Ethanol production process

Ethanol production process

Ethanol is both a highly flammable and highly versatile fuel that is used in many alternative fuel sources today, including the production of biodiesel in order to help both reduce carbon emissions as well as provided in alternative fuel source for traditional purely petrol-based fuels.

The actual production of ethanol is based upon a primary fuel sources, common place to all of us, and is both high in starch and sugars and can make an effective base for the product: corn. Ethanol production plants use corn in two primary different ways in order to initiate ethanol production – either a wet milling process in which the grain kernel is divided into its component parts before processing, or a dry mill process in which the entire grain kernel is ground up into coarse flour and then used for processing. Both of these processes produce equal amounts of ethanol, though the easiest and most common practice is a dry mill process due to the fact it doesn’t require as much effort to separate the wet kernel into the germ, fiber, protein and starch components first.

To explain the production process in greater detail, once corn arrives at a production facility it is separated out to remove any impurities that may remain from the harvesting process and is put into a cooking section that allows it to be both physically and chemically prepared for fermentation necessary to produce the ethanol. This cooking process includes a hot slurry stage and where the milled corn is heated to high degrees and left to stew for 30 to 45 minutes along with a reduced pH balance in order to prepare the enzymes necessary for fermentation. Afterwards it is liquefied at a higher temperature to further help fermentation for five minutes before being cooled and then liquefied again to assist the enzyme in the braking up and processing of the kernels. Finally after this dual cooking stage it is set to ferment and prepare itself for distillation. Fermentation generally takes 50 to 60 hours, therefore the total process for cooking and fermentation usually takes approximately 52 to 63 hours.

After the fermentation process the ethanol is then distilled off of the resulting liquid by boiling the mixture at slightly less that what is necessary to boil water (less than 100 degrees centigrade) in order to produce highly concentrated ethanol steam. Standard liquids before the distillation process only contain approximately 15% ethanol, however utilizing ethanol’s lower boiling point than water this process can easily remove the ethanol from the primary water base and separate it for further processing. They removed and harvested ethanol steam usually contains approximately 95% ethanol, which can then be further distilled down to 100% by forcing it through different screening processes in order to remove the heavier water molecules.

The final product of pure ethanol is then separated and placed in storage for usage later on. The two byproducts from this process – carbon dioxide and base solids – are then further processed and sent off for different purposes. Carbon dioxide is typically captured and purified in a scrubber and shipped to be used for various applications, including for the usage in carbonated beverages at other applications in the food industry is. The solid byproducts resulting from the process can also to be used for various feed purposes, including animal feed and potentially human food consumption in the near future as well. In short, ethanol production for energy usage is clean, efficient and beneficial to a number of different sources and can help benefit both people and the environment greatly.

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