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Ethanol production from molasses — FCB-KCP brings Brazilian tech to India

Our Bureau

CHENNAI, Sept 30

FCB-KCP Ltd has brought to the domestic market Brazilian technology for anhydrous alcohol production for blending in automobile fuel.

Mr V.L. Dutt, Chairman and Managing Director, The KCP Ltd, the joint venture partner with Fives Cail, France, in FCB-KCP, said that the technology for anhydrous alcohol production would be provided by Procknor Engenharia, Brazil. The Brazilian company has been working together with Fives Cail in developing hi-tech equipment for the sugar industry.

Procknor's technology would be available exclusively through FCB-KCP for the sugar and distillery industry here, he said. FCB-KCP can offer technology for manufacturing ethanol from sugar cane juice, molasses, syrup, beet juice and starch-based raw material.

Mr Dutt was talking to newspersons here at the official announcement FCB-KCP's venture in providing technology for ethanol production.

Addressing an industry gathering, Mr Celso Procknor, Director, Procknor Engenharia, Brazil, said that Brazil had utilised ethanol production and anhydrous alcohol blended automobile fuel as a market intervention strategy. Sugar mills resort to ethanol production when crude oil price hikes push up gasoline prices or when sugar prices are low.

Similarly, the consumer opts for higher percentage of blended fuel when gasoline prices are high. Vehicles that run exclusively on ethanol, in this case hydrated ethanol, are also available. Alcohol blend in automobile fuel would be cost- competitive when the crude oil prices ranged between $20-25 per barrel or higher, he said.

According to Mr Procknor, major automobile manufacturers like Ford, Fiat and Volkswagen are set to launch flexible-fuel engines in Brazil next year.

These can run exclusively on gasoline or ethanol and various blends of both. Flexible-fuel engine was also a major area of research, he said.

Apart from the alcohol production, the waste from the distilleries, Vinasse, finds use as a soil nutrient with a high concentration of potash.

But this use has to be tailored to local soil conditions, he cautioned. The excess yeast harvested during the fermentation process is a major source of protein and has an export market.

The commonly applied technologies for anhydrous alcohol production are azeotropic distillation using cyclohexane, extractive distillation using ethylene glycol and the molecular sieve adsorption using zeolite.

Brazil commonly utilises the azeotropic process because of the lower initial investment involved. Though the molecular sieve adsorption is a modern technology, higher initial costs are involved, he said.

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