The production of dry-grind corn ethanol results in the generation of intermediate products, thin and whole stillage, which require energy-intensive downstream processing for conversion into commercial co-products. Alternative treatment methods, specifically hydrothermal carbonization of thin and whole stillage coupled with anaerobic digestion were investigated to determine if they provide an opportunity to recover some of this value. By substantially eliminating evaporation of water, reductions in downstream energy consumption from 65-73% were achieved, while hydrochar, fatty acids, treated process water, and biogas co-products were generated, providing new opportunities for the industry. Processing whole stillage in this manner produced the four co-products, eliminated centrifugation and evaporation, and substantially reduced drying. With thin stillage, all co-products were again produced, as well as a high quality animal feed. Anaerobic digestion of the undiluted aqueous product stream from thin stillage hydrothermal carbonization reduced chemical oxygen demand (COD) in this product stream by more than 90% and converted 83% the initial COD to methane. Internal use of this biogas could entirely fuel the HTC process and reduce natural gas overall usage.
University of Minnesota M.S. thesis. December 2012. Major: Microbial Engineering. Advisor: Kenneth J. Valentas. 1 computer file (PDF); vii, 69 pages, appendices p. 50-69.
Wood, Brandon M..
Industrial symbiosis: corn ethanol fermentation, hydrothermal carbonization, and anaerobic digestion.
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