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Problem statement

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, carbinol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha or
wood spirits, is a chemical with formula CH3OH (often abbreviated MeOH). It is t
oxic: drinking 10 ml will cause blindness, and as little as 100 ml will cause de
ath. It is the simplest alcohol, and is a light, volatile, colourless, flammable
, liquid with a distinctive odor that is very similar to but slightly sweeter th
an ethanol (drinking alcohol).[2] At room temperature it is a polar liquid and i
s used as an antifreeze, solvent, fuel, and as a denaturant for ethanol. It is a
lso used for producing biodiesel via transesterification reaction. Methanol is b
eing imported for use in many industries.
Purpose of study
• To design a column to extract methanol
• To recover methanol from potable alcohol
• To produce pure alcohol (food Grade)
General objectives
• To produce potable alcohol and to extract methanol
Scope of Study
Extraction of methanol from crude ethanol to produce potable ethanol
Statement of Hypothesis
• It is possible to extract methanol from crude ethanol
• It is possible to produce potable ethanol which is methanol free
Research questions
1. how do you test for alcohol concentration
2. how do you quantify impurities in alcohol
3. how do you test for volatile impurities
4. how do you recover Methanol from potable Ethanol
The extraction of Methanol from crude alcohol will eliminate the importation of
methanol; this will save foreign currency and add value to the potable alcohol w
hich will be food grade free from methanol and suitable for human consumption. C
osts will be reduced since methanol will be locally available.
• expensive to come up with a pilot plant before it can be implemented on
a full-scale
• company cannot provide resources because of budgetary constraints
Rectification: enrichment of vapour by contact with liquid reflux
Stripping: removal of more volatile component from liquid by contact with reboil
ed bottom or direct steam injection.

Background Information
National Chemical Products Distillers Zimbabwe (NCP DZ) is part of the Astra Ind
ustries Group. It is situated in Masvingo province in the lowveld region where i
ts source of raw material is abundant. NCP DZ does distillation process of purif
ying crude ethanol produced by fermentation to potable alcohol (food grade Ethan
ol) which is 96.5%. Methanol is also produced during fermentation hence need to
be removed. The process uses three distillation towers: (1) a washer (extractive
) distillation tower, (2) a rectifying tower, and (3) recovery tower. The crude
alcohol mixture is fed to the first or washer distillation tower which is operat
ed at a high degree of dilution with water as the extraction medium so that subs
tantially all of the impurities are removed in an overhead alcohol-containing st
ream, and a dilute aqueous stream containing from about 18 wt.% to about 25 wt.
% alcohol and minor or trace amounts of impurities is withdrawn from the bottom
of the tower. The bottoms stream from the first tower is fed to the second or re
ctifying tower which is operated to strip the desired alcohol product from the w
ater. A purge stream containing low boiling impurities is removed overhead from
the rectifying tower, and one or more purge streams containing higher boiling im
purities are removed from an intermediate portion of the rectifying tower at a r
ate such as to permit removal of the desired alcohol product in highly concentra
ted and purified form from an upper portion of the rectifying tower. The strippe
d aqueous effluent is withdrawn from the bottom of the rectifying tower and is r
ecycled in part to the washer distillation tower. The overhead from the washer d
istillation tower and the several purge streams from the rectifying tower are fe
d to the third or recovery column tower which is operated so as to remove from a
n upper portion of the tower an alcohol stream which is recycled and combined wi
th the crude feed to the washer distillation tower. Low boiling impurities are r
ecovered as an overhead product and high boiling impurities are recovered from a
lower portion of the impurities concentrating tower. Stripped water is also wit
hdrawn from the bottom of the impurities concentrating tower for discard or recy
cle to the washer distillation tower. Methanol is currently being imported and a
lot of foreign currency is being lost. Methanol is a feedstock in the productio
n of biodiesel from Jatropha hence if I manage to extract Methanol a lot of fore
ign currency will be saved
Given the scarcity of foreign currency in Zimbabwe which is needed to import thi
s methanol for affordable production of many products, this project of which whe
n it is a success will earn the company and country the much needed foreign curr
ency and provide the country with a technological breakthrough to utilize and ad
d value on the abundant resources which will bring an end to the economic woes t
hat the country is currently facing. It is against such a background that I have
thought it worthwhile to use the distillation method to recover methanol from c
rude alcohol

