New biodiesel catalyst plant opens in Saudi Arabia

By Ron Kotrba | January 19, 2010
In December, Germany-based SMOTEC Plus opened its new 60,000 ton per year sodium methylate manufacturing facility in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. SMOTEC Plus, which is short for sodium methoxide technology plus other related chemical products, is targeting biodiesel producers and other customers in the U.S., Canada and Brazil for the marketing of product from its newly added catalyst production capacity. Prior to the opening of the Dammam plant, the company was marketing its then-existing sodium methylate production volume to customers in Europe, India, Argentina and Brazil.

"Our sodium methylate manufacturing process uses raw materials such as caustic soda and methanol, unlike other manufacturers whose processes are based on mercury cell-based chlorine and sodium metal," said Prasad Devineni, SMOTEC Plus director. "In addition to sodium methylate solution, our new plant produces sodium methylate powder, which is used in the transesterification of oils for the food industry. To comply with food industry standards, all production processes and operations adhere to strict quality requirements mandated by the food industry certifications."

By utilizing caustic soda and methanol rather than mercury-cell based chlorine and sodium metal, Devineni said SMOTEC Plus' sodium methylate is much more desirable for the food industry and biodiesel producers seeking to sell their refined glycerin into the food, beverage, pharmaceutical and nutraceutical markets.

"The food industry and glycerin markets do not like catalyst that comes into contact with mercury," Devineni said. "The sodium metal process is used in the production of sodium methylate in the U.S. Because of our caustic-based process, we can locate our future sodium methylate production facilities close to the consuming markets so that we have shipping cost advantages."

Germany-based SMOTEC Plus anticipates bringing another 50,000 tons of annual sodium methylate production capacity on line by 2011, mainly to meet the anticipated global demand growth for biodiesel markets, Devineni told Biodiesel Magazine. "Ideally, it is cost effective to expand at the same location," he said. "However, markets will dictate where we have to locate our additional capacity. We cannot rule out the possibility of Brazil at this time for our next expansion in a year."

Devineni said its biodiesel customers typically pay between 5 cents and 7 cents per gallon of biodiesel produced for SMOTEC Plus' sodium methylate, depending on which feedstocks-and ultimately the free fatty acid content of those feedstocks-producers use.
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