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Membrane technology achieves significant reduction in energy use and carbon emission for ethanol industry

Overview

With support from Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures, Whitefox Technologies’ membrane-based solutions for ethanol production and solvent recovery are making major inroads into the North American biofuels market.

Challenge

 
 Membrane skid at SAIT in Calgary

There is a growing imperative for industry to improve the environmental sustainability of its operations. Beyond government legislation, these kinds of improvements also make good business sense as companies are always seeking new ways to improve their efficiency and effectiveness while also reducing costs.

The ethanol industry is no exception, and these imperatives become more acute with the rapid growth of, and demand for, biofuels globally. This is especially true in North America, Brazil and the E.U., which produced 85 billion litres of ethanol in 2014 (with an approximate market value of $53 billion U.S.). This output is expected to double over the next decade. However, ethanol producers have an urgent need to improve efficiency, both for competitive reasons and in response to increased regulatory requirements.


Solution

Whitefox Technologies Canada Ltd. (“Whitefox”) is a Calgary-based company that provides membrane-based solutions that reduce energy and water consumption in industrial processes.

Whitefox designs highly efficient membrane-based solutions for ethanol production and solvent recovery. The company’s Integrated Cartridge Efficiency (ICE™) system uses membrane based cartridge technology to efficiently remove the water present in ethanol streams. This technology increases the overall plant throughput of a high quality ethanol product while reducing utility costs.

With a small physical footprint, Whitefox’s scalable systems can be adapted to a variety of processes and organic solvent applications such as ethanol, butanol or methanol. ICE™ can be integrated into existing production plants as well as new builds.

The Whitefox solution offers the following benefits:

  • Potential steam and cooling water recirculation savings of up to 10%
  • Potential to increase production output by 10-20%
  • Reduction in carbon intensity per gallon of ethanol produced
  • Product rate and purity easier to maintain during summer by reducing cooling BTUs
  • System flexibility enables production of drier products for exports (e.g. in Canada and Europe)

Outcome

With support from Alberta Innovates - Technology Futures (AITF), via a Product Demonstration Program grant, the company recently made a major breakthrough in the U.S. market with its energy and water-efficient membrane solution for ethanol production. Whitefox demonstrated the commercial potential of its technology at a plant owned by California-based Pacific Ethanol. Pacific Ethanol is the sixth-largest producer of ethanol in the U.S. with eight similar ethanol production plants. Based upon the positive results from this project, Pacific Ethanol agreed to purchase an industrial-scale system for one of its plants. An agreement to install a similar Whitefox solution for Iowa-based Pine Lake Corn Processors was also recently signed.

The deals open potential markets for energy and water-efficient ethanol production and similar applications with a market value running into billions of dollars.

Looking forward, Whitefox currently has a number of similar projects in late-stage development.


For more information, contact:

Darren Bolding
Senior Business Partner
Investment Services
Alberta Innovates – Technology Futures
780.450.5507
Darren.Bolding@albertainnovates.ca

Trond Heggenhougen
Whitefox Technologies Limited
Office: +44 (0) 207 953 8408
Mobile: +44 (0) 7946 578 888
theggenhougen@whitefox.com
www.whitefox.com