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  • Writer's pictureRon Kotrba

Tradition is Good, Innovation is Better


A Sepigel® mine (Photo: Sepigel®)

A Q&A with Javier Aznar, the business development manager at Minersa Group, about Sepigel®-branded adsorbents


Q: For those who may not know, what is Sepigel®?


A: Sepigel® has been a reference bleaching-earths brand in the oils- and fats-refining industry for the past 35 years. We strive to continue developing technological solutions to purify and refine oils and fats across five continents, working hand in hand with large groups and world-leading refineries.


Our extensive know-how and cutting-edge technology enable us to offer a whole range of solutions based on specialty minerals, from naturally active clays to highly activated clays.


Besides conventional bleaching earths, in Sepigel®’s portfolio we have solutions developed to meet the specific requirements and properties of renewable diesel, sometimes referred to as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), and biodiesel production.


Q: What relevant products are in the Sepigel® portfolio?


A: Sepigel®’s portfolio encompasses a complete set of products for the wide spectrum of feedstocks and biofuels used in the market: Sepigel® Extra, a selection of chemically activated clays specially designed for the treatment and purification of the wide variety of feedstocks used in renewable diesel production; and Sepigel® Natural and Active, a range of specialty-clay solutions for treatment and purification of vegetable oils and animal fats used for conventional biodiesel production and polishing.


At Sepigel®, we are very proud to work with the largest HVO and biodiesel producers, coprocessing refineries, and oil- and fat-processing plants. We are committed to the success of our customers. We continue helping them look for technological solutions to reach the desired results with assistance from our Sepigel® adsorbents. Since the first HVO developments in the market a decade ago, at Sepigel® we were convinced that, given our experience in oils and fats purification, we can continue helping our customers with at least one of their main challenges—achieving flexibility and efficiency in pretreatment of new feedstocks with very different qualities.


Q: How are Sepigel®’s filtering agents different than others on the market?


A: A careful mineral selection, our cutting[1]edge technology and our passionate, highly skilled R&D team enable us to develop a portfolio that combines an effective removal of impurities and metals with high filterability and therefore high throughput.


Depending on what our client’s production characteristics and challenges are, the expertise of our technical department allows us to recommend the right solution to aid solving their pretreatment problems.


Q: What biofuel-market trends or developments has Sepigel® noticed in recent years?


A: We have detected three major trends. 1) The need to have at least two high-performing adsorbent suppliers to secure supply and hence business continuity. Due to growing adsorbent demand from renewable fuels, the guarantee of a regular and constant supply becomes crucial, and we must be prepared to face it. 2) A growing concern about the quality and availability of feedstocks. Even if there are important projects developing new feedstock sources, we acknowledge how hard it is for HVO producers to secure them, and it’s hard to think there will be enough for all the biofuels projects announced. 3) To close the circular-economy concept of renewable fuels, the industry is pursuing innovative ways to reduce and recycle all waste. This includes spent adsorbents. Sepigel® is actively investigating and collaborating with refineries and international research institutions to find innovative solutions to this challenge.


Q: How has the market for filtration agents changed over the years?


A: We have seen a tremendous growth in demand and efficiency in the biofuels industry over the past decade. In turn, this has put pressure on the availability of adsorbents for the traditional oils and fats industry, from mining to manufacturing the finished product. The supply chain now faces additional stress exacerbated by the pandemic. There has been global capacity expansion by filtration-agents players to meet such growth, and Sepigel® has certainly contributed to this expansion at our European and American production sites.


Q: How has Sepigel® adapted to change with the market and provide customers with what they need?


A: First, in addition to our existing Sepigel® plants in Europe, we expanded our minerals sourcing, R&D and production capacity by investing in state-of-the-art facilities in America. The strategic location in Querétaro, Mexico, allows Sepigel® to have an important platform in the Americas, guaranteeing an agile and efficient service and constant supply to our customers in America and abroad. The new R&D center in Mexico is part of the brand’s commitment to innovation and constant development of new technological solutions adapted to the needs of every customer and any type of oil and fat. Second, to be close to our clients, we built an international network of logistics hubs, keeping constant security stocks for our clients, optimizing our supply-chain strategy and drastically reducing lead times.


Q: How does Sepigel® plan to capitalize on HVO growth in North America, Europe and, to a lesser extent, South America and Asia?


A: Over the past few years, we put our efforts into developing better-performing adsorbents and increasing our production and logistics capacity worldwide to be able to face this huge demand growth. As previously mentioned, we’ve worked hard in securing our clients’ supplies by building an important logistics-hub network, considering conventional and unconventional delivery formats, depending on our client’s needs, whether bulk bags, trucks or railcars.


All these actions allow us to be fully prepared to deliver our biofuels clients the right product in the right place at the right time.


Q: What might Sepigel® be researching or developing to satisfy future market demands in this industry?


A: We work continuously to innovate and develop new solutions adapted to new challenges posed by the new feedstocks used. We strive to continue developing adsorbent solutions effective on a wide variety of feedstocks, which combine effective removal of impurities, metals and soaps with very good filterability. Increasing production efficiency and throughput of biorefineries is our main goal.


Q: Any last words?


A: At Sepigel®, tradition is good, and innovation is better. We are totally ready to accompany our clients on their path toward the transition from fossil fuels to renewables.


For more information, email javier.aznar@puremin.com.

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