Fuel Grade Ethanol
The implementation of renewable fuel standards and an abundant domestic corn supply lead U.S. policy makers to push ethanol as the green fuel of the future. Today, the fuel grade ethanol industry pumps out more than 13 billion gallons of ethanol per year. To meet the specifications required for gasoline blending, fuel grade ethanol must be less than 1 vol.% water. This is where the energy balance for fuel grade ethanol becomes unraveled.
The Energy Imbalance
Ethanol is produced from fermentation. Fermentation operations for fuel grade ethanol production yield a beer product which contains about 18 vol.% ethanol and 82 vol.% water. Before this beer product can be blended with gasoline the water must be removed. To do this, the beer product is boiled in large distillation columns enabling the ethanol and water to be separated. Boiling billions of gallons of beer each year consumes a substantial amount of energy, typically supplied by natural gas fired burners. This aspect of the ethanol industry is one of the primary arguments against the use of ethanol as a fuel. This is where KSE comes in.
Solving the Ethanol Energy Balance
KSE Inc. has developed a novel reactive distillation process to dehydrate ethanol through the use of a reversible chemical cycle. The process works by reacting water with a novel dehydrating agent to produce a volatile liquid product. The volatile liquid is easily separated from the ethanol. Dry ethanol is removed and the volatile product is recycled through a reversible chemical reaction to produce more of the dehydrating agent. This simple yet elegant use of chemistry could potentially save the U.S. ethanol industry hundreds of millions of dollars and solve the ethanol energy balance. KSE Inc. is currently commercializing this technology. For more detailed information about the technology please contact us.