Joint effort helps meet increasing demands for biodiesel fuels


Charlottesville, VA —The joint effort of a biodiesel equipment manufacturer and a developer of automation hardware and software is helping to meet increasing demands for renewable, environmentally friendly fuel. GE Fanuc Automation , a unit of GE Industrial, and SunBio Systems of Santa Clara, CA, are working together to provide biodiesel production systems to companies seeking to supply biodiesel fuels to a growing market.

SunBio Systems' skid-mounted, quick-start biodiesel machines range from university-grade R&D systems to mid-sized plants that produce up to 15 million gallons of the fuels annually. The biodiesel machines are based on GE Fanuc controller systems that use Series 90-30 controllers and I/O systems, Proficy Machine Edition automation software, and QuickPanel touchscreen operator interfaces.

Among the applications underway is a system to be used by Silicon Valley Biodiesel Inc ., Sunnyvale, CA. The company produces biodiesels using local recycled fats, oils, and greases as feedstock, a process that provides cost-effective disposal while supplying a renewable fuel. Its Sanger, CA, facility is the company's first to meet ASTM's biodiesel fuel specification standard D6751 . It will use the SunBio standard process control platform coupled with the GE Fanuc equipment to start up five more plants in California over the next two years.

Walt Bacharowski, founder and president of Silicon Valley Biodiesel, said, "We had several very specific needs for this project, and all are being met by the SunBio/GE Fanuc solution. And, we also like that the system's Web access allows SunBio Systems to stay engaged with us to provide process advice when needed," he added.

System requirements included:

  • Instrumentation and automation for several plants;

  • Overall control and visibility into remote biodiesel locations reporting to a central office;

  • Standard operating procedures for automation and biodiesel processes;

  • Data history to run statistical process analysis and control to optimize processes; and

  • Web access to view operations easily from any location.

Series 90-30 PLC is a family of controllers, I/O systems, and specialty modules suitable for a variety of industrial applications such as complex motion control, food processing, injection molding, high-speed packaging, and material handling. Proficy Machine Edition automation software deploys HMI, motion, and multi-target control to provide a common user interface, drag-and-drop editing, and development tools in an integrated environment. Touchscreens connect to all major PLCs and PLC networks.

—Control Engineering Daily News Desk
Jeanine Katzel , senior editor

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