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Malawi’s Ethanol Company to construct plant that converts ethanol waste into fertilizer and electricity

MALAWI – 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.

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 dried material will be processed in a granulation plant to produce granulated potassium rich organic fertiliser that will be bagged in 50kg bags for selling at an affordable cost. The water recovered from the treatment system will be treated and recycled back to the factory thereby reducing the water footprint.”

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.

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 US$6.4 million.

Environmental activist and president of Association of Environmental Journalists in Malawi Matthews Malata hailed EthCo for embarking on the project.

Anything that is introduced to save our environment or indeed promote sustainable utilisation of our natural resources is welcome,” said Malata.

“Malawi should have advanced with such an innovation many years ago but it’s never too late. Greening the economy means bringing such kinds of innovations to life.”

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