Biofuels Wastewater Strategies

Posted on: November 4th, 2013
Source: American Institute of Chemical Engineers
AIChE National Conference - San Francisco, CA
Presented by Marc Privitera, PE - PreProcess, Inc.

Entrepreneurial Engineers and Traditional Engineers

Posted on: November 4th, 2013
Source: American Institute of Chemical Engineers
AIChE National Conference - San Francisco, CA
Presented by Marc Privitera, PE - PreProcess, Inc.

Marc Privitera Honored with Jack of All Trades Award

Posted on: September 25th, 2013
Source: Chemical Engineering Magazine and ChemInnovations Conference

ChemInnovations Individual Award

Jack of All Trades

Marc Privitera, PreProcess, Inc.  

The Jack of all trades award is unique. In a world of increasing specialization, it is rare to find an individual with experience and expertise in as many fields as this year’s winner.

Marc Privitera, Principal Engineer at PreProcess, Inc. is the essential ingredient to any process development, engineering, and automation effort delivering customized technical solutions to entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs must be able to decide, focus, and pivot and Marc consistently delivers in this environment. He can easily step into any new project be it mining, refining, foods, waste repurposing, or consumer packaged goods, and lead the process development, project management, and scale-up crusade. 

Marc’s enthusiasm for “first-of-its-kind” technology has set him apart from his peers. He designed and scaled the world's first commercial supercritical biodiesel reactors, creating the methodology and specifying the metallurgy, which won him a Technology Pioneer Award at the World Economic Forum in Davos. His equipment design and commissioning experience is impressive and extensive, including distillation columns, centrifuges, presses, candle filters, decanters, ion exchange columns, pin mixers, pan agglomerators, slurry reactors, precipitators, water treatment, and chlor alkali systems.  

Christina Borgese Honored with 30 Under 30 Award

Posted on: July 8th, 2013
Source: Manufacturing Engineering Magazine

Manufacturing Engineering celebrates the inaugural 30 Under 30 honorees. These people have taken the road less traveled—and they deserve recognition for it.

Modern culture doesn't do enough to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, let alone Manufacturing. Yet these are the fields that allow us to eat, live, heal, entertain and protect ourselves. Without competence and leadership in these areas, our country is in trouble.

Christina is as much an engineer as she is an entrepreneur. Which explains why she quit her stable job in corporate America—specifically as a process engineer at Clorox—to, as she explains it, “go save the American economy.”

She went to a startup, BioFuelBox, where she and a former Clorox colleague, Marc Privitera, developed and scaled the world’s first commercial scale supercritical biodiesel reactor with technology licensed from Idaho National Labs.  The system would convert waste trap grease typically sent to landfills into ASTM 6751 biodiesel at a rate of 1MMGPY. 

In 2010, BioFuelBox was recognized with a World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer award—the same year as Twitter.

“Joining a startup is considered a big risk,” Christina said, adding, “The biodiesel adventure was excellent.  I love the fast pace of the venture capital world.  We scaled the system from bench to pilot to commercial scale in fourteen months.”

Ultimately, the business succumbed to the economic downturn. But Christina brushed it off, thankful for the experience and in 2010 launched PreProcess, Inc. with Privitera. PreProcess, a chemical engineering consulting firm for entrepreneurs, has major clients and oversees manufacturing projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

It all feels natural to Christina, who recently turned 30. “PreProcess practices entrepreneurial engineering as compared to traditional engineering firms. Entrepreneurs must be able to decide, focus, and pivot and the technical firm supporting them must be able to do the same,” she said.

Who's Who In California Biodiesel

Posted on: March 1st, 2013
Source: California Biodiesel Alliance
PreProcess Founders Featured as Who's Who in California Biodiesel  

Chemical engineers Christina Borgese and Marc Privitera, both past presidents of the student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers at UC Santa Barbara, were colleagues at Clorox before joining the team at BioFuelBox. At BioFuelBox, they worked together to design, build, commission, and operate the world's first commercial scale supercritical biodiesel production plant using waste trap grease as its primary feedstock -- and won the World Economic Forum's Technology Pioneer award in 2010, the same year Twitter did.

The supercritical method uses high heat and high pressure and is able to process feedstocks with free fatty acid levels of 85% and higher, according to Christina. The ability to take more and more waste out of landfills is a passion that Marc and Christina share. "We love biodiesel because it's straightforward, it's urgently needed, and it's a chemical engineer's dream -- you have messy multiphase feedstocks; you get to use centrifuges; decanters and filters; the reactors could be high sheer, high pressure, high temperature; you have hazardous materials to respect; you have low level constituents you have to separate using some creative methods; and you top it off with some precision distillation tricks -- it's everything we do," Marc said.

Christina and Marc are proud of the work they did in scaling supercritical processing from the bench, to a pilot in San Jose, to a 1 mgpy plant in Idaho, using techniques licensed from the Idaho National Laboratory, but they are quick to point out that supercritical processing is not all they want to be known for. PreProcess, Inc., the process development and process engineering company they co-founded after BioFuelBox succumbed to the economic downturn, allows them to offer their unique brand of chemical engineering for entrepreneurs through a range of services in waste repurposing, foods, and biofuels. Among their many projects, they are currently working on alternative energy related systems that are in various stages of development, construction, and commissioning in California.

"PreProcess is chemical engineering for entrepreneurs. We are fast, we are hands-on, we can pivot, and this is what sets us apart," Christina stresses. She says that they do first of its kind technologies and loves to jump into the details of how to scale up from an idea to the joy of completion. Those details are described at length in Marc and Christina's article Biorefining Technology Scale-Up in Biomass Magazine.   Doing what hasn't been done before also sometimes involves advising clients on development paths, filling in gaps of information, and intellectual property concerns, including helping them identify exactly what might need to be protected and then determine if it should be patented or kept as a trade secret.

The company is committed to the critical issue of safety and rigorous, iterative quality measurements, starting with feedstock characterization, an all too often underestimated part of the production process. Christina and Marc point out the need to get exact measurements for six aspects of the feedstock you are going to be processing -- before you buy it and regardless of whether it's being called yellow or brown grease -- in their article Quick and Dirty Feedstock Characterization: Practical advice for cash-strapped community scale biodiesel plants in the August 2011 issue of Biodiesel Magazine.

Educating clients, local permit agency staff, and students is an important part of the work of the PreProcess team. In addition to presenting at conferences, writing articles for industry journals, and offering information and documents for download on their website (Grease Trap Waste Backgrounder and Sulfur Removal Strategies for Biodiesel), every fall the duo returns to their alma mater, UC Santa Barbara, where they guest lecture on the real world aspects of UCSB's chemical engineering curriculum. PreProcess also offers an Engineering Bootcamp built on practical applications to help get new hires and folks changing roles get off to the right start.

As part of his long-standing mission to educate the next generation of chemical engineers (he has many under his belt so far), Marc recently developed a course at San Jose State University, Biofuels Process Engineering, which requires undergraduates and graduate students to work together in teams to create a presentation pitch to build a biofuel plant. He's more poet than engineer when talking about the ability of biodiesel as an American product to contribute to both energy independence and environmental solutions and the part he is playing to home grow a special breed of creative engineers with the technical know-how to make that happen.

PreProcess is CBA's newest business member. The company joined just after our February 4th conference, while still in Las Vegas, and is eager to get involved. As they describe the "lunch and learn" program they developed to educate local permit agency staff, it's easy to envision this versatile duo scaling up that process and deploying it on behalf of biodiesel at CBA's next lobby day in Sacramento. We look forward to it.
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