The Saito Recycling Association in Miyazaki Prefecture, Japan, contracted Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co., (MES) earlier this fall to build a facility to recycle the lees—the solid and liquid dregs—from the production of shochu, a distilled Japanese liquor, into compound feed materials and ethanol.
Shochu is enjoying a boom in Japan, but the distillation process can yield twice the volume of lees as the final liquor, creating a disposal problem. The majority of lees not used for animal feed are spread on fields, dumped in the ocean, or incinerated—the latter methods of disposal creating a major environmental issue.
Accordingly, the shochu industry is searching for ways to recycle its lees more effectively.
This new MES facility will treat up to 100 tons of lees per day. The process splits the lees into solid and liquid fractions, concentrating and drying the solid into a dewatered cake that can be used for feed. The liquid fraction from the lees and the concentration process are refined into ethanol than can be blended with gasoline.
MES plans to establish a consistent Life-cycle Solution Service (LSS) from the treatment of shochu waste to the utilization of recycled materials. It will also focus on research and development of environmental equipment and various systems for reducing environmental burdens.
Alcohol producer Kirishima Shuzo Co. is taking a different approach to lees disposal by building a plant that will produce biomethane from approximately 400 tons of shochu lees per day. At the same time, it will purify the residual lees to a level where they can be discharged through the sewer system.
The plant uses the METAKLES fixed-bed, high-temperature methane fermentation system. Kirishima Shuzo will use the biomethane generated as a source of heat for its production processes.