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Sungla Distillery LLC

I will build my distillery from ground-up. But I need HELP!

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Hi there,

I am a newbie, both to this forum and to distillation in general. And I am about to set forth on one of the biggest ventures of my life: to build my own distillery from ground-up. I design things and my friend will do the metal works. My friend seems very sure of what he will be doing. But I am not. So I am here asking for your help! (Why from ground-up, you may ask. Well, a short answer is: I couldn't find any ready-built distilling equipment suitable for the place where we put our distillery.)

I've just spent the last two months laboring on numbers and drawing, going from one equation to another and back. The whole process was much more convoluted than presented below as I didn't know much from the start. But here it is:

1.       500 liter still (132 gallons). This is the starting point.

2.       It requires 115K BTU to bring 500 liters of 60/40 mixture of water and ethanol (40% abv) to boiling point and 755K BTU to vaporize them ALL (latent heat). (I don’t do strip run, only still run with 40abv spirit). Hence, a total of 870000 BTU is required to vaporize all 500 liters of this mixture.

3.       One distillation run will take 8 hours (I just pick a number to fit into a day of work). Hence, a steam source of 109K BTUh (BTU in one hour) is needed.

4.       The steam will come from a wood/coal-fired steam boiler. I did a search on “heat content of wood” and pick this number, 12MMBTU/cord (3.625m3). From there, it would need 0.03 m3 (1 ft3) of wood to generate 109K BTU. The firebox, therefore, must be big enough to burn, at least, this much wood in one hour. This is the easiest requirement ?

5.       I design a firebox, and blower and secondary combustion chamber, etc…, to burn three times that much, i.e: burning 0.9 m3 (3 ft3) of wood in one hour to generate 327K BTUh. Assume that only 70%, or 229K BTUh, of this heat acctually goes into making steam.

6.       Latent heat of water is 2141 BTU/kg. With 229K BTU, the boiler can generate 107kg steam in 1 hour, equivalent to 6.8 BHP (1 boiler horse power = 15.65 kg/h of steam). Now come the confusing parts:

7.       Jason Funk at Hughes Machinery states in his Basic Boiler presentation that for vertical firetube boilers, like the one I am building, every BHP needs 3 ft2  of heating surface. So my boiler would need 6.8 BHP x 3 ft2/BHP = 20.4 ft2, or 1.9 m2, of heating surface. I’ll add another 50%, bring the total of heating surface to 2.85 m2, to be on the safe side.

8.       I omitted the actual calculation with the heat transfer equations and went with an estimation from CheCalc.com and the Titan Metal Fabrication websites to derive the length and surface for the immersion coil in the still. If all 500 liters in the still are water, hence  489 kg, then I would need 0.78 m2 of cooling surface to raise the water temperature from 20C to boiling point in 1 hour. I plan to use 22.1mm diameter copper tube and that brings me to a total 11.3 m of tubes. I’ll make it 20 m, to be safe again.

9.       Last part: Condensing tubes. I plan to use the same amount of tubes that are in the still, i.e.: 20 m2 of 22.1mm diameter copper tube.

As said, I have gone back and forth countless times between these numbers, checked them against multiple formulas and/or website (which I am glad to provide if asked). At this point, I am very much comfortable with them. But again, I have never done this before. There is still a lingering doubt in my mind, of course.

I will (forever) be grateful to anyone who has the patience and/or knowledge to examine these numbers for me. If they are indeed bogus numbers, I really don't want to spend a couple grand on them before knowing...

Thank you!

Khoi

 

 

 

 

 

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What makes the abundance of ready built equipment not suitable for your location? Hiring someone who has already figured this out will likely be much cheaper, easier, and yield a better quality product than cobbling together a bunch of numbers from random online sources.

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The place, in a mountainous region in Asia, does not have electricity. (We will run the pumps with a small power generator.) That requirement alone knocks out  most of the ready built heaters/boilers in the market. Besides, we need a boiler that we can burn wood, coal, oil, or anything we may get our hand on. I’d really appreciate that you let us know anyone making equipment like that.

