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Wait, isn't winterization the process "that uses a solvent and cold temperatures to separate lipids and other desired oil compounds." If it's fractionation using temperature, then how can it be done at room temperature? Prepare to have your mind blown away!
Most of us should by now be familiar with winterization, where we freeze a crude oil tincture at -86C overnight so lipids, fats, and waxes can drop out of suspension. We then filter out those fats and recover the solvent from the crude.
New technological advances using technology from industries like desalination plants, allow us to filter out lipids, fats, waxes, and chlorophyll without modifying the temperature. The process is simple and uses nanopores instead of a larger micron-sized pored to filter out impurities from miscella streams.
Instead of slamming particles onto filter paper, Organic Solvent Nano (OSN) Membrane filters operate on a tangential path. Fluid flows parallel to the filter, some particles make it through the membrane, and those that get stuck on the membrane are later unclogged by the current flowing tangentially. This allows a membrane cartridge to filter hundreds of thousands of gallons and operate continually where it slowly purifies the solution.
By selecting the right OSN pore diameter, this technology allows you to remove fats from the miscella stream, producing a dewaxed crude at room temperature. Other membrane sizes allow the removal of the vast majority of the solvent to produce clean solvent and crude oil with enough solvent to move to a downstream process.
The brilliance of these systems comes from operating costs. Without pulling fancy spreadsheets and graphs, picture the costs of the typical process. How much does it cost to winterize and recover solvent? Freezers, time, labor, filters, falling film evaporators? What about the energy FFE and freezers use? All this is eliminated by OSN membranes and is replaced by 2 small pumps. Typically a system pays for itself in 12-18 months through energy savings alone!
What about quality you say? Consider this process is non-thermal. There is no thermal degradation at any point in this process, so if you start with great material you will keep it that way.
One drawback to these systems is cost since our smallest system is upwards of $60K. That being said, a comparable FFE is $155K. OSN over winterization and thermal-based solvent recovery is a no-brainer both from a capital investment perspective and an operating expense perspective. Hope you are as excited about this new but proved technology as I am!