• To extract methanol from crude ethanol
• To quantify methanol extracted
• To design a column to purify potable alcohol
• To purify potable alcohol (ethanol) so that it is desirable when used fo
r human consumption of pharmaceutical purposes
Ethanol is presently produced in substantial quantities by fermenting molasses i
n the presence of suitable yeast such as Saccharomyces cerevisiae. These yeasts
are able to effect a conversion of hexose sugars in the molasses to ethanol. How
ever, the yeasts are not capable of effecting conversion of the starch fraction
and higher sugars in molasses to ethanol. The starch fraction and higher sugars
which have a potential to be converted to ethanol are thus not utilised and repo
rt as waste products. The Schwanniomyces Castellii yeast is known to be capable
of producing the enzymes α- myl se nd gluc myl se in st rch-b sed medium such
s whe t-st rch or soluble st rch. In this process the S. c stellii mut nt prod
uces the enzymes α- myl se nd gluc myl se which converts st rch nd higher sug
rs in the unferment ble component of the mol sses substr te to hexose sug r th
ereby m king it v il ble for conversion to eth nol by S cch romyces cerevisi e.
Higher yields of eth nol re thus produced from given qu ntity of mol sses th
n is possible in prior rt processes. Higher sug rs nd st rch in the medium wi
ll be converted to hexose sug rs by the myl se which is produced by the cclim
tized S. c stellii. The ferment tion temper ture will gener lly be controlled to
bout 32° C.
The eth nol comes from the fermentors to the distill tion process where purific
tion t kes pl ce. The process st rts with the w sher column where crude eth nol
nd w ter re fed into the w sher column sep r tely. The w sher column cont ins
tr ys less th n 40 nd it is oper ted t temper ture profiles of: bottom temp° C
87-89° C nd top temp° C 93-95° C nd t pressure round 20KpH. The w ter is
fed to the column t point bove the crude eth nol feed point. The mol r r tio
of w ter feed to eth nol in the crude eth nol feed being tle st 7:1 diluting t
he concentr tion of crude eth nol to 18 wt.% to bout 25 wt. % lcohol. The mou
nt of dilute w ter introduced through the to the top of the column nd the he t
input t the b se of the column must be sufficient so th t subst nti lly ll of
the impurities, both lower boiling nd higher boiling, re removed overhe d from
the column. As is well understood in the rt, the presence of the w ter in the
system lters the norm l vol tilities of the v rious components so th t the impu
rities h ving boiling points bove th t of eth nol re distilled overhe d togeth
er with the lower boiling impurities. In order to chieve the desired overhe d r
emov l of the bulk of the impurities in the feed stre m, the rel tive qu ntities
of feed nd dilution w ter nd the he t input t the b se of the column re reg
ul ted so th t the bottoms stre m withdr wn comprises dilute queous lcohol s
tre m h ving only minor or tr ce mounts of impurities nd n lcohol content wi
thin the r nge of from bout 18 wt.% to bout 25 wt. % lcohol which is comp tib
le with recovery of the fin l eth nol product t the required specific tion leve
l in subsequent st ge of the process. Ste m is lso fed into the column from t
he bottom through he t exch nger or reboiler, but it will be understood th t t
he he t requirements of the w sher column m y lso be supplied by direct introdu
ction of ste m t the b se of the column. The two products crude eth nol nd w t
er c sc des down the column together nd re in direct cont ct with the ste m mo
ving up the column, withdr wing n overhe d v pour fr ction cont ining subst n
ti l portion of vol tile impurities nd returning p rt of the overhe d v pour fr
ction fter condens tion to the column s liquor reflux m int ining reflux r
tio of less th n 90:1 expressed on the tot l mount of fluid removed from the co
lumn bove the w ter feed point. The mixture collects t the bottom of the colum
n nd cont ins m ximum of 25wt. % c lcohol. It is vit l th t the concentr tio
n t the b se of the w sher column is18 wt.% to bout 25 wt. % lcohol. Mixture
is then pumped into the rectifier column