Don’t Forget the Filter

Membrane filtration technology is finding a home in the biorefining industry
| March 18, 2011

The biorefining industry isn’t built solely on big dreams and novel ideas. Several of the process approaches are based on technology and experience from other industries ranging from wastewater treatment plants to wineries. Koch Membrane Systems is one of those companies that has transferred nonindustry knowledge to a unique, biobased technology well-suited for biorefining.

The KMS filtration technology—based on experience in everything from dairy plants to wine-making facilities—is a membrane filtration approach that is compatible with virtually every production stream including butanol, polylactic acid, succinic acid, acetic acid, 1,3 propanediol, amino acids and many more, according to Kamla Jevons, European business development manager. Jevons says KMS has worked with membrane filtration technology for other processing streams that contain starches, protein, peptides, sugars and others.

One process technology based on reverse osmosis that is provided by KMS can offer roughly 75 percent lower cost of ownership when compared to a multieffect evaporator with thermal vapor compression, according to a recent white paper issued by KMS. As KMS suggests in the paper, membrane filtration technology holds great promise for the biorefining industry’s efforts to curb wastewater and further separate and clarify process streams in continuous flow fermentation facilities.

North Carolina-based SmartFlow Technologies, another membrane filtration specialist, verifies that those in the biorefinery industry believe in what KMS is saying. “The renewable fuels market is challenged with solid separation issues,” says Kim Davis, chairman and CEO of SmartFlow. Ineos Bio will use a SmartFlow solids separation and cell separation unit at its Indian River BioEnergy Center in Florida, something that Davis says shows SmartFlow’s distinctive ability to separate substances previously thought inseparable.” 

—Luke Geiver