By Elizabeth Niven
During the past decade, Argentina evolved from an energy-exporting country to an energy-importing country. This unforeseen growing pain for the country means that during times of extreme temperatures, energy demands exceed supply and lead to outages, especially in the winter in the industrial sector and with natural gas.
In the Monsanto Roundup production plant in Zárate, Argentina, the dual-fuel boiler runs on natural gas during the winter. Last year, the plant experienced 40 days with restricted supply. During these outages, the boiler is prepared to operate on liquid fuels, most frequently diesel fuel.
Diesel fuel has two major disadvantages: it is more expensive than natural gas and it generates higher emissions of greenhouse gases.
“Our goal at the outset was to find a more economical fuel to operate the boiler during peak or restricted times,” said Lucas Benetti, utilities supervisor for the Zárate plant. “But the team also had other priorities for this alternative fuel. They wanted one that would decrease our greenhouse gas emissions, use a renewable energy source, was biodegradable and safe for transportation. Overall, we were determined to find or create a fuel that would not present substances harmful to health or the environment.”
The innovative and committed team of 19 full-time employees and three suppliers went to work and two years later, emerged with the answer: ECO-OIL, a biodegradable, renewable fuel. This cost-effective fuel uses a derivative of vegetable oils, a byproduct of the biodiesel manufacturing industry, which indirectly creates value in the farmers’ production chain. Currently there are 23 biofuel plants registered in Buenos Aires Province, where the Monsanto production plant resides.
And it gets better. The boiler, running on ECO-OIL instead of diesel, yielded the following results: a 97 percent reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions, a 40 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, and a 15 percent decrease in nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions. The carbon monoxide emissions were similar between the two fuels.
The development of this renewable and eco-friendly fuel allows Monsanto to continue operating at full capacity while minimizing additional costs that operating the plant on liquid fossil fuels would incur. The use of ECO-OIL during energy restriction periods saves $500,000 per year, equivalent to 30 percent of total operation costs with diesel and 10 percent of total fuel consumption.
“While this project was limited to our needs and available resources at the Zárate plant, our experience demonstrates that it can easily be applied to other sites with energy restrictions and where biofuels are available,” said Benetti.
In fact, Benetti and his team shared their ECO-OIL results with the Zárate industrial community, presenting the project at the Fourth Argentine Congress of Chemical Engineering, exhibited in the Second and Third Industrial Park, Zárate/Campana, and published in technical-industrial journals.
“It is possible to use this alternative fuel in every Monsanto facility that has a dual-fuel boiler,” said Benetti. “We are willing and able to share the details of what we have learned during this process, and plan to continue making improvements.”