Why water-in-oil is good for the industry.
BY TEAM MT
Creatnet Technology (CTPL) was started in 2013 after its proprietors stumbled upon a fuel upgradation process known as fuel-water emulsification. Enamoured by the concept they imported process equipment from Russia and set up shop with a business model of providing service to petroleum dealers and large users in the NCR and North India regions. Their objective is to make fuel-water emulsions from heavy fuel oil, (popularly known as furnace oil), a cheap thick black residual petroleum product used as fuel in industrial boilers and furnaces and to make it as clean burning as diesel if not better.
Explaining what emulsified fuels are all about Ravi Deka, director R&D and CEO, CTPL said, “Emulsions consist of a blend of two immiscible liquids like oil and water, where one is reduced to microscopic droplets and is dispersed inside the other in a stable manner so that the two neither mix nor separate, appearing like biological cells when viewed under a microscope.” Everyday examples of emulsions are mayonnaise, ice-cream, shampoo and cold creams.
Agreeing Deka added, “When fuel is emulsified, the process inserts microscopic water droplets into the oil phase. During combustion, these water droplets explode into steam in a continuous series of micro-explosions, ripping the oil droplets into a nano-sized mist that burns-out completely. Thus, leaving no unburnt particles like soot and in addition produces more thermal energy due to complete combustion. This process is known as secondary atomisation.”
Moreover, once emulsified even otherwise poor burning fuels like heavy residual oils combust easily and very cleanly with significant reduction of smoke and pollutants like Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulfur Oxides (Sox) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) in stack emissions. This decrease of oxides also contributes to a 10-20% lesser oxygen usage by the combustion process.
Taking us through the history of fuel emulsions, Deka explained, “Going by patents filed worldwide, fuel emulsions date back to the 1930s and thereafter like a Phoenix, the technology keeps alternately fading away and then resurrecting itself every time petroleum prices hit the roof. Today, the largest adopters of fuel-emulsion technology are the shipping lines, which install on-board units to process fuel in ships for ease of combustion and reducing pollution. Marine and heavy diesel engine manufacturers like Wartsila and MAN both have extensively tested and allowed fuel emulsions to be used in
Coming back to India, CTPL in its one year of existence has managed to become the sole supplier of emulsified Heavy Fuel Oil or Furnace Oil (HFO) to industrial leaders like Metnere and Gravitas India in the aluminum and lead sectors. Add to that a host of zinc plating industries and boiler users in North India.
“Our unique manufacturing process is what differentiates us. Our HFO technology involves a five stage batch process, in the heart of which is a special temperature controlled mixing and blending tank and a special homogeniser sourced from Russia, which has been developed by St. Petersburg Technical University,” averred Deka. Talking of the process, he said, “At the start, the oil feedstock is filtered and homogenised to remove impurities and for chemically neutralising the sludge. At the same time this helps blend both the lighter and heavier factions into a uniform consistency. After this, the oil is infused with a stream of chemically treated softened water through a three stage process comprising of a series of passive mixing devices known as static mixers and a specially designed in-line cavitator and a high shear mixer. The high pressure cavitation effect inside the process stream implodes the water in uniform five micron sized droplets which are dispersed uniformly inside the oil medium, thus creating a stable emulsion that can easily contain up to 20% water.”
With ‘going green’ becoming almost a norm in industries it is interesting to see companies like CTPL coming up with improved solutions that help manufacturers become sustainable. However, the journey is not smooth. “The foremost challenge for us lies in marketing emulsified fuel.” It is said that most companies have a mental block towards using alternate fuels, especially when it is declared that it contains water. Secondly, even when the bosses accept the scientific evidence, getting it to percolate down to the shopfloor personnel is a very taxing task.
“Moreover, with the lax implementation of pollution control laws, the entire ecological advantage of emulsified fuels is either downplayed or just ignored as almost all potential clients just prefer to hanker for price discounts, assuming that they should only pay for the oil part of the emulsion,” stated Deka.
Today CTPL is negotiating with several food, pharma and FMCG companies to regularly supply emulsified HFO for their thermic heaters, boilers and ovens. Efforts are equally underway to tie-up with manufacturers of boilers and heavy engines. Forming alliance with petroleum companies and securing a fresh round of investments is next on the agenda. The company is also in the process of patenting several in-house developed technologies, processes and products that are currently under testing.