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Production of activated carbon from South African sugarcane bagasse.

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South Africa has an annual sugarcane milling capacity of about 22 million tonnes on average producing about 3.3 million tonnes of dry bagasse, of which one third is surplus to factory requirements. Currently surplus bagasse is used for furfural, pulp and paper and cogeneration but significant amounts still remain . This prompted the need to find viable alternative and appropriate technology to utilize the surplus. A laboratory pilot plant was used to investigate the production of activated carbon from bagasse. Experiments were carried out to investigate conditions for making the best activated carbon in a rotary batch kiln, and also to examine potential ene rgy recovery from process gases using Gas Chromatography. Derived results from the laboratory experiments were used to develop a conceptual design for a demonstration plant sited within a sugar mill. The conceptual design was evaluated for economic and environmental impacts using a robust Excel spreadsheet and GABI-3 modelling software respectively. Excellent activated carbon was produced from sugarcane bagasse by a two-stage physical process involving pyrolysis and gasification with steam. The best operating conditions were pyrolysis at 700°C for 1 hr and activation at 850°C for 1hr, a heating rate of 10°C/min and a steam flow of 15g/g of char per hour. The active carbon yield was 7% on dry bagasse basis with a Methylene Blue Number of 257mglg of carbon. The active carbon had a sugar decolourisation capacity of 20% at a carbon dosage rate of 0.7 wt% on Brix using clear juice (l2°Brix) and 70% at 0.5 wt% on Brix using brown liquor (65°Brix) . The Freundlich isotherm showed that the bagasse-based activated carbon was a suitable adsorbent for sugar colour bodies. Gas analysis results revealed that the off gases from the pyrolysis and activation stages had calorific values of about 63MJ and 31MJ per kg of activated carbon respectively . The total combustion energy of 94 MJ/kg of active carbon was enough to satisfy the process energy requirements for drying, pyrolysis and activation. By burning combustibles like tar, methane, carbon monoxide, ethylene and hydrogen for process thermal energy needs, the environmental impact of the manufacturing process was reduced to a Global Warming Potential of llkg CO2 Equiv per kg of carbon produced. The demonstration plant requires a capital investment of US$lOA million to give a competitive bagasse-based activated carbon (BPAC) selling price of US$1.80 per kg and IRR, ROI and Investment payback time of 17.93%, 23.93% and 3.80 years respectively. A sensitivity analysis was also carried out to investigate the effect of possible variation in the main project forecasts which are BPAe selling price , bagasse buying price, capital investment and production costs on IRR, ROI and payback time . The benefits of process integration within a sugar mill would be expected to improve the business feasibility ; If bagasse was free the IRR would increase to 28.59% and even better to 32.12% if extra boiler and electricity capacity was also available at the mill.


Thesis (M.Sc.Eng.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, 2005.


Bagasse., Sugar--Manufacture and refining--By-products., Theses--Chemical engineering.