Techno-Economic Evaluation and GHG Emission Assessment of Different Options for Vinasse Treatment and Disposal Aiming at Reducing Transport Expenses and Its Energy Use


The vinasse is a polluting effluent generated in large quantities in the ethanol production process, whose disposition is problematic and costly. In this work, the vinasse problem is addressed through a comparison between four alternatives for treating it with energy recovery: (i) concentration in an evaporator system until 25 Brix for volume reduction (CONC); (ii) concentration in an evaporator system until 65 Brix, with subsequent incineration of concentrated vinasse (CONC + INC); (iii) anaerobic biodigestion (BIOD); and anaerobic biodigestion and digestate treatment by membranes (BIOD + MEM). The techno-economic assessment is performed through mass and energy balances, evaluating two configurations of the cogeneration system: considering back-pressure (BPST) and condensing-extraction (CEST) steam turbines, in combination with an economic feasibility evaluation. Furthermore, an evaluation of GHG emission was performed in each case. The BIOD + MEM and CONC cases promoted a significant reduction in effluent volume (53% and 82.8% respectively), while the CONC + INC case practically eliminated the disposal expenses of this effluent. Regarding the cogeneration system, the BIOD case presented the highest bagasse surplus (59.9 kg/t cane) for the BPTS configuration, while the CONC + INC case presented the highest electricity surplus (89.7 kWh/t cane) for the CEST configuration. As for the economic assessment, the cases CONC with BPST, and CONC + INC for both BPTS and CEST presented economic feasibility, while the GHG emission assessment indicates that the BIOD case with BPST is the option with the lowest emissions. A sensitivity analysis was also performed to evaluate eventual variations in market and operating conditions.

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The authors wish to thank the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) Finance Code 001, and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) (Process PQ 306303/2014-0 and PQ 309588/2019-7) for the researcher fellowship; and for the Research Project Grant (Process 407175/2018-0 and 429938/2018-7).


The research leading to these results received funding from the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES Finance) under Grant Agreements No PQ 306303/2014-0 and PQ 309588/2019-7 and the Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) under Grant Agreements No 407175/2018-0 and 429938/2018-7.

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Table 13 Results of the cogeneration system
Table 14 Exergetic cost results
Table 15 Results of the economic assessment
Table 16 Emissions in each sub-system
Table 17 Results of sensitivity analysis

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Palacios-Bereche, M.C., Palacios-Bereche, R. & Nebra, S.A. Techno-Economic Evaluation and GHG Emission Assessment of Different Options for Vinasse Treatment and Disposal Aiming at Reducing Transport Expenses and Its Energy Use. Bioenerg. Res. (2021).

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  • Anaerobic biodigestion
  • Concentration
  • Ethanol
  • Incineration
  • Vinasse