Improved Ethanol Sealing Protects Equipment



Improved ethanol sealing can be a huge benefit to the production process. It can also protect the critical pumps moving product, including waste. Even if a plant team thinks they have the best sealing technology, they could still improve the tech or setup.

Ethanol in the U.S. is largely produced from corn.
Corn makes up a large percentage of feed for ethanol production.

Why Are Ethanol and Other Biofuels Important?

Crude oil has a finite supply. Ethanol continues to be an important fuel in the U.S. The use of ethanol and other biofuels may limit the amount of fuel and gasoline used from crude oil. In addition, ethanol is cleaner-burning than gasoline or diesel.

How Is Ethanol Made?

Ethanol is made from distilling different sugars. The main sources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, are corn, sorghum, and barley. Others are:

  • Rice
  • Sugar beets
  • Potato skins
  • Sugar cane
  • Yard clippings
  • Switchgrass

What Are the Challenges to Improved Ethanol Sealing?

During ethanol production, sealing certain equipment, especially pumps, is a challenge. The feedstock becomes thick and sticky. It may adhere to equipment components, including the packing and mechanical seals. After the ethanol has been removed, the remnants are further evaporated. The end result is a feed for livestock.

Examples of equipment that must be adequately sealed in ethanol

processes are syrup pumps and evaporator pumps. At one East Coast ethanol plant, failures of these assets, in most instances, were

guaranteed before a new systems approach was implemented.

The mechanical seal, barrier fluid, and flush set up were replaced.
Using a systems approach, the mechanical seal, barrier fluid, and flush set up were replaced.

What Seal Technologies Are Available?

At this ethanol plant, experiments in the following areas were carried out:

  • Mechanical seal choice
  • Barrier fluid selected
  • The environmental controls setup

After pilot testing and assessments, certain seal technology saw more success in these challenging applications. However, selecting one component of this solution was not always effective.

Combining the whole mechanical seal system typically experienced more success. As with many things involving pumps and other industrial equipment, a systems approach was the true solution.

This ethanol webinar discusses sealing challenges in these industrial pumps.

A Webinar Shares More of the Story

On August 18 at 11 a.m. Central, Empowering Pumps & Equipment produced a webinar that detailed the most effective seal technology and setup. The webinar also reviewed how specialized technology helped the East Coast ethanol plant increase uptime and save money with its improved ethanol sealing solution. Don’t delay; watch the recorded webinar on demand today.

About the Author
Terry Roberts is the Midwest regional manager for Sealing Equipment Products Company
(SEPCO). He has worked in the fluid sealing industry for 20 years. In his role with SEPCO, he
provides training, sales support and solutions to channel partners and their customers. Roberts
is also on the technical committee of the International Sealing Distribution Association (ISD). He may be reached at terryr@sepcousa.com.
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