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Fatty Acid

Fatty Acid

Producing and processing fatty acid
Oleochemicals

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Air Liquide Engineering & Construction provides a comprehensive portfolio of technologies for producing and transforming fatty acids. Solutions can be adapted to clients' specific needs for hydrolysis, distillation, fractionation or hydrogenation.

High quality, high purity

A key solution offered by Air Liquide Engineering & Construction is for the production of Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME) fractions. The feedstock for this technology is FAME generated by transesterification in the Lurgi Biodiesel process. This proven method focuses on separating FAME according to molecular chain lengths and then applying cuts in a fractionation column. Heat stress on the FAME feedstock is reduced by using a falling film evaporator and vacuum pressure, creating a high-quality FAME product that can be used for surfactant or personal care applications, or as a water-clear biodiesel (after distillation).

Fatty acid can also be produced via oil splitting, using a feedstock of seed oils, tropical oils or animal fats. In this process, triglycerides are hydrolyzed to fatty acid chains and glycerin by adding water at a temperature of around 250° Celsius under a pressure of 55 bar. No catalyst is used and splitting degrees can be as high as 99.5%. The fatty acids rise to the top of the splitting column, where they are dried by flashing, while water and glycerin are flashed at the bottom of the column, and the flashing vapors used for heat recovery. Crude glycerin of 80%-88% purity is generated and can be sold or processed to obtain a pharmaceutical grade product.

Following oil splitting, Air Liquide Engineering & Construction offers solutions for further processing the crude fatty acid. Through vacuum distillation, the fatty acids can be separated from non-volatile components, and through vacuum fractionation, different chain lengths can be obtained. By using structured packing and a vacuum in the fractionation columns, the process reduces thermal stress and delivers a high-quality product, while steam generation in the condensers ensures energy efficiency.

Finally, fatty acid double bonds from oil splitting can be hydrogenated by adding hydrogen in the presence of a nickel catalyst at high temperatures and a pressure of 25 bar. Through this process, iodine values as low as 0.3 can be obtained.

Advantages

  • Variety of technology to produce, purify and transform fatty acids
  • Fractions of different chain lengths can be obtained

Key figures

  • Capacity (FAME, Oil splitting, Distillation/Fractionation): 100 tons per day (tpd) to 1 000 tpd
  • Capacity (batch Hydrogenation): 50 tpd to 100 tpd  
  • Capacity (continuous Hydrogenation):100 tpd to 600 tpd
  • Operational expenditure (FAME, Distillation/Fractionation): 30-50 United States Dollar (USD)/ton
  • Operational expenditure (Oil splitting): 10 USD/ton
  • Operational expenditure (Hydrogenation): 11 USD/ton (batch), 10 USD/ton (continuous)

Fatty Acid Methyl Ester Distillation/Fractionation
Fatty Acid Methyl Ester Distillation/Fractionation

Fatty Acid Production (Oil Splitting)
Fatty Acid Production (Oil Splitting)

Fatty Acid Distillation/Fractionation
Fatty Acid Distillation/Fractionation

Fatty Acid Hydrogenation
Fatty Acid Hydrogenation 1

Fatty Acid Hydrogenation schema 2
Fatty Acid Hydrogenation schema 2