Project Synopsis

Provide process design and engineering services for a pilot-scale sugar cane to ethanol production facility by designing an ethanol purification system, developing upgrades for an existing lime slurry neutralization system, and generating a plant-wide mass balance and accompanying PFDs.

Project Summary


Process Engineering Associates, LLC (PROCESS) was subcontracted by the client, a detail engineering firm, to provide process design and engineering services to the ultimate client who owns and operates a pilot-scale sugar cane to ethanol production facility.  Specifically, PROCESS was subcontracted to complete the following project tasks: design an ethanol purification system; develop and specify upgrades for an existing lime slurry neutralization system; and generate a plant-wide mass balance and accompanying PFDs.

Task 1 included the following:

  • Ethanol purification distillation system design basis development
  • Computer process simulation
  • PFD and P&ID preparation
  • Detailed specification of distillation equipment

For this task, PROCESS developed an ethanol purification system design basis considering both throughput requirements and variability inherent in the pilot plant crude product (column feed).  Based on the anticipated feed composition, computer simulations were performed to determine limiting design cases after the system’s thermal and hydraulic requirements were determined.  PROCESS then designed and specified a disc-and-donut beer stripping column and packed rectification tower, developed a system PFD and system P&ID, and prepared specifications for auxiliary equipment (pumps, overhead condenser, and instrumentation) required to improve system throughput and product quality.

Task 2 included the following:

  • Neutralization system design basis development
  • Process improvements development and proposal
  • Process improvements specifications preparation

For this task,PROCESS evaluated the operation of the existing neutralization system.  Information for existing equipment was assembled and an assessment was made with regard to reported operational issues.  During this evaluation, it was discovered that inadequate existing tank volumes and poor feedback controls hampered the operability of the system.  As a result of the evaluation, a new system specification was developed including improved controls and re-deployment of existing out-of-service tanks and pumps for this application.

Task 3 subtasks included the following:

  • Evaluation of the current process and existing operation data consolidation
  • Computer process simulation for the entire plant
  • Entire plant PFDs preparation

For this task, sample data and batch records from pilot plant runs were assembled and a computer process simulation was created to define the overall mass balance for the entire pilot plant.  PFDs for the plant were prepared based on the results of the simulation.

Industry Type

  • Alternative Fuels

Utilized Skills

  • Process optimization and improvement identification
  • Process modeling/simulation
  • Basic engineering design
  • Front end engineering design (FEED)

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