Formulation and Development of an Integrated Pervaporation Module: Application to the Process Synthesis and Optimization of Bio-Ethanol Production from Sugar-Cane

Colombo, M., Universidad Nacional de Tucuman
Gatica, J. E., Cleveland State University
Mele, F. D., Universidad Nacional de Tucuman
Hernández, M. R., Universidad Nacional de Tucuman
Today’s process synthesis has been greatly facilitated by the versatility of modern day process simulators. Indeed, these tools are currently integrated in the R&D of most industries. One of the advantages is the ability to provide rapid assessment of new technologies by integrating process development with its economic evaluation and energetic integration.

Unfortunately, in order to take advantage of rapid processing platforms and rigorous thermodynamics databases available with modern process simulators, rigorous models for critical units are needed. A common area of lacking in most commercial simulators are chemical reactors, reactive distillations, and separation processes not based on equilibrium.

 One such an example is the rising popularity of the industry of bio-renewables and other sustainable technologies. A rapidly growing regional market is the bio-ethanol production, due to the possible uses of the anhydrous product in energy generation. This production however, is weighed down by the energetic demands and the environmental effects of the distillation-dehydration steps needed to to reach fuel-grade specifications.

This work focus its attention on the process synthesis of the dehydration step, a separation stage where most conventional separation processes are hindered by the presence of an azeotrope in the ethanol-water mixture generated in the distillation train. The alternatives examined here are based on the formulation and use of a pervaporation module to complement the production of fuel-grade bio-ethanol in distillery installations integrated with sugar mills.