Bioethanol Plants

Know-how and technology licensing.

Vogelbusch Bioethanol Technology

Bioethanol is dehydrated (highly concentrated) ethanol used as additive to transport fuel. It is a readily available, clean fuel for combustion engines that blends easily with gasoline. 

Made from plant-based feedstocks with advanced, energy saving production technology, bioethanol can considerably reduce the climate relevant greenhouse gas emissions from transport and traffic. Low carbon (greenhouse gas) emissions are a main objective of biofuel promotion policies. 

Our equipment can process ethanol from a wide range of starch or sugar-containing substrates. Feedstocks include wheat, corn, milo, barley, rye, potatoes, cassava, sweet potatoes and wet milling by-products, as well as sweet sorghum, sugar cane and sugar beet in the form of molasses, thick juice or syrups, and last but not least products from cellulose conversion processes.

1 blockdia bioethanol gif
Block diagram

Vogelbusch process for bioethanol production

Adjusted to feedstock
RAW MATERIAL PREPARATION

STARCH: Grains and tubers are milled before they are used in the process. Starch or by-products from wet milling plants do not require any special treatment and are fed directly to liquefaction.

SUGAR: Molasses and sugar syrups seldom require special treatment; they are diluted and acidified and fed straight to the fermentation unit. For substrates containing large amounts of inhibiting substances (affecting fermentation), pasteurization and/or stripping may be necessary. Occasionally, a sludge removal process may be required.

DESIGN OPTION: Dry milling or wet milling

Each option has its advantages:

  • In the dry milling process the feed contains all the fibers, husks, etc. of the grain. The process is robust and simple, and provides good DDGS as a co-product.
  • In wet milling plants a clear substrate without fibers or sludge is used for ethanol production. The yield is higher but no DDGS is obtained.
Continuous fermentation
Transformation into alcohol
BIOREACTION

Starch is treated by liquefaction and saccharification to obtain glucose as a fermentable sugar. The part-saccharified substance is cooled down and fed directly to the fermentation unit. Final conversion of the starch into glucose takes place simultaneously during fermentation. To re-use water and latent heat, the Vogelbusch Hotmash process recycles a decanted stillage stream to liquifaction/saccharification.

At the fermentation stage yeast converts monosaccharides into alcohol. The Vogelbusch standard fermentation process in bioethanol production is our advanced Multicont continuous fermentation

Fermentation of the substrate is started in a pre-fermenter under adjusted conditions that promote yeast growth. The fermenting mash flows steadily through a series of main fermenters, while the alcohol increases in concentration. Final alcohol concentrations in the mash of 13 - 15% vol (depending on raw material) are regularly achieved. From the last fermenter the alcohol mash is fed to an intermediate tank for distillation.

Conventional batch fermentation systems can be employed for particularly challenging raw materials.

With some non-fibrous substrates such as molasses or starch milk, yeast recycling can be used to improve yield and accelerate fermentation.

The heat generated during fermentation is re-used via external heat exchangers, exhaust air from the fermenters is led through a scrubber for recuperation of alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Distillation / Rectification / Dehydration
Final product
PRODUCT ISOLATION AND CONCENTRATION

The alcoholic mash is preheated and fed to the distillation column where the crude alcohol is stripped from the mash, leaving behind an alcohol-free liquid, the stillage. The crude alcohol is purified and concentrated to approximately  94% vol in several process columns in series. 

In order to save live steam, the columns operate at different pressure levels and one column can be heated with the overhead vapors of another - a Vogelbusch system known as multi-pressure distillation

The energy consumption is further reduced with thermal integration of the distillation, rectification and dehydration unit, bringing the steam demand down to 1,150 kg / 1,000 l bioethanol.

dehydration process is used to obtain anhydrous ethanol. Standard Vogelbusch dehydration technology employs a pressure swing adsorption (PSA) process using molecular sieves. The final water content can be reduced below 0.05% vol.

1 pyknometer
PRODUCT STANDARDS

We have the technology and experience to design processes for a wide range of applications and product specifications. Vogelbusch column systems are optimized to comply with with fuel ethanol standards such as ASTM D4806 (USA) or EN 15376 (EU), or individual consumer specifications.

Analytic testing is one of the tasks in our laboratory.

Adding value to production
CO-PRODUCT UTILIZATION

As only the sugar respectively starch is needed for the process, the remaining ingredients of the raw material in turn can provide valuable co-products. 

