy, but when somebody like me starts asking a few plain questions, instead of defending the superiority of your products with facts and figures, you only backup you claims by referring to existing products that are similar and then you run away. Why? Just answer the questions, they are not that hard. How can a 300l tank produce 450 gallons per day?

    Because if you can backup these claims your product is truly superior and I will even confirm that in an article on biodieselfever.com and permanently link to your website.

    From what I can see your product is quite unique because it combines ethanol and biodiesel production, avoiding the use of the toxic methanol and it looks pretty too. There is no other such product out there and there is no competition for such a product at this time. And this deserves much more coverage than plain biodiesel processors out there. No doubt about it.

    But your specs don’t make sense and your replies on my questions are evasive…so the question rises, how do you deal with customers who have similar questions?

  • Luis Petinga

    Hi Adam,

    If you would just publish the right specifications, you wouldn’t have to run away from questions.

    That registrar is a domain discreet registrar in Madeira. Thousands of domains share this registrar information. Dig up further and you can connect me to a internet service provider, an accountant’s office and a lawyer office suing several companies in this industry. But all that has nothing to do with this.

    Instead of digging, stand by your product.

    Don’t give up that quickly. Claiming superiority is easy, but when somebody like me starts asking a few plain questions, instead of defending the superiority of your products with facts and figures, you only backup you claims by referring to existing products that are similar and then you run away. Why? Just answer the questions, they are not that hard. How can a 300l tank produce 450 gallons per day?

    Because if you can backup these claims your product is truly superior and I will even confirm that in an article on biodieselfever.com and permanently link to your website.

    From what I can see your product is quite unique because it combines ethanol and biodiesel production, avoiding the use of the toxic methanol and it looks pretty too. There is no other such product out there and there is no competition for such a product at this time. And this deserves much more coverage than plain biodiesel processors out there. No doubt about it.

    But your specs don’t make sense and your replies on my questions are evasive…so the question rises, how do you deal with customers who have similar questions?

  • Chrys

    I have read the biodieselfever.com and http://algaelink-bioking-scam.blogspot.com are both from Biodys and his name is not Luis Petinga but Dimitri Georganas, maybe he suffer dual personality disorder. I think is Very Creepy.

    I like to leave a message on biodieselfever.com, but he doesn´t let me do it.

    Regards,

    Chrys

  • Chrys

    I have read the biodieselfever.com and http://algaelink-bioking-scam.blogspot.com are both from Biodys and his name is not Luis Petinga but Dimitri Georganas, maybe he suffer dual personality disorder. I think is Very Creepy.

    I like to leave a message on biodieselfever.com, but he doesn´t let me do it.

    Regards,

    Chrys

  • Chrys

    I have read the biodieselfever.com and http://algaelink-bioking-scam.blogspot.com are both from Biodys and his name is not Luis Petinga but Dimitri Georganas, maybe he suffer dual personality disorder. I think is Very Creepy.

    I like to leave a message on biodieselfever.com, but he doesn´t let me do it.

    Regards,

    Chrys

  • Uncle B

    If the Obama regime imposes Carbon Tax, similar to the Kyoto suggestions, that is, across the board, how would it affect the production, sale and use of mini-refineries? Road tax charges for motor vehicle fuels are another “gray area”. Americans need assurances from government that efforts towards getting off of foreign oil will be appreciated and rewarded. The sooner we stop the cancer of foreign oil from eroding our economy the better, but will the halls of government see it that way?

  • Uncle B

    If the Obama regime imposes Carbon Tax, similar to the Kyoto suggestions, that is, across the board, how would it affect the production, sale and use of mini-refineries? Road tax charges for motor vehicle fuels are another “gray area”. Americans need assurances from government that efforts towards getting off of foreign oil will be appreciated and rewarded. The sooner we stop the cancer of foreign oil from eroding our economy the better, but will the halls of government see it that way?

  • Willy Bio

    I know a lot about BD processors, and the most important thing I know is DO NOT USE POLY TANKS. Any processor that does is a disaster waiting to happen. Plenty of accounts of this can be found on the net. DO NOT USE POLY TANKS.

    Now, for a REAL and PROFESSIONAL BD processor, see here: http://www.utahbiodieselsupply.com/blog/2007/03/agr-energy-quite-crew.html

    Did I mention NOT to use poly tanks? :)

  • Willy Bio

    I know a lot about BD processors, and the most important thing I know is DO NOT USE POLY TANKS. Any processor that does is a disaster waiting to happen. Plenty of accounts of this can be found on the net. DO NOT USE POLY TANKS.

    Now, for a REAL and PROFESSIONAL BD processor, see here: http://www.utahbiodieselsupply.com/blog/2007/03/agr-energy-quite-crew.html

    Did I mention NOT to use poly tanks? :)

  • Mr. Harold Mamuya

    We would like to have a min cane molasses ethanol plant in Tanzania. Could you please, kindly advice and send us your quotation CIF Dar es Salaam Tanzania

    Thanks & Merry X’mass

    Mamuya

  • Mr. Harold Mamuya

    We would like to have a min cane molasses ethanol plant in Tanzania. Could you please, kindly advice and send us your quotation CIF Dar es Salaam Tanzania

    Thanks & Merry X’mass

    Mamuya

  • john heraux

    Hi ,

    How much is this equipment

    Thank you

    John Heraux Cell 310-717-7579

    jheraux@gmail.com

  • john heraux

    Hi ,

    How much is this equipment

    Thank you

    John Heraux Cell 310-717-7579

    jheraux@gmail.com

  • frodo

    I have to laugh at this. It’s a blog – the author found something he *thought* was interesting and posted it. Buyer beware [Actually you didn’t pay for jack squat, so stop complaining].

    While the author could fact check everything, he’s not required to. You have found something interesting – it’s up to you, dear reader, to go check it YOURSELF.

    Unless a blog is put up by an organization that is charging me for the information, I don’t expect them to research it. Civility is all but gone these days, people feel that since they’re anonymous, they can whip out their private parts and beat others about the face in attempt to prove their manhood.

    I also have to laugh at the reader who as is asking how much the equipment is, and leaves his cell phone and e-mail in a public comment. People need to learn to read.

  • frodo

    I have to laugh at this. It’s a blog – the author found something he *thought* was interesting and posted it. Buyer beware [Actually you didn’t pay for jack squat, so stop complaining].

    While the author could fact check everything, he’s not required to. You have found something interesting – it’s up to you, dear reader, to go check it YOURSELF.

    Unless a blog is put up by an organization that is charging me for the information, I don’t expect them to research it. Civility is all but gone these days, people feel that since they’re anonymous, they can whip out their private parts and beat others about the face in attempt to prove their manhood.

    I also have to laugh at the reader who as is asking how much the equipment is, and leaves his cell phone and e-mail in a public comment. People need to learn to read.

  • http://none adams Abdul

    pls this idea of mini refinery is good I believe and wish to ask if I want a special mini refinery built for me to produce about 2000bpd. The funding is not the problem. Reply please

  • Mr Abbe

    Hi hope this blog is still in use please send all info to me about this product via email. We are a Swedish company that empties grease traps in restaurants and we are also able to collect the alcohol that is normally thrown into the sewers.

    Looking forward to your early reply!

    Best regards
    Mr.. Abbe

  • Joseph.

    We would like to set up an ethanol pruduction unit from sugar cane and sweet sorghum molasses here in Malawi. Please quote me CIF via Darbun port, South Africa. Please respond via email.

  • Amano Joel

    Can this mini refinery refine sugarcane molasses into ethanol?

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