ABB's 800xA controls biofuel manufacturer's food waste to fuel conversion process

17 September 2009

Small, remote-controlled bioethanol plants use local food waste to make a low-carbon gasoline and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

Three Ethanolix units, like the one in this photo, are in operation and two are expected to open soon. St1 plans to build up to 15 units by 2014
Three Ethanolix units, like the one in this photo, are in operation and two are expected to open soon. St1 plans to build up to 15 units by 2014

St1 Biofuels Oy in Finland is a bioethanol producer making biofuel from food waste, which it claims can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by up to 80 per cent.

The food-waste fuel is 85 parts ethanol blended with 15 parts gasoline components and additives, and is sold in Finland as Refuel or RE85. It can be used in flex-fuel vehicles.

According to St1, RE85 is approximately 30 euro cents per litre cheaper than regular 95 octane unleaded gasoline.

St1 biofuel plants are located near the food waste source used in its production, usually on the sites of pastry and confectionery manufacturers or potato processors. The food waste used in the process is not edible. St1 uses small, automated plants at these sites to produce the fuel. The plants are controlled from one central location.

The plants use Ethanolix processing units devised by St1 to create a dilute biofuel using a process controlled by ABB's Extended Automation System 800xA.

From St1's headquarters in Hamina, Finland, System 800xA communicates with the waste plants via a virtual private network (VPN), collecting plant data with ABB's real-time database system for continual monitoring, reporting, and analysis. The 800xA system controls everything from when valves open and close, to the activation of safety locks and automatic cleaning.

The biofuel mixture is later concentrated at St1's central dehydration plant at Hamina Harbor, where it is blended with gasoline components and additives before being delivered to pumping stations around Finland as RE85.

Two current St1 production sites, at Lappeenranta and Hamina, use waste from manufacturers of confectionery and baked goods. Each produces a million litres of ethanol per year from about 5,000 tons of inedible food waste like bakery paste, non-baked or baked bread that doesn't meet standards for consumption.

A third site at Närpiö is located on the site of a potato processor, creating a million litres of ethanol a year from potato slurry and starch waste water.

St1 plans to have up to15 automated bioethanol plants in operation by 2014. A fourth site for food waste is currently in the works in Vantaa and a fifth, in Lahti, Finland.

St1 says its small biofuel production plants are more economical than larger ones, because they are located at or near the sources of raw food waste. This translates into less need for transportation, equipment, and energy use per liter of product manufactured.

Additional cost savings are achieved by St1 using the 800xA system, which enables the company to operate its biofuel stations without staff. An operator does, however, make weekly visits for maintenance.

While market penetration for biofuels is currently low, European Union emissions directives are expected to drive the market share for biofuels and other renewables to 5.75 per cent by the end of 2010.

- Edited by David Greenfield, editorial director
Control Engineering Sustainable Engineering News Desk

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