Energy-Efficient Production of Cassava-Based Bio-Ethanol


Fuel ethanol is an important renewable and sustainable fuel, produced in China by fermentation of mostly corn, wheat and cassava feedstock. Fermentation produces an ethanol-lean broth (10 to 12 vol%). Ethanol is recovered by distillation, followed by a molecular sieve drying beyond the azeo-tropic point. The distillation and molecular sieve operations consume most of the total energy used, with the steam consumption currently being ~1.8 kg/kg ethanol, including 0.5 kg/kg ethanol in the final molecular sieve stage during regeneration. The objectives of the paper are fourfold: 1) firstly to study the distillation process of a large-scale cassava-based fuel ethanol production (200,000 tons per year), by field measurements and by using an Aspen Plus V8.2 simulation, with and without energy integration of condensers and reboilers, resulting in a distillation steam consumption of ~1.3 kg/kg ethanol; 2) secondly, to examine the effects of using Very High Gravity (VHG) fer-mentation of cassava meal mash. By using VHG fermentation, the ethanol concentration in the fermenter broth is significantly increased, to about 19 vol% (15.4 wt%). The steam consumption is then reduced to ~0.94 kg/kg, representing a considerable saving in comparison with the current operation. Applying VHG fermentation needs minor additional investment, rapidly recovered through the energy savings and the smaller size of equipment; 3) thirdly, to assess the application of a hybrid operation, where pervaporation will be used to selectively and continuously remove ethanol from the fermenter broth, thus slightly increasing the fermentation yield by reducing the risk of ethanol inhibition, whilst producing an ehtanol-rich permeate (about 30 wt%); and finally 4) to demonstrate that the production cost of cassava-based ethanol can substantially be reduced by applying the proposed improvements.

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Kang, Q. , Appels, L. , Baeyens, J. , Dewil, R. and Tan, T. (2014) Energy-Efficient Production of Cassava-Based Bio-Ethanol. Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, 5, 925-939. doi: 10.4236/abb.2014.512107.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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