A timely development for the ethanol industry

The middle of a pandemic would not be the ideal time for most people to join a new business, especially one working with ethanol producers in the midst of an energy and climate crisis. Yet it is often in these difficult times that the most exciting and ingenious solutions are devised.
My arrival at Whitefox as Head of Global Sales in June 2021 was the final step in a career evolution that had started in the specialty chemicals sector and then evolved into the capital goods sector for a manufacturer fuel pumps, and finally a stint in the filtration industry. .
I had found in Whitefox a company steeped in innovation and enjoying its own evolution, with a solution to separate mixtures in a way that reduced water and energy consumption, thus increasing profitability and minimizing emissions of carbon.
It was a solution for the time, but with the fall in oil prices, almost all new projects in the ethanol industry have been stopped. In such circumstances, a company, and more importantly its employees, can either be forced into its own shell or emerge determined to demonstrate its ability to adapt and its spirit of innovation.
The Whitefox team, based in London, Calgary, Chicago and now Omaha, rose to the challenge and created a new and unique solution.
The Ethanol Problem

The amount of energy used to separate chemicals accounts for 10-15% of total global energy consumption1. Our quest at Whitefox is to provide modern and efficient solutions to accomplish this task without this huge energy deficit.
The benefit for our customers is twofold: more efficient production means less cost and more profit; it also reduces environmental impact in the form of steam and greenhouse gas emissions and water waste, helping them achieve their net zero goals. We arrived at our solution by taking the time afforded by the pandemic to get closer to customers like Kansas Ethanol.
We learned from them about the rapidly changing changes they were facing in the market and listened to what they were trying to achieve. It was important not to be prescriptive, to rush into a fixed, premeditated solution, but to be careful and let the solution adapt to the problem.
Once the need was fully understood, we applied 20 years of chemistry and engineering experience to design, create and implement a unique membrane solution that enabled Kansas Ethanol to simultaneously produce ultra-dry USP grade ethanol and ultra-pure with low levels of congeners, and fuel-grade ethanol with increased capacity and increased energy savings. The facility can now manufacture both products without the fuel grade product being an accidental by-product of an inefficiency in the USP grade production process.
A natural solution

It was a solution born from the observation of nature. Nature’s way of separating mixtures is through continuous filtering of low energy molecules, not high pressure modulated absorption which separates through the application of brute force, which is unfortunately the power-hungry technology used in majority of industrial applications today.
By advancing our membrane chemistry, we have created a more efficient and robust separation process that is closer to nature. Our engineering capabilities are also evolving to develop unparalleled ways to conserve energy in industrial processes and thereby enable our customers to achieve net zero goals. It is this marriage of skills that enables our ethanol customers and customers in adjacent industries, such as Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF), to grow with us and ultimately produce more with less wasted fuel. natural and valuable resources.
Flexibility and durability

Not only does our solution have clear operational and process advantages, but the ability to manufacture grades of ethanol based on demand, not chance, provides Kansas Ethanol with the flexibility and adaptability to respond to market changes. .
In addition, this flexibility allows Kansas Ethanol to position itself to deal with other changes that may arise and to be able to serve multiple customers with precise specifications.
At our small scale, we enable our customers to evolve and adapt, and reducing operational and ongoing costs is more vital in this ever-changing world than it has even been. A visiting CEO of a major ethanol supplier, who visited the Kansas Ethanol site, remarked that our commissioning of this plant was an example of “world-class engineering.”
ICE XL – the latest evolution

At the COP26 Innovation Forum in Glasgow, Scotland, we were able to meet senior executives from multiple industries and the word on everyone’s lips was ‘decarbonisation’.
The cynics among us have heard enough buzzwords over the decades to be cautious, but after COP26, that same message is translating into real action and activity from our customers.
We are delighted to work with Western Plains, an innovative producer that works with various energy efficient technologies with the firm goal of producing ethanol using zero carbon resources. The Whitefox ICE-XL membrane technology plays a central role in this quest.
Whitefox ICE-XL allows the separation of mixtures of ethanol and water without the need to form azeotropic conditions.
By using Whitefox membranes as the sole dewatering solution, Western Plains is not only able to increase capacity by 50-60% avoiding all unnecessary debottlenecking processes, but more importantly reduce energy consumption by approximately half.
We are also able to provide an energy harvesting solution which will reduce energy consumption to one third of the original level. The evolution of knowledge and experience will undoubtedly allow Western Plains to go even further and become a carbon negative producer in the future.
Let’s share our knowledge

In anticipation of the next FEW, and based on our feedback at customer board meetings, conferences and exhibitions, we would like to stimulate thoughts on how we can help growers “lower your Plant Score”. THIS”.
We will outline some advanced energy saving solutions, focusing on innovative high efficiency dewatering processes, which will enable plant layout and optimization changes, integrated with the benefits of using technology. continuous diaphragm to achieve a more personalized score commensurate with Capex budgets, while also progressing with net-zero goals.
After 20 years of marrying the chemical and engineering know-how of membrane technology, the evolution of Whitefox demonstrates our growing relevance in multiple industries that require modern and efficient means to separate mixtures. Come talk to us.

Reference:
1. Lively, R., Sholl, D. From water to organics in membrane separations. Nature Mater 16, 276–279 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nmat4860
For more information: This article was written by Tony Short, Global Sales Manager, Whitefox. Visit: whitefox.com