Stillage from beet or cane molasses is directly fed to the evaporation section where it is concentrated in a range of 30–65% ds, depending on the purpose of use. The concentrated molasses stillage (vinasses) can be sold as animal food additive or fertilizer, or incinerated to generate process steam. No concentration is required for biogas production.

Grain stillage contains proteins, minerals, fat and fibers which make a valuable animal feed. Insoluble substances in grain stillage are separated in a decanter and mixed with concentrated stillage from the evaporation section before it is sent to the drying section. The dried product is sold as powdered or pelletized distillers’ dried grains with solubles (DDGS). Alternatively, especially for smaller plants, stillage and the solids from decanter can be sold directly. Stillage is also a potential on-site biomass or biogas power source.

Saving energy and water

Our engineering approach is industry-leading performance in terms of primary energy and freshwater consumption:

  • Latent heat from stillage recycling, hot condensates and lutter water reduces not only the energy consumption but also the water demand in the raw material preparation
  • Pre-concentration of stillage in distillation unit reboilers reduces steam demand in evaporation
  • Re-use of drying vapors in the evaporation section and return of residue vapors  to the dryer - closed loop principle significantly reduces the atmospheric emissions
  • Using condensates and lutter water as replacement for fresh water in process and utilities minimizes water consumption and liquid discharge

Energy efficiency is a proven, cost-effective way of cutting carbon emissions and contributing to sustainability.

DESIGN OPTION: Gas dryer or steam dryer

Decisions on dryer technologies are a matter of energy availability and cost. Where cheap steam is available indirect steam heated tube bundle dryers are used. Otherwise gas or light fuel oil fired dryers are employed. Both ring and rotary drum dryers are suitable.

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Reducing impacts on production cost

The most important cost factors in bioethanol production are raw materials, energy and initial capital costs.

Our advanced process design concepts for bioethanol plants have a significant impact on these cost drivers and on plant availability. Key issues in this regard are:

Continuous fermentation process
  • Low investment and operating costs
  • Outstanding yields, concentration and productivity
  • Reliable and stable operation for extended periods
  • Easy operation thanks to full automation
Low thermal energy consumption
  • Recovery and reuse of secondary energy from process streams
  • Heat integration at each process stage and across the plant as a whole
Water saving and wastewater avoidance
  • Stillage recirculation
  • Residue water recirculation and re-use of vapor condensate
  • Re-use of treated wastewater in utilities (e. g. cooling towers) or for process needs
CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS

Continuous development and improvement of our expertise ensures that all our technologies are truly state-of-the-art and not just off-the-shelf designs. Vogelbusch offers flexible design concepts with highly specialized custom solutions that optimize process economics for:

  • Use of multiple feedstocks
  • Combined or alternative production of bioethanol, industrial and neutral alcohol
  • Compliance with precise specifications for product quality, steam pressure, etc.
  • Local maintenance and construction conditions

Highly skilled experts are also available to upgrade or revamp existing plants to increase capacity, improve yield and/or product quality, and save energy and water. We also assist producers seeking to diversify and gaining revenue from by-products from the ethanol-making process.

Car driven with E85
APPLICATIONS OF BIOETHANOL

Bioethanol can be utilized in combustion engines in different ways:

Hydrous ethanol (95% by volume) contains some water. It can be used directly as a gasoline substitute in cars with modified engines.

Anhydrous (or dehydrated) ethanol is free of water and at least 99% pure. It can be blended with conventional fuel at rates between 5% (E5) and 85% (E85). Practically all cars nowadays can utilize E5, most of it even E10; the use of E85 requires socalled FlexFuelVehicles.

ETBE (ethyl-tertiary-butyl-ether) is a gasoline additive that is manufactured from bioethanol.

Average Consumption Figures

All figures given here are typical and can vary depending on plant configuration and equipment.

  • Wheat

    Consumption for 1,000 l bioethanol
    Wheat 2,630 kg
    Starch content 58 %
    Steam * 1,650 kg [4,100 kg]
    Power 125 kWh [275 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 95 m³ [175 m³]
    Process water *** 2.7 m³
    *) Natural gas as alternative heat source for DDGS drying possible
    **) Cooling water dt = 10K
    ***) Process water partly replaceable by treated condensates

    Values in square bracket [ ] include DDGS drying.

