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Ethanol Scale Up Considerations

Ethanol Scale Up Considerations

Scale up of ethanol production requires careful planning for handling large amounts of flammable liquids.

So, you are looking for a manufacturing facility that will enable you to extract thousands of acres of hemp or other plant material?  What easier way than with ethanol?   You get some food grade ethanol, mix it up, wait a while, drain and then remove the ethanol and shazam!  You can do tons of hemp every day.  Right?

The answer is absolutely.   But you will need to consider a couple important things when scaling up ethanol.  The following is a very short list of some of the items that need to be addressed in your planning:

  1.  You will need lots of ethanol and a way to store that ethanol and then a way to get the ethanol out of the extract.   This necessarily involves heating the ethanol up beyond its boiling and flash point.
  2.  You will need to store that ethanol in compliance with  NFPA requirements for storage. You need will require permits, planning, engineers and compliancy people.     You can find the NFPA requirements HERE.
  3. Ethanol is flammable as a liquid and a gas.
  4.  You will need to consider the high power consumption associated with cooling large amounts of ethanol to very low temperatures.
  5.  You will need to consider the large footprint and space requirements to accommodate a facility.
  6. According to Hybrid Technologies, a two ton per day facility will require about 30,000 ft sq with buildout costs ranging from $350-500/sf for c1d1 and hazard class designation.
  7. You will need to comply with OSHA and your local and state fire marshals and building inspectors.
  8.  Your business plan should have included the high cost of food grade ethanol WITH excise tax included.   Manufacturers are responsible for paying this tax even if they source ethanol that has a special easily removed denaturent.
  9.  Facilities and infrastructure should be designed in compliance with NFPA special case for flammable liquids and gasses processing.
  10.  You should consider that ethanol is non selective and does a great job at extracting every and all pesticides from plant materials.
  11.   You should consider the quality of the extract and the time required to achieve your desired quality.
  12.  You should consider the impact of low recovery as a function of throughput.
  13.  You should consider that your facilities are going to require specialized sprinkler systems utilizing foam.
  14.  Your plan should accommodate corrosion and API 653 inspections.

Flammable Alcohol Liquid in a Plastic Container

Keeping in mind that flammable liquid leakages, like ethanol, are catastrophic. Fires and explosions from flammable chemical leaks have the potential to seriously injure those people near the occurrence, as well as destroy the tank, the building it is in or near, and any other object nearby.

Fundamentally, you need to ask yourself if you are ready to build the equivalent of a ethanol refinery.  If you are, then ethanol is for you!

If you want to skip most all of this pain, you might consider deploying high throughput CO2 systems.   Compared to ethanol, CO2 sytems are

  • relatively low in cost, – cost to buildout is like, nothing.
  • small in footprint – 1000-2000 ft sq for 2 tons per day
  • consume only a tiny amount of power – 500-700 amps
  • do not require special infrastructure
  • deliver superior quality oils with less pesticides
  • 99% + efficient
  • generally less expensive per gram  produced compared to ethanol
  • can be scaled in a very small space to process thousands of acres of hemp