Renewable energy is one of the crucial elements for sustainable development. Ethanol makes up about 94% of the biofuels produced in the U.S. The rapidly growing market and the pursuit of net positive energy ethanol production systems puts pressure on the development of optimal production processes. Dehydrating ethanol to fuel grade specifications is a highly energy intensive step. Membrane technology, particularly vapor permeation is designed to improve energy and water efficiency in the dehydration of fuel-grade ethanol.
Pilot-scale testing facilities were designed and built to test Whitefox Technologies industrial scale membrane cartridges. Along with operational data collected from larger Whitefox plants, a numerical model was experimentally validated. When incorporating leakage, a phenomena that occurs when feed and retentate by-pass the hollow fibers, the retentate stream concentration and flow were predicted within 1% and ±3% error, respectively. The permeate concentration was predicted to within ±7.6% and the flow rate ±8.1%.