MALAWI: EthCo to convert ethanol waste into fertilizer and electricity

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MALAWI: EthCo to convert ethanol waste into fertilizer and electricity©EthCo

Ethanol Company (EthCo), Malawi's ethanol distiller, has announced the construction of a plant that will convert waste from its facilities into fertilizer and electricity. The goal is to reduce its impact on the environment.

The project was announced by Lusubilo Chakaniza, the managing director of Ethanol Company (EthCo). It involves the construction of a unit dedicated to the valorisation 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.

Plant delivery announced for December 2022

The Malawian company produces 12 liters of vinasse for each liter of ethanol produced. This is equivalent 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 about 2 MW of electricity, making the plant self-sufficient in electricity,” explains Lusubilo Chakaniza, EthCo’s director. The vinasse will also be used to produce a potassium-rich granular organic fertilizer that will be bagged in 50 kg bags “to be sold at an affordable price.

Read also – AFRICA: the circular economy at the heart of ecosystem preservation

In addition, water recovered from the processing 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,” says Lusubilo Chakaniza. The future facility will be operational by December 2022. The entire project will cost EthCo 5.2 billion Malawi kwacha, or about $6.4 million.

Inès Magoum

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