Neutral Alcohol Plants

Know-how and technology licensing.

Vogelbusch Neutral Alcohol Technology

Neutral alcohol and extra neutral alcohol is highly concentrated and purified ethanol of agricultural origin, which is used for alcoholic beverages or for industrial applications.

Our equipment can process alcohol 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 neutralalcohol gif
Block diagram

Vogelbusch process for neutral alcohol 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, 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.

1 fermentation
Transformation into alcohol
BIOREACTION

Starch is treated by liquefaction and saccharification to obtain glucose as a fermentable sugar. The partly 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 is employed to convert monosaccharides into alcohol. 

Fermentation units can be implemented as batch, fed batch or continuous processes. Continuous systems are generally cheaper and easier to operate. Batch systems are often preferred for highly inhibiting substrates (e.g. low-grade molasses) or situations in which feedstocks must be frequently switched (e.g. molasses vs. grain). 

The Vogelbusch standard fermentation process in alcohol 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 concentration increases to a range of 12 - 14 %vol (depending on the raw material). From the last fermenter the alcohol mash is fed to an intermediate tank for distillation.

The heat generated during fermentation is removed via external heat exchangers; exhaust air from the fermenters is led through a scrubber for recuperation of alcohol.

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

Final product
PRODUCT ISOLATION AND CONCENTRATION

The alcoholic mash is preheated and fed to the distillation section where the crude alcohol is stripped from the mash, leaving behind an alcohol-free liquid, the stillage. The crude alcohol vapors are purified and concentrated in several process columns and fed to rectification for further refining and concentration to at least 96% vol.

Vogelbusch column systems are individually tailored to the desired quality specifications and analytical and organoleptic characteristics. Process schemes are optimized for separation of impurities and avoidance of undesired chemical reactions and the temperature range of the columns is selected for superior product quality. 

Recovery rates from fermented mash to final product of 97.5% are typical.

Energy saving features include the Vogelbusch multi-pressure column system and advanced thermal integration techniques, bringing the steam demand for distillation and rectification down to 1950 kg / 1,000 l neutral alcohol.

dehydration process is used to obtain super dry ethanol for pharmaceutical or industrial applications. Standard Vogelbusch technology employs a pressure swing adsorption (PSA) process using molecular sieves.  The final water content can be reduced to  0.01%m.

Adding value to production
CO-PRODUCTS

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. The concentrated molasses stillage (vinasses) can be sold as animal food additive or fertilizer, or incinerated to generate process steam.

Grain stillage contains proteins, minerals, fat and fibers that 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.

1 neutral alcohol distilery
Saving energy and water

Our engineering approach is best-of-breed 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.

More on Thermal integration

APPLICATIONS

Depending on its quality, neutral alcohol is suitable for a variety of applications:

  • Neutral alcohol is the base for flavored alcohol beverages, vinegar, and a wide range of chemical and pharmaceutical products and processes.
  • Extra neutral alcohol - ENA - with highest purity and defined taste profile, it is used in the production of alcoholic beverages such as vodka.
  • Dehydrated neutral alcohol, which is practically water free, has applications in chemicals, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
1 neutral alcohol taste
PRODUCT STANDARDS

We have the technology and experience to design processes for a wide range of applications and product specifications. They are individually tailored to comply with pharmacopoeia or producer specifications and with national and international ethyl alcohol standards such as EN, GOST, JAAS and many others.

Analytic and organoleptic testing is one of the tasks in our laboratory.

CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS

Vogelbusch offers flexible design concepts with highly specialized custom solutions that optimize process economics for:

  • Manufacturing of combined or alternative products
  • Use of multiple feedstocks
  • 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.