    Additionally minor amounts of chemicals are necessary; consumption depending on raw material quality.
    The amount of enzymes required in starch conversion depends on the producer.
  • Corn

    Consumption for 1,000 l bioethanol
    Corn 2,350
    Starch content 65 %
    Steam * 1,550 kg [3,350 kg]
    Power 120 kWh [240 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 90 m³ [165 m³]
    Process water *** 2 m³
    *) Natural gas as alternative heat source for DDGS drying possible
    **) Cooling water dt = 10K
    ***) Process water partly replaceable by treated condensates

    Values in square bracket [ ] include DDGS drying.

    Additionally minor amounts of chemicals are necessary; consumption depending on raw material quality.
    The amount of enzymes required in starch conversion depends on the producer.
  • Cassava chips

    Consumption for 1,000 l bioethanol
    Cassava chips 2,350 kg
    Starch content 65 %
    Steam 1,600 kg
    Power 140 kWh
    Cooling water * 90 m³
    Process water ** 4 m³
    *) Cooling water dt = 10K
    **) Process water partly replaceable by treated condensates

    Additionally minor amounts of chemicals are necessary; consumption depending on raw material quality.
    The amount of enzymes required in starch conversion depends on the producer.
  • Beet molasses

    Consumption for 1,000 l bioethanol
    Beet molasses 3,240 kg
    Sugar content * 50 %
    Steam * 1,450 kg [2,550 kg]
    Power 70 kWh [100 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 100 m³ 160 m³
    Process water *** 7 m³
    ) Fermentable sugar as disaccharides
    **) Cooling water dt = 10K
    ***) Process water partly replaceable by treated condensates

    Values in square bracket [ ] include vinasses concentration.

    Additionally minor amounts of chemicals are necessary; consumption depending on raw material quality.
  • Cane molasses

    Consumption for 1,000 l bioethanol
    Cane molasses 3,270 kg
    Sugar content * 50 %
    Steam 1,500 kg [2,650 kg]
    Power 70 kWh [100 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 110 m³ [170 m³]
    Process water *** 7.7 m³
    *) Fermentable sugar as disaccharides
    **) Cooling water dt = 10K
    ***) Process water partly replaecable by treated condensates

    Values in square bracket [ ] include vinasses concentration.

    Additionally minor amounts of chemicals are necessary; consumption depending on raw material quality.
  • Cane juice; Sweet sorghum juice

    Consumption for 1,000 l bioethanol
    Cane or sweet sorghum juice 10,700 kg
    Sugar content * 15%
    Steam 1,300 kg [2,650 kg]
    Power 70 kWh [100 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 100 m³ [170 m³]
    Process water *** 1 m³
    *) Fermentable sugar as disaccharides
    **) Cooling water dt = 10K
    ***) Process water partly replaceable by treated condensates

    Values in square bracket [ ] include vinasses concentration.

    Additionally minor amounts of chemicals are necessary; consumption depending on raw material quality.

Our bioethanol showcase projects

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Downstream Processing for 2G Bioethanol in Hugoton
SYNATA BIO (formerly Abengoa Bioenergy) - Hugoton, Kansas, USA

The commercial-scale, cellulosic ethanol facility in Hugoton utilizes Abengoa’s own enzymatic hydrolysis technology to produce 25 million gallons of ethanol and 21 megawatts of electricity from 300,000 tons of biomass per year. Implemented in 2014, Vogelbusch USA provided process design for the distillation and molecular sieve dehydration areas and also supplied...

4 promaiz
Bioethanol Plant in Alejandro Roca
PROMAÍZ S. A. - Alejandro Roca, Córdoba Province, Argentina

With a nameplate capacity of 420,000 liters per day, Promaíz is the largest bioethanol production facility in Argentina. The plant processes bioethanol from corn which is used as fuel additive in the local markets. Besides the technology package for the complete plant and detailed planning of piping and vessels, Vogelbusch has...

4 ineos
Distillation|Dehydration Unit in Vero Beach
INEOS BIO - Vero Beach, Florida, USA

Vogelbusch USA has been awarded a contract to supply the ethanol distillation and dehydration equipment for a 2G (second generation) plant. INEOS Bio’s plant is a first-of-its-kind waste-to-bioenergy facility near Vero Beach, Florida. The project uses INEOS Bio’s feedstock-flexible biomass conversion technology. It's unique combination of gasification and fermentation technologies turns...

