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Frost And Sullivan Lauds Vaperma For Advanced Membrane-Based Separation Technology

by Staff Writers
Palo Alto CA (SPX) May 02, 2008
Based on its recent analysis of the advanced gas separation market, Frost and Sullivan recognizes Vaperma with the 2008 Frost and Sullivan North America Technology Innovation of the Year Award for its development of a breakthrough polymer membrane technology that reduces the energy costs and carbon footprint for biofuels, natural gas and industrial processes.

The proprietary hollow fiber membrane-based Siftek module is potentially a viable alternative to conventional distillation - one of the oldest technologies known to man.

While market factors determine the cost of raw materials, processing innovations can improve the cost of fuel ethanol. A very large portion of the energy consumption in the processing comes from extracting water from the aqueous fermentation mixture.

"Vaperma's solvent resistant membrane technology has been incorporated in an advanced gas separation system primarily targeted for dewatering fuel ethanol where it offers a potential energy savings of as much as 50 percent compared to conventional distillation and molecular sieves," says Frost and Sullivan Research Analyst Miriam Nagel.

"No energy saving dewatering process has emerged to date that can compete with the economical and proven polymer membrane technology developed by Vaperma."

The Siftek patented solvent resistant membrane technology incorporates hollow polymer fibers packed into a single removable cartridge. The cartridge is housed in a stainless steel pressure vessel. As the ethanol-water mixture flows through the membrane, water preferably permeates the inner membrane layer into the outer layer of each fiber.

The first stage of membrane modules removes 90 percent of the water that is recirculated into the front end of the plant. The remaining water is removed in a second series of modules to produce fuel grade ethanol (99+ %)

Siftek modules can be economically incorporated into existing facilities to expand capacity by 20% without the need for major re-work. The Siftek modular system allows quick and easy start-up and requires minimal operation and maintenance.

Pilot experimentation that extended over thousands of hours in the field demonstrated that Siftek can separate an ethanol-water vapor mixture of 40/60 to produce over 99 percent w/w fuel-grade ethanol product.

The first commercial application of Vaperma's technology - in a Brazilian sugarcane-based ethanol production facility - is expected to be in production by early 2009. As part of this cooperative agreement with Dedini S/A Industrias de Base, Vaperma is working to improve the efficiency and competitiveness of the Brazilian company's sugarcane ethanol process.

"Vaperma is also working on advancing its technology to address the biomass to ethanol dewatering challenge," says Nagel. "Through intense R and D the company hopes to create the best membrane technologies for future cellulosic ethanol, natural gas separation, and eventually for carbon dioxide separation in future industrial markets."

Cellulosic materials, such as feedstock, that will not compete with food supplies are considered to be the future for fuel ethanol. Cellulosic biomass to ethanol involves more challenges as the sugar concentration in the broth is far below that of corn. It also requires driving off huge volumes of water.

With a business model that is unique among membrane manufacturers, Vaperma provides a turnkey solution to reduce the energy demand and carbon footprint of the final processing of fuel ethanol. For these achievements, the company is the worthy recipient of the 2008 Frost and Sullivan North America Technology Innovation of the Year Award.

Each year, Frost and Sullivan presents this Award to the company that has demonstrated excellence in new products and technologies within their industry. The recipient company has shown innovation by launching a broad line of emerging products and technologies.

Frost and Sullivan Best Practices Awards recognize companies in a variety of regional and global markets for demonstrating outstanding achievement and superior performance in areas such as leadership, technological innovation, customer service, and strategic product development.

Industry analysts compare market participants and measure performance through in-depth interviews, analysis, and extensive secondary research in order to identify best practices in the industry.

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