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Home » Industry News » Automation & Process Control » The alchemy of ethanol production

The alchemy of ethanol production

In the world of industrial processes, where precision is vital and challenges around every corner, achieving accurate level measurements in tanks with agitators has long been a formidable task. Enter the VEGABAR 82—a differential pressure (DP) level measurement solution that defies turbulence and delivers reliability When it comes to differential pressure measurement, AlcoNCP relies on VEGA Instruments to provide custom solutions to their challenges.

AlcoNCP is a multinational corporation based in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.  The company specializes in producing and distributing high-quality neutral potable ethanol and DDGS-related products. AlcoNCP is a subsidiary of Alcogroup, a global leader in ethanol production and trading, which gives it a strong presence worldwide. Their product range is created using sustainably cultivated maize and includes various neutral ethanol products and Distillers Dried Grains with Solubles (DDGS), a protein-rich animal feed.

AlcoNCP turned to VEGA for assistance with measuring differential pressure in the distillation tanks.

“We encountered numerous challenges with our previous instrumentation. The choice of transmitter led to incorrect level measurements. While it was functional, it wasn’t ideal or accurate, particularly considering the change in feedstock,” explained Shon Roopnarain, Control Systems Engineer at AlcoNCP.

 Crafting With Precision

During production, residual starch can be present in the fermentation process. This creates a sticky and viscous substance when it encounters water, which is a common component in fermentation. This buildup leads to sticky agitators and reduced efficiency, contributing to the challenging measuring environment faced by sensors. AlcoNCP previously had a standard gauge pressure transmitter setup, which was not the ideal solution.

To find a better measurement solution, experts at VEGA assessed the manufacturer’s ethanol distillation tanks. They considered a differential measurement solution that could handle the process temperature of the ethanol and resist build-up caused during the process. They concluded that the tanks needed a sensor with a minimum measurement range of 12 meters from the existing mounting location above the tank. “In our journey through challenges, opting for an electronic differential without capillaries was our guiding light. When radar and standard gauge pressure transmitters struggled, it provided the path to precision,” noted Roopnarain.

Brewing Brilliance

To prevent measurement inaccuracies, all tanks with agitators are properly cleaned. VEGABAR 82 is used for level measurement, which ensures precise and reliable monitoring of liquid levels despite the challenging conditions created by agitation.

Roopnarain, who is responsible for the production process, explained that VEGA instruments were chosen because of their positive experience with a similar setup at the evaporator plant. VEGA offer measurement performance, ease of setup, and competitive pricing. VEGABAR 82 is the preferred choice as it minimizes the necessity for direct instrument access.

VEGABAR pressure transmitter provides accurate and reliable pressure measurements, which is essential in evaporation processes as the pressure can affect the boiling point of liquids. During production, maintaining pressure within safe limits is vital to prevent accidents and equipment damage.

Proof of Perfection

Proper differential pressure measurement provides valuable data for process control systems, allowing for real-time adjustments and maintaining the desired operating conditions. By controlling pressure conditions, it’s possible to achieve higher ethanol concentrations and recover more of the product from the fermentation or distillation process.

The VEGABAR 82 forms part of the system that measures the level of liquid in a tank. The system has two pressure sensors – the primary is placed at the bottom of the tank, while the secondary sensor is placed at the top. The two sensors are linked by electronic cable, enabling communication for the differential calculation. The VEGABAR 82 calculates the pressure difference between the two sensors, which is proportional to the level of liquid in the tank. To ensure accurate measurements, the VEGABAR 82 needs to be calibrated by setting the zero point (when the tank is empty) and the span (the maximum level to be measured).

The VEGABAR 82 provides a 4-20 mA analogue output signal that can be integrated into a control or monitoring system for further processing or displayed on a local control panel. Shon Roopnarain appreciated the quality and reliability of the service and advice provided by VEGA technicians and sales staff, noting that their support is cost-effective and comes with the necessary service and sales assistance.

Equipped with the VEGABAR 82 and backed by VEGA’s expert service team, AlcoNCP now enjoys peace of mind that the process is more efficient than ever before.

We appreciate the quality and reliability of the service and advice provided by VEGA technicians and sales staff. Their support is cost-effective and comes with the necessary service and sales assistance,” Roopnarain concluded.

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