MES.jpg
D|R Pilot Plant in Tennamaram
SIME DARBY | MITSUI ENGINEERING - Tennamaram, Malaysia

Local palm oil producer Sime Darby together with the Japanese company Mitsui Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. Ltd. (MES) installed a pilot plant for second generation (2G) bioethanol in Tennamaram, Malaysia. Based on technology licensed from the Danish company Inbicon the plant produces bioethanol from empty fruit bunches that are left...

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Bioethanol Plant in Madison
ABENGOA BIOENERGY (now GREEN PLAINS) - Madison, Illinois, USA

Abengoa Bioenergy reached sustained capacity at their 88 million gallon per year (950,000 lpd), state-of-the-art fuel ethanol facility located in Madison, Illinois in February 2010. This is the third Abengoa Bioenergy plant in the U.S. that utilizes technology licensed by Vogelbusch USA, including the Vogelbusch Multicont continuous fermentation process. The facility...

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Bioethanol Plant in Mt. Vernon
ABENGOA BIOENERGY (now GREEN PLAINS) - Mt. Vernon, Indiana, USA

Abengoa Bioenergy reached sustained capacity at their 88 million gallon per year (950,000 lpd), state-of-the-art fuel ethanol facility located in Mt. Vernon, Indiana in January 2010 after 18 month engineering/construction time. This is the second Abengoa Bioenergy plant in the U.S. that utilizes technology licensed by Vogelbusch USA, including the Vogelbusch...

Tharaldson distillation dehydration
Bioethanol Plant in Casselton
THARALDSON ETHANOL LLC - Casselton, North Dakota, USA

Tharaldson Ethanol started up their state-of-the-art fuel ethanol facility located in Casselton, North Dakota in 2009. The plant utilizes technology licensed by VOGELBUSCH USA, including the VOGELBUSCH Multicont continuous fermentation process, and is currently operating at a capacity of 1,300,000 liters per day, making it one of the largest dry corn...

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2G Demonstration Plant in Kalundborg
INBICON A/S - Kalundborg, Denmark

Inbicon, a subsidiary of DONG Energy, has developed a proprietary process for the conversion of wheat straw. Complementing this biomass conversion process Inbicon has opted for sound and energy efficient technology from Vogelbusch for part of ethanol fermentation as well as the distillation, dehydration and stillage evaporation. The 17,000 liter per...

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Bioethanol Plant in Cedar Rapids
PENFORD Products Company - Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA

Penford Products Company successfully started up their state-of-the-art fuel ethanol facility in May 2008. The plant utilizes technology licensed by VOGELBUSCH USA and has a nameplate capacity of 450,000 liters per day. Corn hydrolysate from the company’s existing wet corn milling operation is used as feedstock. Tom Malkoski, Penford’s President and...

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Distillation|Dehydration in Norrköping
LANTMÄNNEN AGROETANOL AB - Norrköping, Sweden

The bioethanol plant of Lantmännen Agroetanol AB utilises process technology licensed by Vogelbusch for distillation and dehydration. The proprietary Multipressure system considerably reduces the steam consumption compared to traditional distillation systems and optimum thermal integration further improves the energy-saving properties of the plant.   The facility, which is Agroetanol’s second production...

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Bioethanol Plant in Coverdale
ALTRA INDIANA (now POET Biorefining) - Coverdale, Indiana, USA

Altra Indiana LLC reached design capacity in June 2008 at its facility in Coverdale, Indiana. The plant was built using know-how provided by VOGELBUSCH USA, including the VOGELBUSCH Multicont continuous fermentation process, and has a nameplate capacity of 908,000 liters per day. The facility uses 32 million bushels (813,000 metric...

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Bioethanol Plant in Ravenna
ABENGOA BIOENERGY OF NEBRASKA, LLC (now KAPPA ETHANOL) - Ravenna, Nebraska, USA

Abengoa Bioenergy successfully started up their state-of-the-art fuel ethanol facility located in Ravenna, Nebraska in September 2007. The plant utilizes technology licensed by Vogelbusch USA, including the Vogelbusch Multicont continuous fermentation process, and has a nameplate capacity of 88 million gallon per year (950,000 lpd). The facility uses 32 million...

