MALAWI: EthCo to convert waste ethanol into fertilizer and electricity

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The project was announced by Lusubilo Chakaniza, the general manager of Ethanol Company (EthCo). This involves the construction of a unit dedicated to the recovery of ethanol waste into fertilizer for agriculture and electricity. The objective is to reduce the impact of its effluents on vegetation and aquatic biodiversity in Malawi.

Indeed, the manufacture of ethanol produces a liquid called vinasse which contains potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, zinc and sulphur. These are potentially harmful compounds.

Delivery of the plant announced for December 2022

The Malawian company produces 12 liters of vinasse for every liter of ethanol produced. This equates to 218 million liters of wastewater per year leaving EthCo’s facilities. The subsidiary of the Press Corporation conglomerate specializes in the production of potable alcohol in Malawi.

The process of upgrading this effluent will involve bio-digestion, evaporation, treatment and drying of the condensate to produce biogas. “The biogas will be used to generate steam to drive a turbine and produce approximately 2 MW of electricity, making the plant self-sufficient in electricity,” explains Lusubilo Chakaniza, director of EthCo. The vinasse will also be used to produce a granular organic fertilizer rich in potassium which will be packaged in 50 kg bags “to be sold at an affordable price.

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In addition, the water recovered from the treatment system will be treated and recycled in the plant. “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,” said Lusubilo Chakaniza. The future facility will be operational by December 2022. The entire project will cost EthCo 5.2 billion Malawi kwachas, or about $6.4 million.

Ines Magoum

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