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It really depends on what you are trying to achieve, but the German still makers Holstein, Muller, and probably CARL have models which can be heated directly with wood (the ones I've seen have a firebox heating a water bath or jacket).http://www.alambics-sofac.fr/ who make and work on traditional french Armagnac could likely direct you to or build you wood-fired still.  

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I was looking at trying to run a boiler system on wood pellets and found some manufacturers in China selling small scale high efficiency boimass powered low pressure steam boilers, I think it was on Alibaba or similar website.  https://www.canadianbiomassmagazine.ca/images/stories/2011/mayjune11/biomassboilerbuyersguidelr.pdf   has some boiler systems that run on a variety of fuels. You will have to try and find one that does not need electricity to operate or maybe provide power from generator to the boiler unit to power controls. Most of these systems are almost power plant size, make some calls they could maybe help you find smaller systems to power 132 gal still.

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Would imagine a better approach is a direct fire bain marie for stripping, and eliminating all the headache and complexity (and failure) of a wood fired steam boiler.  Use immersion elements on the spirit still for simplicity.

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I haven't checked the numbers but you say  "Hence, a total of 870000 BTU is required to vaporize all 500 liters of this mixture."

When distilling alcohol you do not vaporise the whole 500 liters. If you did you would end up with the same ABV that you started with.

You only need to boil off about 1/5 of the volume. By then there is no alcohol left in the pot

Maybe you have not explained properly but you appear to be starting with a 40% ABV in the pot. I would assume there are no solids in that so you could go direct fire and save all the work building a steam boiler. BUT 40% in the pot is pretty high and could be dangerous with direct fire even with bain marie jacket. Cut back to below 30 % to make a little safer.

That might not be what you are trying to achieve so please explain in more detail

I suggest you spend some time at a small distillery before you go any further. 

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Thanks, PeterB, for the reminder.

You're right. I was indeed oblivious to the fact that I do not need to vaporize all of the liquid in the pot. My distilling experience, to this point, is only with a small "traditional" aluminum pot. I was thinking going "brute forth" with it: vaporizing them all and store the distillate in a series of 40-liter containers, then go back to pick the "heart" out among them. Once again, you are right. Even doing that I still do not need to vaporize them all. Say, only half of it (to bring the concentration to 80% for instance) and with that I will cut the distilling time from 8 to 4 hours. The rest of the numbers stay (if they are right).

Yes, I'll start with already-made spirits that the villagers around this mountain have been making for century. They are around 40%abv. One year ago, I came to this place, went around the village and bought 200 liters worth of this spirit, borrowed their pots to distill them one more time, cut the "head" and "tail", then dumped the "heart" into two 10-gallon oak barrels I brought back with me from the States. I left the barrels to the care of the villagers and went home. Last month, I came back to check on them and see my future. So here I am :)

And yes, I'm learning from scratch. But as people always say, there is a will there is a way. And there are like-minded people to help me as you just did :) 

Thanks again!

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Assuming you live in an area that has no authority which has jurisdiction over the regulation, certification, and operation of steam boilers.  In my neighborhood, this would never be approved for use.  Constant-fired/hand-fired steam boilers are incredibly dangerous as you have no way to regulate the firebox, and this ranks among the most potentially dangerous ideas ever posted on ADI.

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At 2 barG, the pressure in my boiler is less, much less, than that of the hot water tank in my basement. A 3-ft3 firebox is much less than that of a typical wood furnace we see in rural homes here in the States. Please enlighten me if I am missing something here.

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Silk City,

 He is not in a neighborhood in a city.   He is in a mountainous region of Asia where there is no electricity.  So immersion heaters are out.  Also  I seriously doubt that there is any code enforcement.  Wood fired boilers have been around for over 200 years and they can be regulated fairly simply.  I actually ran a saw mill that had a  wood fired boiler and steam engine.  I only ran 3 logs through it.  The mill itself was an old antique meadows #1 mill with a little 48" diameter head saw.  The feed was a lot slower than any of the handset mills that I had ran before, but it sawed really well.  A guy that used to hand hammer my head saws had it.  This guy built the wood fired boiler from the ground up and he had rebuilt the old steam engine that ran the mill.  The steam engine had originally been built in the 1870s and it was without the original boiler componants.  The old boy took it to the county fair every year.  He would saw a few pine logs with it while he was at the fair, with hundreds of people all around. 

Sungla,  If I were you and I just had to have a wood fired boiler, I would buy an asian made wood fired steam boiler.  You can do that for a lot less than what it will cost you to build it your self and more importantly it will have a more efficient design.  If you must have it built from scratch use a good pre existing design if possible, and have the builder pressure test it at 3 times the operating pressure.  Use 2 pressure relief valves for safety redundancy and plumb them so that if they pop the steam will be blown to a safe place and not into your face.  Make it low pressure operating at 14psi max with 15 psi safety valves.  

 The truth is that you really don't need a boiler.  Just build a fire box from fire brick and put your copper still on top of that and brick the still all the way up the sides to the bottom of the skirt.  The fire will heat the brick and the brick will heat the still.  You can mash with solids in without scorching.  Build a good chimney on it and control with a vent and damper.  Never put anything in the pot over 25%.  Put it outside if possible.  If it is inside have plenty of doors and windows so that you can ventilate qquickly if you need to.  If you cannot get regular brick to the site just use fire brick for the fire box and use stone and motor to (rock the still up).  You can bring in a little portland and use the rock, sand and water that is on site. Also, just so you know, you should not distill or ferment in aluminum.  Use stainless or copper.  Aluminum leaches in alcohol.

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What kind of pressure relief valve?  Pretty sure if you flip over the paper tag on any standard pressure relief valve, you'll see the following phrase.

Do not use this valve on a coal or wood fired boiler having an uncontrolled heat input.

Which is exactly what the design is.

Check the Apollo valves you sell, let me know if it says that.

 

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Silk City, why would you run a wood fired boiler without a controller?  Sungla never said anything about running the boiler without a controller nor did I.    Wood fired and coal fired steam boilers are used all over the US for steam heat and industrial purposes.  There is certainly no problem putting Apollo valves on them.  

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Thanks, gentlemen, for your valuable comments. Unless I miss something critical in my design I wouldn’t worry about the safety aspect of the system as that’s what I do for living. My utmost concern is still in the area of heating transfer/exchange. Do I plan enough heat from the boiler to the still to have it function in a timely manner? Is it too much, too little? etc... There is virtually nothing on the net regarding how many BTU are needed for certain size of stills. It seems like a trade secret or something :)

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As a rule of thumb you want to have 1000 BTUs of low pressure steam for each gallon of mash for a 1 hr heat up to operating temp time.  You can use up to 2000 btus of low pressure steam per gallon of mash and as little as 500 btus per gallon of mash.  That is for steam, if you decide to go with direct fire then you will need at least twice that number of btus.

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1 hour ago, Southernhighlander said:

As a rule of thumb you want to have 1000 BTUs of low pressure steam for each gallon of mash for a 1 hr heat up to operating temp time.  You can use up to 2000 btus of low pressure steam per gallon of mash and as little as 500 btus per gallon of mash.  That is for steam, if you decide to go with direct fire then you will need at least twice that number of btus.

Thanks a ton, Southernhighlander! Your numbers put me at ease: my calculation, for 500 liters or 132 gallons of mash, came out at 134000.12 BTU! Definitely not a coincidence to your 1000 BTU/gallon! 

A 2000 BTU/gallon would double the heat input requirement to 268000 BTU. I have it at 227000 BTU in my design. It seems like I'm covered :)

 

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Not an engineer, but your cooling surface area seems huge.  Remember that you are taking your 40 abv from room temp to boiling but only cooling it a few degrees to get from vapor to liquid.

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Wow, this sounds like an incredible project. Thanks for sharing! I'm glad to have this forum to learn from everyone.

IMG1532218700.jpg

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On 3/6/2018 at 12:08 AM, Aux Arc said:

Not an engineer, but your cooling surface area seems huge.  Remember that you are taking your 40 abv from room temp to boiling but only cooling it a few degrees to get from vapor to liquid.

Thank you for pointing this out. I felt unsettled about this too. I got the number from here, https://homedistiller.org/calcs/cond_calc. I punched in my numbers and it kept spitting out between 14-18 meters of coil.

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