Ethanol distiller, Ethanol Company Limited (EthCo) has embarked on a K5.2 billion project to manage liquid waste from its manufacturing process which will see the company producing fertilizer and electricity from the process.
EthCo Chief Executive Officer Lusubilo Chakaniza said in an interview yesterday that the ethanol manufacturing process produces a liquid waste (effluent) called vinasse at a rate of 12 litres for every litre of ethanol produced meaning at full capacity, 218 million litres of effluent would be produced in a year.
“If not properly managed, this effluent can be detrimental to both vegetation and aquatic life. Currently, the vinasse is stored in evaporation ponds for drying and the dried sludge is used by farmers around Dwangwa for crop nutrition and soil conditioning because it consists of organic material rich in Potassium and also contains Nitrogen, Phosphorous, zinc and Sulphur. However, the drying process is long and takes close to a year.”
“To mitigate against the risk of environmental degradation, EthCo is implementing an innovative effluent treatment solution that will result in Zero Liquid Discharge from the plant at a cost of MK5.2 billion. The process will involve bio-digestion, evaporation, condensate treatment and drying and the process would take less than a week,” explained Chakaniza.
She said from this process, there will be biogas produced which will be used to generate steam to drive a turbine and produce about 2 Megawatts of electricity thereby making the factory self-sufficient on electricity.
“The dried material will be processed in a granulation plant to produce granulated potassium rich organic fertilizer that will be bagged in 50 Kg bags for selling at an affordable cost. The water recovered from the treatment system will be treated and recycled back to the factory thereby reducing the water footprint,” said Chakaniza.
She said the project is more than a year late due to Covid-19 pandemic related delays but is expected to be commissioned by December 2022.
Environmental activist and president of Association of Environmental Journalists in Malawi Matthews Malata hailed EthCo for embarking on the project.
“Anything that is introduced to save our environment or indeed promote sustainable utilization of our natural resources is welcome. Malawi should have advanced with such an innovation many years ago but it’s never too late. Greening the economy means bringing such kinds of innovations to life,” said Malata.
EthCo, a subsidiary of conglomerate Press Corporation plc, is Malawi’s sole producer of potable (extra-neutral spirit) alcohol that is used by the beverage and pharmaceutical industries and also produces anhydrous alcohol (fuel ethanol), and rectified alcohol for industrial applications.