April 2008

Small-scale ethanol plants provide efficient waste-to-ethanol production

Diversified Ethanol, a provider of clean tech solutions, has introduced small-scale ethanol production plants that reduce water use by up to 85% and use existing liquid waste products as feedstock in the conversion process.

A state-of-the-art waste-to-ethanol process was recently introduced by Diversified Ethanol Corporation, a company located in Burnsville, Minnesota. Diversified Ethanol designs and builds small-scale, modular ethanol plants that utilize existing waste as feedstocks which can be converted to ethanol or biodiesel. As an example, breweries using the proprietary technology can now convert their liquid waste into ethanol and create a new revenue stream.

Design work has been completed and construction is set to begin on a five million gallon-per-year plant for a major soda recycler in Southern California.

Using existing waste products as feedstock and delivering ethanol directly to local communities eliminates the problems associated with the more fuel-intensive crop-based feedstocks while reducing greenhouse gases.

The company’s Butterfield Closed Cycle System™ utilizes several technologies, including ElectroHesion™, a proprietary water recycling system that reduces water use by up to 85%. ElectroHesion effectively separates the solids from the process water, insuring that the majority of the water can be infinitely recycled.

The design of the ElectroHesion uses a single chamber, continuous flow-through design, that can treat from 10 to 2,500 gallons-per-minute and uses a fraction of the electrical energy usually required.

According to a recent article in USA Today, city officials in Champaign and Urbana, Illinois were concerned when a proposed ethanol plant would require about 300 million gallons of water for processing the product and cooling equipment, drawing from the aquifer that supplies both cities.

Furthermore, recent studies quoted by Science Magazine and other sources are now reporting that conventional ethanol production actually contributes more greenhouse gases than gasoline when you factor in land use and the fuel intensive growing of crop based feedstock. Also adding to fuel cost is the necessity to truck that ethanol across country from the Midwest to the east and west coasts. However, most of these same studies conclude that ethanol from waste is still a viable alternative.

There is a growing interest in on-site waste-to-ethanol production technologies, that can convert waste products into ethanol. From citrus in Florida to wood chips in the Northwest to potato waste in Idaho, each part of the country has waste streams that can be converted to energy using cellulosic and other innovative forms of production. This trend toward using various waste products for ethanol eliminates the use of fossil fuel-intensive, crop based feedstocks. Furthermore, being localized, these systems also remove the need to ship the ethanol across country, further increasing the efficiency of these sources of alternative energy.