Ethanol Plant Repurposing | Engineering Clinic


Project Code: 15086
Project Title: Ethanol Plant Repurposing
Project Type: Faculty
Project Intellectual Property: Student Controlled
Project Citizenship Restriction: No

Project Details

Sponsor Company: UA Department of Chemical and Environmental Engineering
Description: The goal of this project is to design a modification enabling a plant that produces ethanol for E85 fuel to switch production to spirits such as whiskey. The Pinal Energy ethanol plant in Maricopa, Arizona, was used as a basis for modeling ethanol production. The design uses a new and proprietary technology that pumps ethanol through flavor additives such as oak chips, using a packed-bed reactor, to age whiskey about 120 times faster than standard barrel aging. During normal ethanol production, denaturant is added in the final step to avoid alcohol taxation. The modified plant design removes this last step and includes piping to the new whiskey-aging vessels. The whiskey produced would be roughly 80-120 proof. Other byproducts that could be sold are carbon dioxide and dried distiller’s grain. The plant would be modified for two months of the year for whiskey production. Ethanol would be produced for eight months, with two months set aside for the plant to change processes. The ethanol plant produces 50 million gallons of ethanol per year. The modified plant would produce approximately 33 million gallons per year of ethanol and 16 million gallons per year of whiskey.