Advanced downstream processing of bioethanol from syngas fermentation

Tamara Janković, Adrie J.J. Straathof, Anton A. Kiss*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Syngas fermentation is used industrially to produce diluted bioethanol (about 1–6 wt%). This research study proposes a novel downstream process that recovers bioethanol in an energy-efficient and cost-effective manner, improves fermentation yield by recycling all fermentation broth components (microbes, acetate and water), and is designed for full-scale industrial-level application. Therefore, vacuum distillation at fermentation temperature was conceptually studied as an initial ethanol recovery step, leading to a bottom stream that may be recycled. Advanced separation and purification techniques were designed to recover 99.5% of initially present ethanol as high-purity product (99.8 wt%). Mechanical vapor recompression and heat integration methods were used to maximize sustainability and eco-efficiency of the proposed recovery process. Implementation of these techniques on a process using 6 wt% ethanol feed stream decreased the total annual costs by 54.2% (from 0.175 to 0.080 $/kgEtOH), reduced the primary energy requirement by 66.1% (from 2.82 to 0.96 kWthh/kgEtOH), lowered the CO2 emission by up to 82.6% (from 0.414 to 0.072 kgCO2/kgEtOH), and reduced the fresh water usage by 62.6% (from 0.242 to 0.091 m3W/kgEtOH). Sensitivity analysis for ethanol concentrations ranging from 6 to 1 wt% showed that the recovery costs and energy use increased to 0.336 $/kgEtOH and 1.78 kWthh/kgEtOH respectively. Since ethanol recovery performs better but fermentation will perform worse at higher ethanol concentration in fermentation broth, there is a trade-off concentration for the overall process. The current analysis is an important step toward determining this trade-off.

Original languageEnglish
Article number124320
Number of pages13
JournalSeparation and Purification Technology
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Bioethanol
  • Downstream processing
  • Fluid separation
  • Heat pumps
  • Syngas fermentation


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