Transient simulation of a solar heating system for a small-scale ethanol-water distillation plant: Thermal, environmental and economic performance Academic Article in Scopus uri icon

abstract

  • © 2016 Elsevier Ltd The thermal, environmental and economic performance of a small-scale ethanol distillation system, where solar energy is used as primary energy source, was studied. Two different concentrations of ethanol at the feed stream (5 wt.% and 10 wt.%) were analysed to obtain a distillate product of 95 wt.% ethanol (hydrous ethanol). Evacuated tube solar collectors (ETC) and parabolic trough collectors (PTC) were considered for the solar heating system. A case of study for a specific geographical place (Monterrey, México) was developed herein to evaluate the solar ethanol distillation system; the results can be extended to other locations, weather conditions and operational parameters. The thermal results from the simulation showed that through an adequate selection of the solar collector area and an appropriate sizing of the different equipment of the solar distillation system, PTC represents a better option where energy savings of 80% and 71% can be achieved for 5 wt.% and 10 wt.% ethanol at the feed stream, respectively. However, the economic feasibility of the solar distillation system is achieved using ETC for a price of hydrous ethanol of 1.75 USD/L and a feed stream of 10 wt.% ethanol, reaching an internal rate of return (IRR) of 18.8% and payback period of 5.2 years. As an important technical result, selected ETC presented advantages over PTC where an average distillate product of 3.6 and 3.4 ml at 95 wt.% ethanol can be obtained per unit of solar energy (kW h) captured per area (m2) of solar collector using 5 wt.% and 10 wt.% ethanol at the feed stream, respectively (36% more than PTC). The reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) was of 72.4 kg CO2/yr per area (m2) for evacuated tube solar collector (at least 8% more than PTC). These results are considered useful as they would provide valuable information to members of the ethanol distillation industry, the fuel industry, policy makers in renewable energy, and installers.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017
  • January 1, 2017