Safety Considerations in a Biodiesel Production Plant

Safety is Number 1.

Safety is Number 1.

BurrowX will not compromise the health and well-being of anyone for an engineering innovation. Biodiesel Production is a very dangerous process because of the use of sulfuric acid, sodium hydroxide and methanol.

Sulfuric acid is a colorless, odorless, and highly-corrosive material. The main acute exposure hazard is severe burns to skin and eyes. It is more harmful than other strong acids due to the dehydrating nature of the chemical, which releases extra heat, causing secondary burns. It will cause temporary or permanent blindness if contacted with eyes in either liquid or vapor form. Long term exposure also causes lung damage, vitamin deficiency and potentially cancer.

Sodium hydroxide is a caustic base and white solid that is typically available in flakes or pellets. It is a highly corrosive alkali that will decompose living tissue on contact. It also causes secondary burns, as the decomposition reaction is highly exothermic. Aqueous sodium hydroxide is more dangerous than solid, although solid NaOH will also exhibit some corrosive behavior if there is any water present (including sweat or humid air). There are no known long-term exposure effects of NaOH; all the health effects are acute effects due to corrosivity.

Methanol is a colorless, flammable liquid with a distinct odor. If ingested, methanol will be metabolized to formic acid, which damages the central nervous system and causes blindness, coma or death. The adverse health effects associated with methanol all occur internally. While contact with skin will not cause external damage, it may provide a route for the chemical to enter one’s central nervous system. Methanol is highly flammable and easily ignites.

BurrowX recommends that Sulfuric acid be stored in a vessel made of a non-reactive material, such as glass. Great care should be taken that the acid does not contact the operator’s skin. Proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for handling sulfuric acid includes: safety goggles, face shield, boots, gloves and aprons made from a suitable material (see material safety data sheets for more information). Sulfuric acid will be pumped directly from the storage vessel to the pre-treatment vessel, limiting the amount of operator contact needed. If sulfuric acid does contact the skin, any contaminated clothing must be removed and the affected person must wash the acid off under a safety shower for at least 15 minutes. Medical attention must be sought immediately. When diluting the sulfuric acid, the acid must be added to the water instead of water added to the acid. This way, the high heat capacity of water will absorb the heat released as the chemicals mix.

BurrowX recommends that Sodium hydroxide also be stored in a non-reactive vessel, preferably the container in which it was delivered. Keep sealed tightly in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area. When handling sodium hydroxide, the same PPE should be worn as for sulfuric acid. If an operator needs to create the sodium hydroxide solution, a respirator should also be worn. The same procedure as for the sulfuric acid should also be followed if sodium hydroxide contacts skin.

BurrowX recommends that Methanol be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area away from any potential sparks. If the methanol does ignite, water will not extinguish the fire. A fire extinguisher will be necessary. Methanol will be pumped directly from a storage container to the various vessels, so operator contact with methanol is limited. If an operator must encounter the methanol, the same PPE as for sulfuric acid must be worn. If the area is not well ventilated, a respirator must also be worn. If methanol is ingested, the exposed person must drink two glasses of water and seek medical attention immediately. If methanol contacts any part of the body, the same procedure used for sulfuric acid must be followed.

All three chemicals are considered hazardous waste and need to be properly disposed of according to OSHA standards.

To get assistance in developing Safety protocols for your Biodiesel Production site or a Safety Assessment of your current site Contact us here