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Pacific Ethanol turns to Whitefox to reduce consumption of water, energy and emissions in production

Membrane specialist Whitefox has signed an agreement with California-based Pacific Ethanol, Inc. for the delivery of an industrial scale membrane system. The objective is to reduce the consumption of water, energy and emissions in the production of ethanol while increasing product output.

Whitefox Technologies designs highly efficient membrane-based solutions for ethanol production and solvent recovery. Distillation columns are combined with vapor permeation membranes to offer a complete solution.

The company claims that producers can benefit from Whitefox technology in multiple ways:

  • Up to 50% energy savings possible in dehydration section through re-balancing of the process;

  • Up to 50% water savings in dehydration section (including cooling and make-up water);

  • From 80% ethanol up to 99.95% in a single continuous step (multiple products also possible);

  • Continuous process not batch; and

  • Modularity – fully scaleable from 100,000 LPY to 100 million+ LPY.

The Pacific Ethanol project is fully aligned with California’s push to cut water consumption and reduce emissions, which is affecting both Californian ethanol producers and companies wanting to export ethanol into California.

According to the agreement, Whitefox will deliver a stand-alone, container-based membrane system that will be deployed at Pacific Ethanol’s Madera plant in California. The Whitefox system is scheduled for delivery this month with commissioning and start-up in June.

The membrane unit will be used to assess the impact of treating certain side streams in the ethanol production process and optimize the design of a membrane solution to remove bottlenecks and improve ethanol production efficiency at the Madera plant.

Existing ethanol producers are dealing with a number of issues in the ethanol production process: One challenge is cooling water during hot and humid summer months when output capacity is sometimes reduced to maintain product specifications. Another challenge is the constant recycle of water-rich ethanol that consumes additional energy and prevents plants from operating at their full capacity potential. These challenges can be addressed with a membrane solution that give producers a more reliable and efficient operation.

—Dr. Stephan Blum, Whitefox CTO

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