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Aemetis to deploy Mitsubishi ZEBREX membrane dehydration

US-headed advanced renewable fuels and biochemicals company Aemetis Inc., and Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation (MCC) have announced that Aemetis will be implementing MCC's proprietary ZEBREX membrane dehydration system at its 60 million gallons per annum fuel ethanol plant in Keyes, California. The Aemetis plant upgrade is the first ZEBREX system installation in North America and is the largest implementation of the system worldwide.

Water is separated into the tube by passing through the zeolite membrane. According
to MCC, ethanol, and water are separated by the high selectively of zeolite to produce
99.8% purity ethanol and recycle water in a single pass.

According to a statement, the sales transaction the value of which has not been disclosed involves a subsidiary of MCC, Mitsubishi Chemical America, Inc. The upgrade from the traditional Pressure Swing Adsorption (PSA) dehydration process to the ZEBREX system can reduce energy consumption in the production of biofuels by up to 25 percent, increasing production capacity while reducing the usage of fossil fuel-based energy and lowering the carbon intensity (CI) of ethanol produced at the plant.

The implementation of the Mitsubishi ZEBREX technology at the Aemetis Keyes plant is an excellent example of how the biofuels industry is utilizing advanced technology to reduce production costs and lower carbon emissions while increasing revenue per gallon and expanding capacity at both traditional and advanced ethanol production plants, said Eric McAfee, Chairman, and CEO of Aemetis.

The ZEBREX system has been installed in approximately 70 alcohol production plants worldwide. The system is a state-of-the-art, continuous membrane dehydration technology to separate water from ethanol for purification into fuel quality biofuel at a lower cost than the energy-intensive PSA units commonly used at ethanol plants.

Aemetis is a leader in the innovation and adoption of new technologies in both traditional and advanced biofuels. The ZEBREX system will allow the ethanol produced by Aemetis to use significantly less natural gas; reduce carbon emissions by approximately 16 000 tonnes per year; and provide increased ethanol production, achieving a lower carbon intensity biofuel that supports the goals of the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) and the US Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), stated Hiroyuki Kakiuchi, Manager of the ZEBREX product line at Mitsubishi Chemical Company in Tokyo, Japan.

The unit will be designed and fabricated for Aemetis by ICM, Inc., headquartered in Colwich, Kansas, a leading ethanol technology provider. Earlier this year, MCC and ICM announced a strategic engineering and marketing partnership and the Aemetis plant upgrade is the first ZEBREX installation delivered by ICM under the partnership.

We are excited to be working with both MCC and Aemetis on this first installation in the US. MCC’s knowledge of membrane technology, along with their large-scale production of the membrane units, fits perfectly with ICM’s knowledge of the ethanol industry, ability to seamlessly integrate this technology into existing plants, local fabrication of the modules in our Kansas manufacturing shop and then ultimately performing the EPC and supporting start up at the plants, said Steve Hartig, VP of Technology at ICM.

The separation technology improves production capacity and reduces energy costs through the use of state-of-the-art zeolite membrane dehydration technology. Ethanol and water are separated by the precise selectivity of the zeolite to produce 99.8 percent purity ethanol and recycle water in a single pass.

This system provides ethanol plants with a more efficient method for separating water from ethanol. The plants that have implemented the ZEBREX technology have reported reduced energy costs and increased production capacity of 15-25 percent compared with traditional methods, ended Steve Hartig.

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