Distillation is a widely used technique in the chemical and food industries. Due to the demand for high heat, the process consumes large amounts of energy. For example, in the Netherlands and Belgium, approximately 110 GWh are consumed annually for the production of distilled drinks. That is the equivalent of approximately 32,500 households. Three companies are going to cooperate in order to drastically reduce that consumption and the corresponding CO2 emissions.
Two complementary partners
In recent years, the Flemish SME Merlin Innovation has accrued expertise in the development of sustainable production processes in which it makes full use of solar energy and heat. Together with the Dutch SME PureBlue Water, specialists in waste-water technology and innovative water treatment processes, they will develop a prototype to produce grain alcohol and non-alcoholic distillates in a sustainable way through fermentation and distillation.
100% sustainable production process
According to Kevin van de Merlen (Merlin Innovation), "The goal of our project is to produce distilled alcohol in a completely sustainable and CO2-neutral way. The use of solar energy alone, however, does not provide enough energy for this. Therefore, we will use innovative techniques such as vacuum and membrane technology to reduce the energy requirement while greatly reducing water consumption and coolant energy. In the future, the developed solution can also be used to produce bioethanol in a sustainable way."
Finally, the partners will also look at the production of non-alcohol drinks. There is an increasing demand for non-alcohol beverages that are similar in taste to alcohol distillates. These also require even more energy because of their higher boiling point. A sustainable solution is being developed for this, too.
Per bottle of gin we can save about 1kWh, and per litre of pure alcohol, we will save 3 kWh. Each kWh saved results in a CO2 savings of 0.2 kg. The first (smaller) unit we want to develop will be able to produce about 10,000 litres of pure ethanol per year, saving 6000 kg of CO2.
This project receives financial support from the European Union.