Microfiltration of thin stillage: Process simulation and economic analyses

Amit Arora, Anupam Seth, Bruce S. Dien, Ronald L. Belyea, Vijay Singh, M. E. Tumbleson, Kent D. Rausch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In plant scale operations, multistage membrane systems have been adopted for cost minimization. We considered design optimization and operation of a continuous microfiltration (MF) system for the corn dry grind process. The objectives were to develop a model to simulate a multistage MF system, optimize area requirements and stages required for a multistage system and perform economic analysis of a multistage MF system for a 40 million gal/yr ethanol plant. Total area requirement decreased with number of stages but there was tradeoff between higher capital costs involved at higher number of stages. To achieve thin stillage total solids concentration from 7 to 35%, a 5 stage membrane system was found to be optimum with area requirement of 655 m2 for minimum cost. Increase in the input stream flow rate from 1.54 × 106 to 2.89 × 106 L/day significantly increased the total capital cost of the system by 47%. Compared to a single stage system, an optimal system had a 50% reduction in operating costs. Optimal system also showed potential to process more than twice the amount of thin stillage compared to a 4 effect evaporator system for given conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-120
Number of pages8
JournalBiomass and Bioenergy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2011


  • Corn
  • Dry grind
  • Ethanol
  • Flux
  • Microfiltration
  • Thin stillage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Forestry
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Waste Management and Disposal


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