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At the peak of growth (12-24 h) this culture is used to seed a succeeding culture 30-50 times larger. This is repeated, generally through three laboratory stages and two or three plant semiworks stages, to produce the final 2-5 vol% inoculum for the primary fermentation. The inoculum is grown on a medium similar to the final fermentation mash to minimize acclimatization time in the final fermenter, but higher levels of yeast growth nutrients may be used to produce a high cell density (typically 150 billion cells 1-1).

Higher product concentration would also be desirable. 26 Comprehensive Biotechnology Alcohol Recovery Alcohol product recovery is energy intensive, typically accounting for more than 50% of the total fermentative ethanol plant energy consumption. When heat from burning of raw material residues (such as bagasse) is not available, this constitutes a significant operating cost. Depending on recovery system design, recovery equipment cost generally makes up 6-12% of the plant total capital investment.

New reactor designs, such as the upflow reactor, are being evaluated at pilot plant scale and may greatly reduce the treatment time. In some plants, ammonia recovery is also practiced (Skogman, 1979). The effluent liquid pH is increased to release ammonium ions as free ammonia gas. The liquid is stripped with air which is then counter current contacted with acid solution in an absorber to produce concentrated ammonium salts for recycle as a fermentation nutrient or for sale as a fertilizer; 90% nitrogen reduction in the stillage is typical.

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