Chief Ethanol Hastings
Bioethanol Plant in Hastings
CHIEF ETHANOL FUELS, Inc. - Hastings, Nebraska, USA

The Chief Ethanol Fuels facility is utilizing Vogelbusch-licensed technology. In 2007, a third molecular sieve drying system was designed and installed, raising operating capacity to 832,000 l/d. The cooperation first started in 1983 when Chief Ethanol Fuels set up af 120,000 l/d plant. Vogelbusch process design included continuous fermentation, multi-pressure distillation,...

4 lexington0
Bioethanol Plant in Lexington
CORNHUSKER ENERGY (now CHIEF ETHANOL FUELS, Inc.) - Lexington, Nebraska, USA

Vogelbusch USA Inc started up this bioethanol plant, with a production capacity of 450,000 litres/day of bioethanol from corn, in spring 2006. The plant employs a state of the art Vogelbusch continuous fermentation process. An energy integrated distillation, evaporation and dehydration system ensures maximum efficiency. In 2016, Chief purchased the Cornhusker Energy...

4 cropernergies
Bioethanol plant in Zeitz
CROPENERGIES BIOETHANOL GmbH - Zeitz, Germany

The 800,000 litre/day plant of CropEnergies,  a unit of German Südzucker group,  is designed for multiple grain sources together with by-products of beet sugar processing. The plant and is highly advanced in terms of energy saving and environmental protection. Vogelbusch contributed process design for the raw material processing, continuous fermentation,...

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Bioethanol Plant in Pekin
PACIFIC ETHANOL, Inc. (former AVENTINE RENEWABLE ENGERY) - Pekin, Illinois, USA

In March 2004 the molecular sieve unit at the Aventine Renewable Energy plant was brought on stream. With a rated capacity of 1.2 million liters per day (110 mm gallons/year) anhydrous alcohol, at that time the largest capacity molecular sieve alcohol dehydration unit in the world. The molecular sieve unit replaced...

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Bioethanol Plant in Jilin
JILIN FUEL ALCOHOL Co. - Jilin Province, PR China

This production line for bioethanol was officially commissioned in Jilin in November 2003 after an implementation period of 22 months. The plant produces 300,000 tonnes of fuel alcohol annually from maize. The product is used as a 10% petrol additive.  Process design by Vogelbusch provided for the raw material processing, continuous...

Relevant processes

Find out more about the processes used in bioethanol production:

Treating of input materials for bioconversion.
Raw Material Preparation
Converting substrates by using micro-organisms.
Fermentation
Ensuring top-class ethanol purity.
Distillation / Rectification
Eliminating water from ethanol.
Dehydration
Separating solid-liquid and liquid-liquid media.
Centrifugation
Concentrating products and treating effluents.
Evaporation
Finishing of products and co-products.
Drying

News

United States: Startup at ABBK in Kansas
15 Sep 2014

Vogelbusch USA provided process design for distillation and dehydration und supplied critical equipment for cellulosic ethanol plant.

FAQ

All information given here is typical and can vary depending on plant configuration. For particular information please send your project details to the email address given below.

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  • Which minimum capacity is recommended?

    The economic minimum capacity of a bioethanol plant is at 300,000 liters per day (= 100,000 tons per year) in Europe; provided that energy cost are favourable it may be 100,000 liters per day in other regions.

  • How much feedstock is required?

    For 1,000 liter alcohol (on average sugar / starch content, all on wet basis) the VOGELBUSCH bioethanol process requires:

    • Corn 2,350 kg
    • Wheat 2,630 kg
    • Sugar Beet 10,000 kg
    • Sugar Cane 11,000 kg
  • Can I combine several feedstocks?

    Combination of feedstocks is possible, but higher investment costs to cover the different process steps have to be taken into account.

  • Which location is favourable?

    Decisive factors for the plant location are

    • short transport routes for raw material and product
    • availability of energy (preferable biomass = CO2 reduction)
  • How much space do I need?

    For a 300,000 liter per day facility 5 to 6 hectare are required.

  • And the investment for such plant?

    Capital expenditure depends on plant capacity and configuration as well as local conditions. Costs for the process plant (excluding building, auxiliaries, infrastructure) for a 300,000 liter per day facility are in the range of 30 to 50 million euros. 

    In detail this is however depending on the available infrastructure and the raw material used. Grain based plants require higher investment compared to sugar.

    Figures are for general reference only since each project has its own particularities that need consideration. 

  • How can I get more information for my bioethanol plant project?

    Complete our design questionnaire (check Links & Downloads section above) and send it back to us to get a professional opinion on your project.