The Competitive Edge: Drystill Holdings Inc.

June 25, 2020 |

Q: What was the reason for founding your organization – what was the open niche you saw that could be addressed with a new product or service? What was the problem, or gap, or opportunity?

Drystill invented a low temperature low energy distillation technique. While beneficial in a many industrial sectors, it has can be particularly helpful in reducing capital and operating costs in the biofuel industry. The technology can be used worldwide for both first and second generation biofuels. It may be applied from initial plant design or added as a bolt-on enhancement to an existing plant.

Conventional distillation is a hot operation which causes thermal fouling of heat exchange surfaces, denatures enzymes, kills biocatalysts, and demands extra heat to bring fermentation broth to its boiling point. Drystill’s room temperature process avoids these problems.

Besides enabling enzyme and yeast recycling, low temperature ethanol removal makes possible an advanced money-saving concept in fermentation whereby ethanol is removed from the broth as it is produced.

Q: Tell us about your organization. What do you do?

Drystill is a technology provider ready to assist biofuel producers (or companies intending to become biofuel producers) to enhance the economic returns of their plants through the use of new advanced separation technology. Drystill can also license its technology to companies with sophisticated internal engineering capabilities that wish to incorporate it into their own proprietary processes.

One of the economic challenges of biofuel plants is that capital costs are too high to give acceptable returns unless they have large throughputs. This necessitates a large feedstock catchment area and consequent high transportation costs. Drystill technology shrinks utility, fermentation, and separation equipment leading to smaller overall footprint and capital investment in a small-plant setting. Those who see the advantage of a farm-scale or community scale ethanol plant will want to evaluate Drystill’s approach.

Q: What stage of development are you?  Choose one:

Pilot stage – proven at small, non-integrated scale

Q: What do your technologies, products or services do and accomplish – how does it (they) work, who is it (they) aimed for?

The key block in a bio-refinery’s block diagram is labelled “Fermentation”. Upstream are important blocks that have been the focus of brilliant efforts by many innovative firms. However the single downstream block labelled “Ethanol Removal” is always filled by the same equipment. It is technology inherited from the petrochemical industry and it embodies very little innovation specific to the bio-industry. Such lack of progressiveness is on one hand surprising as this block accounts for most of the utilities consumed in the entire plant.

On the other hand, it is not surprising that companies championing new front-end technologies would offset risks by choosing a tried-and-true separation technology on the back end. Unfortunately, conventional distillation is not a good fit for the specific needs of an ethanol plant and its poor economic performance impair profits for the owners and the overall progress of the ethanol industry. Drystill offers a more economical alternative.

Q: Competitively, what gives your technology, product or service set an edge in cost or performance, sustainability, or any other aspect, that makes it stand out from the crowd, In short, what makes it transformative?

Drystill offers the only practical technology that can remove ethanol from a living fermentation broth and leave both yeast and enzymes unharmed. Conventional distillation is a hot process that kills the one and denatures the other. Drystill’s separation takes place at room temperature and inflicts no damage to delicate molecules or organisms. An obvious benefit is possibility of recycling these valuable components post-ethanol-removal. This in itself is an exciting economic prospect. But there is another subtler, more transformative aspect.

Ethanol is toxic to the microorganisms that produce it. As the concentration of ethanol increases in the broth, the microorganisms become less and less productive. This phenomenon is called “product inhibition”. It greatly extends the length of time necessary for the sugar in the broth to be converted to ethanol.

Drystill’s process removes ethanol as it is produced, limiting ethanol concentration and preventing product inhibition.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you have accomplished in the past 3 years?

  1. Built and operated a 5-liter bioreactor system with continuous ethanol removal in collaboration with a Canadian academic institution.
  2. Modelled biorefineries using Drystill ethanol removal in Aspen Plus in collaboration with a Canadian University and a UK university.
  3. Constructed a website to publicize the non-proprietary aspects of Drystill’s approach to advanced distillation.

Q: What are the 3 top milestones you will accomplish in the next 3 years?

  1. Build a small ethanol removal plant in a Canadian micro-brewery as both a proof of concept and a revenue source.
  2. Build a fermentation/ethanol removal module for use in a small scale Canadian fuel ethanol plant.
  3. Enter into the first international licensing agreement.

Q: Where can I learn more about Drystill Holdings Inc.?

Click here to visit Drystill’s website or watch their New Distillation Paradigm video here.

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