A comparison of stillage treatment options for large-scale bioethanol plants was based on the data of an existing plant producing approximately 200,000 t/yr of bioethanol and 1,400,000 t/yr of stillage. Animal feed production – the state-of-the-art technology at the plant- was compared to anaerobic digestion. The latter was simulated in two different scenarios: digestion in small-scale biogas plants in the surrounding area versus digestion in a large-scale biogas plant at the bioethanol production site. Emphasis was placed on a holistic simulation balancing chemical parameters and calculating logistic algorithms to compare the efficiency of the stillage treatment solutions. For central anaerobic digestion different digestate handling solutions were considered because of the large amount of digestate. For land application a minimum of 36,000 ha of available agricultural area would be needed and 600,000 m3 of storage volume. Secondly membrane purification of the digestate was investigated consisting of decanter, microfiltration, and reverse osmosis. As a third option aerobic wastewater treatment of the digestate was discussed. The final outcome was an economic evaluation of the three mentioned stillage treatment options, as a guide to stillage management for operators of large-scale bioethanol plants.

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