Indian Oil claims technological breakthrough in making bio-diesel

State-run Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) has claimed a technological breakthrough that could be a game changer for advancing use of bio-diesel in the country and ensuring ready acceptance of the fuel by the automobile industry. 

IOC has stated that it has successfully developed and commercialised a technology to co-process non-edible vegetable oil in the existing diesel hydro-treating (DHDT) units of a petroleum refinery to make bio-diesel. 

This is the first time in India and possibly the first in the world when Jatropha oil has been used for co-processing in a petroleum refinery. This technology for co-processing of Jatropha oil has been developed by the R&D Centre of Indian Oil located at Faridabad. During the development of this process technology, IOC has also developed a process for de-metallisation and de-gumming of vegetable oils. It may be noted that de-metallation of oils is a pre-requisite for co-processing since metals are poisonous for the catalyst in the DHDT unit. 

A total quantity of 200 tonnes of Jatropha oil was supplied by CREDA Biofuels Limited (A joint venture of Indian Oil and Chhattisgarh Renewable Energy Development Authority).  This oil was used for de-metallisation and de-gumming using IOC-R&D developed process and subsequently co-processed in the Chennai Petroleum Corporation Limited (CPCL) Refinery at Manali. Successful co-processing was demonstrated in the DHDT Unit of the refinery. Operating with a specific catalyst developed by the R&D Centre of IOC, the DHDT unit used upto 6.5 per cent of Jatropha Oil along with refinery stream. 

During the trial, the diesel cetane number improved by 2 units, sulphur content reduced and the inlet temperature of the reactor could also be reduced by 100C with resultant energy savings. Conventionally, bio-diesel is produced by the trans-esterification process which requires separate plant to be set up. Bio-diesel thus produced through trans-esterification route has inferior properties in terms of oxidation stability, lower energy content and results in more deposits in the engine due to which, it is not very well accepted by automobile industry. 

However, the novel innovative co-processing technology developed by IOC overcomes these disadvantages and produces bio-diesel with higher Cetane number, good oxidation stability and lower density. In addition, co-processing technology can be deployed in an existing petroleum refinery infrastructure with minor modifications and does not require a separate plant. This process also costs less as operating cost is reduced by 50 per cent in comparison to a conventional bio diesel plant.