Abengoa Bioethanol Plant, Netherlands

Abengoa Bioenergy's bioethanol plant in Europoort in Rotterdam, Netherlands, was opened in September 2010. The plant is operated by Abengoa Bioenergy Netherlands, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abengoa Bioenergy.

The plant is the largest single train facility in the world. It can produce 127 million gallons of bioethanol annually from 1.2mt of corn or wheat cereal as feedstock.

It also produces 360,000t of distilled grains and solubles (DGS) which can be used an animal feed. Abengoa invested €550m in the facility.

The plant is strategically located at the Port of Rotterdam enabling easy access to whole grains. The location also enables efficient transportation of bioethanol by sea to various markets in Europe and the rest of the world.

Design and construction

"The plant is operated by Abengoa Bioenergy Netherlands, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Abengoa Bioenergy."

Construction of the plant started in February 2008 and included nearly 1,500 workers. About 4,000 concrete pillars with a height of 35m were erected to form the foundation structure of the plant.

The facility occupies an area of 23h and includes eight silos for storing grains, storage facilities for bioethanol and DGS, fermentation tanks, distillation units, decanters, heat exchangers, dryers and cooling towers.

A grain intake system, gas turbine and boiler and a jetty are also part of the plant. The facility also includes a water treatment plant and an outflows plant.

The grain silos have a storage capacity of 55,000t. The grain intake system features a 600m long conveyor belt which carries the grain from the jetty to the plant. The plant's jetty can handle various sizes of ships ranging from 1,000t to 60,000t.

A cogeneration plant in the facility produces all the steam and electricity required for the ethanol production process. Any surplus energy produced by the plant is exported to the national grid.

A distributed control system (DCS) is installed at the plant to monitor and control the entire operations of the plant. It helps in automating the plant's information systems and reducing operational costs.

Process technology

The Rotterdam plant uses a grain-based bioethanol production technology. Cereal received at the grain intake system is first unloaded, weighed and sampled.

"Abengoa Bioenergy's bioethanol plant in Europoort in Rotterdam, Netherlands, was opened in September 2010."

It is then cleaned and stored in silos. The next step is grinding and converting the cereal into starch. Fermentation is then carried out in eight tanks and two beerwells with a capacity of 42,800m3. Following fermentation, the mixture is distilled and separated into anhydrous ethanol and stillage. The final step is dehydration to obtain bioethanol.

The stillage is further processed through centrifugation and drying to produce DGS. The plant is equipped with a stillage evaporation and concentration system specifically designed to meet its requirements.

The system uses the enhanced high solids concentration evaporation technology developed by HDD. Compared to other processes, this technology prevents fouling of heat transfer surfaces.

The process includes separation of liquids from the stillage using a decanting process. The liquids are evaporated and the solids treated in the dryers to obtain DGS pellets.

The ethanol production process also generates 300,000t of high quality carbon dioxide which is transported via pipelines to the greenhouses located nearby, to grow plants and vegetables. As a result, the consumption of natural gas by these greenhouses is reduced, increasing sustainability and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.


Abener was awarded the contract for basic design and detailed engineering, procurement and construction. Katzen was responsible for providing detailed process design, operator training and start-up services.

Piping works for the facility were carried out by Verwater Mechanical. Vos Mechanical supplied two boilers for producing steam for the ethanol production process. Inabensa supplied low voltage equipment for the plant.

The DCS for the plant was supplied by Telvent. Teyma Internacional was responsible for managing and executing the civil works of the plant. Stolz carried out design and construction management activities for the plant.