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Congresso Tcnico Cientfico da Engenharia e da Agronomia

CONTECC 2015
Centro de Eventos do Cear - Fortaleza - CE
15 a 18 de setembro de 2015

VINASSE POTENTIAL AS A MEANS OF ENERGETIC RECOVERY IN THE


BIOETHANOL PRODUCTION PROCESS
ANA CARLA ALMEIDA GONCALVES1*, HEITOR CASSEMIRO2, SANDRA JNIA MONTEIRO SILVA3,
JOS IZAQUIEL SANTOS DA SILVA4
1

Student, UFVJM, Diamantina-MG. Fone: (38) 9144-9827, carlabct@yahoo.com.br


Student, UFVJM, Diamantina-MG. Fone: (38) 9215-5442, heitorcassemiro@gmail.com
3
Student, UFVJM, Diamantina-MG. Fone: (38) 8808-7236, sajumonteiro@yahoo.com.br
4
MSc. Chemical Engineering Professor, UFVJM, Diamantina-MG. Fone: (21)97993-9473,
izaquiel@ict.ufvjm.edu.br
2

Apresentado no
Congresso Tcnico Cientfico da Engenharia e da Agronomia CONTECC 2015
15 a 18 de setembro de 2015 - Fortaleza-CE, Brasil
ABSTRACT: Demand for more sustainable, economical and efficient biofuels capable to compete in
the market with fossil fuels is a major challenge to the energy industry. In this setting, it is relevant to
discuss bioethanol production, as Brazil is the worlds largest producer. After the distillation of the
fermented mash, each liter of bioethanol produced generates over ten liters of vinasse, leading to a
great amount of residue to be handled. With an outlet temperature above 100C, vinasse must be
cooled before being discharged or reused. Thus, there is a great energy being lost, which could be used
in the industry for reducing the process costs. Residential energy in Brazil comes mostly from
hydropower. However, low levels in the reservatories of the hydroelectric power plants due to
insufficient rainfall have decreased energy production capacity and consequently increased electricity
fares. This study aimed to investigate the recovery of the thermal energy contained in vinasse in order
to optimize a bioethanol production plant. A model of the bioethanol distillation process was
suggested, implementing a heat exchange system to recycle vinasses heat in the process feed. The
simulations were performed with EXCEL 2010 and the results shown that the implemented system
contributed to minimize energy consumption and, consequently, make the process more profitable.
KEYWORDS: Energy, Vinasse, Optimization.
INTRODUCTION
Efforts for optimizing ethanol production process goes beyond the discussion of petroleum
shortage. Ethanol usage has redefined Brazils energy matrix and it is also a commodity of major
importance worldwide. According to Linardi (2010), the Brazilian ethanol, produced from sugarcane,
is the most productive biofuel in the world, with 6,000 liters/ha-year at a cost of US$0.22 per liter
(anhydrous). He adds that this productivity can increase up to 14,000 liters/ha-year through the
development of new technologies.
The last national energy balance (EPE, 2014) pointed out ethanol production and consumption
growth, which represented 4.7% of the energy demand in Brazil. In the transportation sector, the
ethanol share was 14.3%, after Diesel Oil (46.4%) and gasoline (29.4%). The increase of about 20% in
ethanol demand is a result of the government's determination to increase the blend of anhydrous
ethanol in gasoline.
The energy efficiency of the ethanol production depends greatly on the destination of its byproducts (Farrell et al., 2006). A major advantage of the ethanol produced from sugarcane is that
vinasse has a positive effect on this balance. On spending efforts to treat this effluent, vinasse may be
applied alternatively in the next cycles as fertilizer or on an energy recycling process (Christofoletti,
2013).
Fertigation with vinasse is widely practiced in sugarcane plantations in Brazil. Vinasse is rich
in nutrients and has a high organic matter content, which explains its intense use in fertigation of areas

cultivated with sugarcane (Szymanski, et al., 2010). However its use has to be well planned as it can
lead to salinization of soils and contamination of groundwater (Silva, et al., 2007).
One unexplored alternative is recovering the heat contained in vinasse in a continuous process
as it exits the distillation column. Given its outlet temperature in this process, vinasse could be
employed to preheat the fermentation mash before being distilled, enhancing the process efficiency
and reducing its costs.
Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the viability of recycling vinasses thermal energy by
implementing a heat recovery system to the ethanol production plant in order to energetically optimize
the distillation process.
METHODOLOGY
A process flow diagram of the heat recovery system suggested in this study is provided in
Figure 1.
Figure 1. Process flow diagram of the vinasse heat recovery system.

Source: Author
Heat exchanger sizing
The required vinasse properties, shown in Table 1, were determined at a temperature of 100C
and 9% dry solid content, according to Larsson & Tengberg (2014). Appropriate assumptions were
made in order to predict the fermented mash properties. The first one refers to the inlet and outlet
temperatures of this line in the heat exchanger. The fermented mash inlet temperature was considered
to be 28C, its outlet temperature on the yeast removal process, after the fermentation of the sugarcane
juice. The outlet temperature of 80C was chosen based on the feed approximate temperature in the
distillation column.
The second assumption was to consider the fermented mash composition to be 90% water and
10% ethanol without water-alcohol interactions. Therefore, the fermented mash properties were
obtained through a weighted average of water and ethanol values at 50C. The results are presented in
Table 1.
Table 1. Vinasse and fermented mash properties
Property
Cp (J/kg.K)
(Kg/m3)
K (W/m.K)
(g/cm.s)

