A look at Biodico's patented biodiesel modular production unit on-location in California.
Biodico’s patented modular production technology is the product of 20 years R&D.  MPU technology was created because of a need in a growing marketplace that nobody was addressing.  At the time of Biodico’s (then Biodiesel Industries) founding, the company wanted to be able to produce biodiesel from a wide variety of different resources and not just from a single large commodity like soybean oil.  No drop in place or pre-built technologies existed for that purpose and so the company spent the next five years refining their own.  With the help of a grant from the US Department of Defense, Biodico founder Russ Teall developed a prototype scale facility that has become the cornerstone of modular production MPU technology.  The first commercial implementation of the facility was in 2000 and five commercial installations have been made to date.

MPU technology was created because of a need in a growing marketplace that nobody was addressing.

One of the driving ideas behind modular production technology is flexibility.  It was developed as a response to a need for feedstock flexibility.  Once under commercial operation it also became clear that different project sites offered different bottlenecks and that those bottle necks may change over time.  Producing biodiesel consists of several stage gates that must be passed through to make sure that the final product will meet specification.

By designing and utilizing homogenous modules for different tasks, modules can be added or subtracted and shipped to other project sites or retrofitted to be repurposed easily.  As an example, some feedstocks require a pretreatment reaction that is not necessary for all feedstocks.  If these feedstocks become more common for a project, more pretreatment modules can be added.  Several years ago, advances in catalyst technology allowed for this reaction to be performed more quickly and some modules could be repurposed.

One of the driving ideas behind MPU technology is flexibility.

Modules are easy to transport.  One of the advantages of MPU technology is that modules can be prefabricated at a centralized location and distributed globally.  For the plant in Australia, for example, the modules were manufactured in Bakersfield, California and shipped in standard shipping containers to Rutherford, New South Wales.  One of the key concerns of the US Navy, in entering into the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Biodico in 2003, was deployability.  Being able to deploy a production facility to a remote site where the infrastructure and expertise may not exist for a large fabrication project allows for new facilities to be erected and to enter into operation quickly around the world.  If the project site changes or if expansion is needed, the modular technology allows for that to happen easily and effectively.

One of the key concerns of the US Navy, in entering into the Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Biodico in 2003, was deployability.

MPU technology also allows Biodico to maintain its strong commitment to R&D without compromising commercial operations.  The renewable energy landscape is changing as new feedstocks, production technologies, and products are innovated.  Biodico generally has a crawl, walk, run approach to new technologies, testing them first in the laboratory, then on a prototype scale, and finally implementing them into commercial use.  The modular design allows for promising technologies to be bolted on as a new modules.  Biodico has effectively been able to prove this out with several third party providers of anaerobic digestion technologies and gasification and has developed many new modules internally as the company moves forward and as the state-of-the-art changes.  Biodico is happy and willing to work with qualified third parties on technologies where there is a mutual advantage.  Commercial production can continue seamlessly as new modules are developed and they can be installed fairly seamlessly into existing operations.  Disruptive technology doesn’t have to be painful.