FEW pre-conference event highlights capital improvement projects

By Matt Thompson | June 11, 2019

A new event helped kick off the 2019 Fuel Ethanol and Workshop in Indianapolis, Indiana this week. The Ethanol Plant Construction and Project Summit was a half-day seminar, focusing on recent capital projects in the industry.

One presentation highlighted the installation of Whitefox Technologies’ membrane dehydration process to decrease a plant’s energy consumption.

Stephan Blum, cofounder and chief technology officer of Whitefox, said the rate of energy consumption at ethanol plants has slowed in recent years. “With each increment, you actually have to spend more dollars to make less of an improvement,” he said. The same curve holds true of capital expenditure projects at ethanol plants, he said.

“The question here is, how can we actually reduce the energy further?” he asked. He said that Whitefox’s technologies, installed at several plants across the country, can help plants reduce their energy consumption and make them more energy efficient.

Blum said Whitefox’s ICE technology was first offered as a solution beginning in 2015. “What we have done with our technology is to take all those side streams, the water-rich side streams … run it through our system and produce in-spec ethanol without recycling those streams back into the rectifier side stripper.”

The benefits of this process, he said, is all the heat from all the streams is recovered, eliminating the need for cooling water in the system. Recent developments in the technology have allowed the installation of larger systems. The most recent, Blum said, was E Energy Adams, which utilizes a 70,000 gallon per day system.

He said the technology has been applied to both Delta T and ICM-designed ethanol plants. “Even though it is an installation in parallel to the mole sieve for now…taking all the streams helps you to reoptimize your entire facility. So essentially, we have an impact everywhere.”

“In order to get the best benefit of your capital dollars, I think you have to think of a paradigm shift because it is the whole plant that we need to look at,” he said. He said that Whitefox’s systems fit into a plant’s distillation, dehydration and evaporation processes, but can impact the front and back ends of a plant’s operations, as well. “We have to look at the plant in total and intelligently combine all the different technologies,” he said.