Property Modeling, Energy Balance and Process Simulation Applied to Bioethanol Purification


The use of renewable sources has been an alternative to decrease the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuels. In this context, bioethanol from sugarcane has proved to be a successful option to gasoline. However, bioethanol purification through conventional distillation requires high-energy demand. For this reason, energy balance calculations are very useful to estimate steam demand. As a result, simpler alternatives for estimation of steam consumption from spreadsheet calculations have been encouraged. In contrast, many efforts have focused to solve complex flowsheets including tear streams, which increases convergence complexity for each change on feed composition and additional components. In this work, mathematical models were fitted to bioethanol–water mixture property data and applied to energy balance calculations involved in the conventional process for hydrated bioethanol purification. Total steam consumption was obtained for volume percentages of bioethanol in the wine feed stream of 6, 8 and 10 °GL considering potential losses found in the industrial reality. The calculated data were compared to simulations carried out in the Aspen Plus® software. Similar values of total steam consumption were found comparing the two approaches, where the average absolute relative deviation was kept below 5%. Moreover, simulated temperature and composition profiles agreed to process data. Finally, mathematical models and energy balance calculations proved to be a simpler and faster alternative to estimate total steam consumption involved in the hydrated bioethanol purification from wine.

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Fig. 6
Fig. 7


a :

Constant defined by the experimental data to obtain c (kcal kg−1 °C−1)

b :

Constant defined by the experimental data to obtain c (kcal kg−1)


Average relative deviation (%)

C :

Steam consumption per liter of bioethanol purified for the column (kg L−1)

c :

Specific heat of the material (kcal kg−1 °C−1)

C S :

Total steam consumption per liter of bioethanol purified for both columns (kg L−1)

F lP :

Factor of volume percentage of liquid phlegm relative to total phlegm volume

F Et2 :

Factor of volume percentage of second-grade bioethanol relative to total phlegm volume

H :

Specific enthalpy from the material stream (kcal kg−1)

k C :

Factor to take in account existing losses for an isolated column

k Et :

Bioethanol loss

k T :

Factor to take in account the steam loss in tubes

L :

Latent heat (kcal kg−1)

M :

Total utility mass injected in the column (kg)

m :

Mass from the material stream (kg)

Q :

Amount of energy from the material stream related to sensible heat (kcal)

q :

Amount of energy from the material stream related to phase change (kcal)

\( Q_{\text{loss}} \) :

Heat loss related to potential losses for an isolated column (kcal)

R :

Reflux ratio

R 2 :

Coefficient of determination

T :

Material temperature (°C)

V :

Volume of material (L)

x :

Liquid mole fraction

y :

Vapor mole fraction

Y :

Dependent variable

\( \bar{Y} \) :

Average value of the dependent variable Y

ρ :

Material density (kg L−1)

\( \varPhi \) :

Volume percentage of bioethanol (°GL)

\( \varPsi \) :

Mass percentage of bioethanol (°INPM)


Column A


Column B


Distillate stage


Hydrated bioethanol


Second-grade bioethanol

i :

i-th measured point


Inlet material stream


Left-hand side



N :

Number of stages

n :

Number of measured points


Outlet material stream


Phlegm stream


Reflux stream


Right-hand side




Vinasse stream


Wine stream






Liquid phase


Simulated results


Vapor phase


National Agency of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Bottom by-product from column B

Hydrated bioethanol:

Top product from column B


Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development


Common unit of volume percentage (e.g., 10 °GL = 10 L of bioethanol per 100 L of hydroalcoholic mixture)


Common unit of mass percentage (e.g., 94 °INPM = 94 kg of bioethanol per 100 kg of hydroalcoholic mixture)

Second-grade bioethanol:

Top by-product from column A


Bottom by-product from column A


Hydroalcoholic mixture from fermentation


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This work was supported by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development—CNPq (Grant Nos. 304579/2019-0, 308724/2015-1); Agency for the Financing of Studies and Projects—FINEP; Brazilian Federal Agency for Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education—Capes; Research Support Foundation of the State of Alagoas—FAPEAL. The author M.C.S also thanks to the industrial unit located in Alagoas, Brazil, for the process data provided and to the Federal Institute of Alagoas for the permission for doctoral studies.

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Santos, M.C., Albuquerque, A.A., Meneghetti, S.M.P. et al. Property Modeling, Energy Balance and Process Simulation Applied to Bioethanol Purification. Sugar Tech 22, 870–884 (2020).

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  • Bioethanol
  • Distillation
  • Energy balance
  • Property modeling
  • Simulation
  • Steam consumption