Reduction of Energy & Water Use in Ethanol Industry


1: Membrane Solvent Extraction (MSE) Technology

  • MSE augments distillation and decreases the energy and water usage needed in ethanol production
  • The process uses a porous membrane to separate ethanol from the fermentation broth by using an extraction solvent
  • Through this separation of the water from the pure ethanol at low temperatures the MSE technology reduces the heating and cooling loads and is able to operate using waste energy which is available within the plant
  • In addition to reduced water and energy use another benefit of the technology is accelerating the fermentation and increasing throughput without the need for additional tankage
  • MSE technology is best applied to second generation ethanol production

2: Problem MSE Technology is Solving

  • Ethanol production is an extremely energy intensive process as well as requiring massive amounts of water in the cooling process
  • Ethanol is the leading bio-fuel in the US (13 billion gallons produced in 2010)
  • Four gallons of water are needed for every one gallon of ethanol produced

3: MSE Technology Stakeholders

  • Manufacturers of ethanol
    • corn or next generation (cellulosic)
    • wet-mill and dry-mill fermentation
  • 3M Company & engineering team; developed the MSE technology
  • Local communities who would benefit from reduced water and energy usage in the factory

4: Implementing MSE Technology

  • Lab-scale success has been demonstrated through the use of MSE
  • Development and verification on a pilot scale is in process
  • Proving and developing commercial validation is needed next
  • Analyze and model savings of energy & water through the MSE use in various plant systems once commercial validation is complete
  • Successful roll-out to multiple plants will help to gain public support and interest from potential customers


One thought on “Reduction of Energy & Water Use in Ethanol Industry

  1. This seems like a great new technology and one that would be widely accepted in the industry if it works as well on a commercial scale as it does in the lab. I wonder how much it will cost to implement the Membrane Solvent Extraction technology as that will likely be a major consideration for companies that would be implementing it. I came across this article that talks about testing the technology on the commercial level and also doing an economic analysis on the results. It will be very interesting to see the results when/if they are published. Thanks for the very interesting post!


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