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Management of Spent Wash in Distilleries

Management of Spent Wash in Distilleries

Author : Dr. Yashpal Singh

India is a major producer of Potable and Industrial Alcohol. The majority of distilleries use molasses as a feed stock. Some distilleries are grain based. Apart from its use in beverage, medicines, pharmaceuticals and flavoring, alcohol constitutes the feed stock for a large number of organic chemicals which may be used in the production of drugs, rubber, pesticides and solvents. Ethyl alcohol is an important feed stock for the manufacture of various chemicals like acetic acid and butanol, butadiene, acetic anhydride, polyvinyl chloride etc. In terms of ethanol, India is the fourth largest producer of ethanol after Brazil, the United States and China and if the 5 percent blending of Petrol/Motor Fuel is made mandatory all over the country, the available molasses may be unable to meet the demand. Currently the 5 percent blending is only applicable in 10 States and three Union Territories and requires about 410 million liters of anhydrous alcohol. Increments in both percent blending and geographical spread are anticipated. Molasses based distilleries are classified as a ‘Red’ category Industry by the Central Pollution Control Board. With the amount of highly polluting, spent wash being generated at 10 to 15 times the volume of spirit produced, it is an area of major environmental concern. A recent report suggests that there are 325 molasses based distilleries in the country producing 3063  million litres/year (M.Ltr/year) of alcohol and generating 45945 M.Ltr/year of spent wash as waste annually.

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