VSEP NF system used at Brazilian ethanol plant

A full-scale vibratory shear enhanced process (VSEP) membrane separation system has been commissioned successfully by New Logic Research at a Brazilian ethanol plant.

The company announced on 8 November 2011 that the nanofiltration (NF) system was installed to concentrate an ethanol byproduct called vinasse (vinaza).

New Logic Research says that, while vinasse has traditionally been applied directly to the fields as a fertilizer, recent evidence suggests this practice is reducing sugar crop yields and shortening the useful life of the land. Adding to the challenge is a two-year drought that has further strained the Brazilian sugar crop.

If vinasse is not being land-applied, the problems of storage and treatment are rapidly compounded. Traditional treatment methods, however, have fallen far short of their goals.

Pipelines are costly to build and maintain, and the vinasse must be treated once it reaches its destination. Evaporators are effective, but their high capital and operating costs greatly upset ethanol’s delicate energy balance, rendering the fuel energy-neutral at best. Biological treatment systems have also been employed for vinasse treatment, but these large footprint systems present a host of operational challenges and only a partial solution to the problem.

By contrast, VSEP’s patented resonating design is inherently energy-efficient, achieves a perfect separation with no pretreatment, and does so in a compact footprint.

The i84 VSEP NF system currently recovers 70% of the raw vinasse as clean water for irrigation, leaving a concentrated vinasse that is just 30% of its starting volume. This high nutrient value vinasse stream is currently sent to storage ponds while the ethanol producer weighs a multitude of options for beneficial reuse.

“With a vinasse:ethanol ratio of 16:1, the need for innovative treatment methods is clear,” said New Logic CEO Greg Johnson. “The success of this full-scale system validates the data collected at both the lab and pilot phases of the technology evaluation, and promises a very bright future for VSEP in Brazil”.