Average consumption figures

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

  • Corn

    Consumption for 1,000 l alcohol
    Corn 2,350 kg
    Starch content 65 %
    Steam * 2,300 kg [4,100 kg]
    Power 130 kWh [249 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 100 m³ [175 m³]
    Process water *** 5.0 m³
    Soft water 0.5 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 alcohol
    Cassava chips 2,350 kg
    Starch content 65 %
    Steam 2,350 kg
    Power 150 kWh
    Cooling water * 100 m³
    Process water ** 4.8 m³
    Soft water 0.4 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 alcohol
    Beet molasses 3,240 kg
    Sugar content * 50 %
    Steam 2,250 kg [3,350 kg]
    Power 80 kWh [110 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 100 m³ [170 m³]
    Process water *** 7.0 m³
    Soft water 0.4 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 alcohol
    Cane molasses 3,270 kg
    Sugar content * 50 %
    Steam 2,300 kg [3,450 kg]
    Power 80 kg [110 kg]
    Cooling water ** 120 m³ [180 m³]
    Process water *** 7.7 m³
    Soft water 0.4 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 juice / Sweet sorghum juice

    Consumption for 1,000 l alcohol
    Cane or sweet sorghum juice 10,700 kg
    Sugar content * 15%
    Steam 2,050 kg [3,400 kg]
    Power 80 kWh [110 kWh]
    Cooling water ** 110 m³ [180 m²]
    Process water *** 1.0 m³
    Soft water 0.4 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 neutral acohol showcase projects

4-almagest
Neutral Alcohol Plant in Verinsko
ALMAGEST - Verinsko, Ihtiman, Bulgaria

Almagest opted for Vogelbusch in 2009 to produce top quality extra neutral alcohol with the highest purity and organoleptic demands, to be used in the production of alcoholic beverages. The excellent alcohol quality convinced Almagest to commission Vogelbusch again in 2011 to expand the plant capacity to 80,000 liters per...

4 Reppe0
Neutral Alcohol Distillation in Lidköping
LANTMÄNNEN REPPE - Lidköping, Sweden

Renowned starch manufacturer Lantmännen Reppe is one of the largest Swedish alcohol distillers too. The distillation unit in Lidköping, commissioned in 2010, can produce some 50,000 liters of high quality alcohol that add to the company's beverage alcohol supply. The alcohol production is based on wheat starch. The distillation was set...

4 SCA
Neutral Alcohol Plant in Ahwaz
RAZI YEAST & ALCOHOL COMPANY - Ahwaz, Iran

The plant now operated by Razi (formerly Sugar Cane By-Products Corporation) was designed for a daily capacity of 110,000 litres of high quality pharmaceutical alcohol from cane molasses complying with EU standards. A special challenge was designing the plant for the extreme climatic conditions (0°C to 50°C) and the highest...

4-Harbin2009
Neutral Alcohol Plant in Harbin
HARBIN WINERY - Harbin District, PR China

The fine alcohol plant of Harbin Winery, a Chinese producer of potable alcohol from corn, was upgraded by Vogelbusch in several steps. The client required specifically high alcohol quality in terms of organoleptic and analytical criteria and in particular with regard to methanol separation. The facility was designed to set...

4 leopoldov
Extra Neutral Alcohol D|R in Leopoldov
SLOVENSKE LIEHOVARY À LIKÉRKY - Leopoldov, Slovakia

The plant in Leopoldov produces extra neutral alcohol for the company's well established range of beverage brands. 30,000 liters of high quality alcohol are distilled per day from alcoholic mashes from molasses and grain. Vogelbusch designed the distillation and rectification unit and supplied key equipment for the plant, which was commissioned in...

Process units

Find out more about the processes used in alcohol 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

Argentina: Neutral alcohol plant for Promaiz
14 Dec 2015

Enhancement of bioethanol plant under development.

FAQs 

All information given here is typical and can vary depending on plant configuration. For particular information please send us a message with your project details.

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  • Which minimum capacity is recommended?

    The economic minimum capacity of a potable alcohol plant in Europa is at 60,000 liters per day (= 17,000 tons per year); provided that energy and raw material cost are favourable it may be down to 30,000 liters per day in other regions.

  • How much feedstock is required?

    For 1,000 liter potable alcohol (on average sugar / starch content, all on wet basis) the Vogelbusch process typically 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 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
  • How much space do I need?

    For a 60,000 liter per day facility 5 to 6 hectare are required.

  • An 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 60,000 liter per day facility are in the range of 5 to 20 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 long does it take to set up the plant?

    With permits on hand engineering and construction takes 18 - 24 months.

  • How can I get more information for my neutral alcohol plant?

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