Lowering cost, carbon footprint of ethanol production

GreenField Ethanol, the largest ethanol producer in Canada, said today it has finished the trial of a new membrane technology that allowed the company to more efficiently separate water from alcohol during ethanol production. Membrane technology isn’t the sexiest in the cleantech sector, but this particular membrane, developed by Quebec-based Vaperma, can dramatically reduce ethanol production costs associated with traditional distillation processes and the use of molecular sieve units. These require the use of natural gas to produce steam, but when the Vaperma membrane process was used instead to dewater the ethanol, GreenField was able to reduce energy costs by 40 per cent. “Vaperma’s process is unique to the industry and has the potential to revolutionize the alcohol production process,” GreenField said in a statement. The company added that its project with Vaperma, which it considered highly successful, “proved to be the first large-scale demonstration in North America of membrane technology for dewatering ethanol.”

A technology to watch, as it could have farther reaching impact throughout the ethanol and biofuels markets.