Guyana's first ethanol plant begins operation

By Whitefox Technologies Ltd. | September 06, 2013

The first ever biofuel ethanol plant in Guyana was started up and commissioned on Aug. 20 by the president of Guyana, accompanied by ministers, and members of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). 

The demonstration plant is a cornerstone of the government’s energy and transport policy which includes moving towards a 10 percent ethanol blend (E10).  The demonstration unit will use black strap molasses as a feedstock, which is essentially a waste stream, from the Guyana Sugar Corp. (GuySuCo) Albion Sugar Factory. 

The President of Guyana, Donald Ramotar said of the commissioning, “I’m indeed delighted to be here this afternoon to share this moment and occasion with you. The success that this plant has given us already tells us about the potential that we have in this industry and in the country in trying to find energy security and cheaper energy for our own development.” 

The plant is based on the best available technology to ensure maximum energy and water efficiency. The dehydration plant has been designed, built and installed by Whitefox Technologies Ttd. and uses membrane technology to concentrate the ethanol to ensure maximum efficiency and ease of use. 

The plant was designed to produce an ethanol purity of 99.6 percent for fuel grade ethanol, but during start-up the plant was operated at purities of more than 99.9 percent. The plant will produce two streams: pure ethanol and pure water that can be re-used in the plant with no further treatment needed. 

The fermentation and distillation technology for the production of hydrous ethanol was provided by the Brazilian company, Green Social Bioethanol. Green designed a system that will be easy to use on a small scale and can operate with multiple feedstocks over time. 

The demonstration plant will produce up to 1,000 liters per day and will be used to train local engineers and operators in how to operate an ethanol plant, manage quality control and determine key steps for future scale up.  The fuel from the plant will be used by vehicles from GuySuCo and the Ministry of Agriculture. 

Guyana is entirely dependent on imported fuel, yet as the largest country in the Caribbean Community it is well-suited for bioenergy production given its abundance of sun, water, and available land. The Government of Guyana, through its Agriculture Sector Development Unit is turning to bioethanol as a source of fuel. Bioethanol can be mixed with gasoline to create a blended fuel, offering the chance to significantly reduce its reliance on oil imports. 

Stephan Blum of Whitefox speaking at the opening ceremony said, “I am very pleased with the start-up, we got pure ethanol within just a few hours of commissioning the dehydration unit and the local operators seem to be getting the hang of the process quite quickly. We designed this plant to ensure it was easy to assemble and operate locally by people who are not trained in ethanol production.”  

The project is supported and part funded by the IDB. As part of the development of its Climate Change Strategy the IDB has identified sustainable biofuels as a priority area. After detailed studies it was concluded that locally produced biofuels could have a positive impact in Guyana. 

Bruno Mallmann of Green Social Bioethanol said, “we have been working with the IDB and other organizations to introduce sustainably produced bioethanol for decentralized fuel production in Latin America and Africa.  We firmly believe that small scale technology is the way to achieve local development and energy autonomy and that is what this project is all about.”