Vinasse
1270
1112
0.640
0.005

Fermented
985.2
4032
0.265
0.006

Vinasse flow rate of 30,000 L/h was set according to a small to medium sized ethanol plant in
Brazil. To determine the fermented mash flow rate, vinasse heat was calculated and equalized to the
fermented mash heat, giving a result of 14,356 L/h.
The heat exchanger sizing was performed through the Logarithmic Mean Temperature

calculation. Simulations on Excel 2010 demonstrated that large area would be required for thermal
exchange. Therefore, a shell and tube heat exchanger model was selected, with one pass in the shell
and 4 passes in the tubes. The material used for both was Schedule 40 steel, with nominal pipe size
(NPS) of 3/4" and shell diameter of 40". 150 tubes with 1.2" distant from each other will compose the
system, along with chicanes with 5" distance. These data are summarized in Table 2.
Table 2. Heat exchanger specifications
Specification
Inside pipe diameter (in)
Outside pipe diameter (in)
Shell diameter (in)
Thickness (in)
Thermal conductivity (W/m.K)
N tubes
Distance between tubes (in)
Distance between chicanes (in)

Measure
0.82
1.05
40.0
0.11
45.0
150
1.20
5.00

Pump sizing
A pump sizing calculation - Total Dynamic Head (TDH) and power required - was performed
in order to select two pumps: one to pump vinasse from the bottom of the distillation column to the
heat exchanger (Pump 1) and a second one to pump the fermented mash from the tank, passing
through the heat exchanger, to the distillation column feed (Pump 2). The system parameters for both
pumps are shown in Table 3.
Table 3. System parameters
Suction elevation (m)
Discharge elevation (m)
Flow rate (m3/h)
Pump efficiency (%)
Pipe Length (m)
NPS (in)
Friction factor

Pump 1
0
0
30
65
492
2.5
0.015

Pump 2
-1
10
14.4
60
506
2.5
0.015

Economic Analysis
The economic viability of this heat recovery system was based on a Gross Profit analysis:
Gross Profit = total revenue total costs of goods. The annual Total revenue was obtained according
to the current average cost of electricity for industries in Brazil, R$534.00/MWh, and the total heat
recovered from vinasse. The total costs of goods were determined by calculating fixed and variable
costs. Fixed costs included equipment cost (pumps, heat exchanger and piping) and their installation.
Variable costs were based on electricity and equipment maintenance.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
The system requirements and fluids properties described in the section 3.1 resulted in a shell
and tube heat exchanger with 41m2 of area distributed in 150 tubes of 3.26m each. The pumps sizing
results are presented in Table 4.
Table 4. Pump sizing results
Pump
1
2

TDH (m)
60.77
29.17

Pump power (CV)


11.56
2.43

The main economic analysis results are presented in Table 5 and 6.


Table 5. Total revenue from vinasse heat recovery
Energy saved (MWh)

0,820

Electricity cost/MWh

R$ 534.00

Total saved per month

R$ 316,737

Total saved per year

R$ 3,800,846

Table 6. Fixed and variable costs (yearly basis)


FIXED COSTS
QTY
Item
1
Heat Exchanger
2
Centrifugal Pumps
22m
Piping
Equipment Installation
Total
VARIABLE COSTS
Electricity
Maintenance
Total

Value
R$25,000
R$ 30,000
R$ 4,000
R$ 8,850
R$ 67,850
R$ 53,328
R$18,000
R$ 71,328

The total fixed costs brought to a yearly basis, considering 15% interests in a period of five
years, results an amount of R$ 20,240. Therefore, the total costs of goods will be R$91,569 and,
ultimately, the gross profit will be R$3,709,277 (plus interests). This profit may be increased
considering the fact that the equipment lifespan is usually greater than five years.
CONCLUSIONS
The results presented in the previous section point out that the implementation of a heat
recovery system for vinasse in an ethanol production plant is a worthwhile investment. In addition,
vinasse can still be used in fertigation succeeding its heat recovery process. However, the problem
regarding its potential damage to the soil was not approached in this study, requiring further
investigation.
REFERENCES
Christofoletti, C. A; Escher, J. P.; Correia, J. E.; Marinho, J. F. U.; Fontanetti, C. S. Sugarcane
vinasse: Environmental implications of its use. Waste management, v. 33, n. 12, p. 2752-2761,
2013.
EPE. Empresa De Pesquisa Energtica. 2014. Balano Energtico Nacional 2014: Ano base 2013.
Disponvel em: https://ben.epe.gov.br/downloads/Relatorio_Final_BEN_2014.pdf. Acesso em: 05
de abril de 2015.
Farrell, A. E. Plevin, R. J.; Turner, B. T.; Jones, A. D.; O'hare, M.; Kammen, D. M. Ethanol can
contribute to energy and environmental goals. Science, v. 311, n. 5760, p. 506-508, 2006.
Larsson, E.; Tengberg, T. Evaporation of Vinasse. Gteborg, Sweden: Chalmers University of
Technology, 2014. Dissertao (Innovative and Sustainable Chemical Engineering).
Linardi, M. Introduo cincia e tecnologia de clulas a combustvel. Art Lieber Editora, So Paulo,
SP. 2010.
Silva, M. A. S. da; Griebeler, N.P.; Borges, L.C. Uso de vinhaa e impactos nas propriedades do solo e
lenol fretico. Revista Brasileira de Engenharia Agrcola e Ambiental, v. 11, n. 1, p. 108-114,
2007.
Szymanski, M. S. E.; Balbinot, R.; Schirmer, W. N. Biodigesto anaerbia da vinhaa: aproveitamento
energtico do biogs e obteno de crditos de carbonoestudo de caso. Semina: Cincias
Agrrias, v. 31, n. 4, p. 901-912, 2010.