ISRO - Implementation of Solvent Recovery in edible Oil

The implementation of solvent recovery in edible oil industry (ISRO)


In the edible oil industry separation by means of solvents is a technique that is widely used. The removal of these solvents from the product for re-use is a very energy demanding process. Organic Solvent Nanofiltration (OSN) is an emerging technology that is recognized for its facilitation perspectives of recycling organic solvents in industrial processes.

As part of the EEMBAR project (predecessor project which has run till October 2017 on the IOI LC facility) OSN pilot trials have proven to have the potential to reduce the energy requirements of the distillation based acetone recovery process by 50%. The difference between small scale experiments in the lab and piloting however was found to be larger than anticipated.

The recently started ISPT project Implementation of Solvent Recovery in Edible Oil Industry, ISRO, aims to realize the proof-of-principle of OSN based solvent recovery. Scale up challenges are expected based on the specific nature of the vegetable oil as well as the relatively high oil concentrations the membrane needs to handle and their impact on mass transfer. It is clear that this  concept can be optimized to a satisfactory solution in the industrial environment (TRL 7).

To further demonstrate the viability of OSN for solvent recovery from edible oils and leverage the advancements in membrane/module design, a second industrial process will be studied. This other process involves the re-use of high boiler solvent from a cleaning solution in a plastics recycling process at TUSTI. In addition to polymeric OSN modules, advanced functionalized ceramic membranes will be made for the separation cases by VITO.

The project aims to show the proof-based-principle of OSN-based solvents in both of these application cases. These results will be studied through long term on site piloting on real industrial oil/solvent mixtures. A successful integration of OSN with the current distillation process will make recovery of acetone at IOI LC significantly less energy intensive. It will also offer the opportunity to ‘debottleneck’ distillation in terms of capacity at lower costs. For TUSTI, recovery of spent high boiler solvent by OSN would allow direct re-use in the cleaning process and bring significant savings in transportation costs while also making the biodiesel process more efficient.

In addition to two end-users (IOI LC and TUSTI) and two membrane suppliers (SolSep and VITO), the multidisciplinary consortium further consists of MTSA and TU Eindhoven (process modeling, design, integration and costing) and ISPT (project management, dissemination and valorization), providing essential support for the technological work and the business cases.


This project is co-funded with subsidy from the Topsector Energy by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy.