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By Robert Rapier on May 25, 2010 with 55 responses

Final Thoughts on Methanol

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The previous essay on methanol versus ethanol resulted in a number of interesting comments. It was one of the best discussions we have had around here in a long time. Many issues were raised in the resulting discussions that warrant some clarification. So I thought I would make some final comments regarding some of the issues that were raised.

Conflicts of Interest

In a story at BiofuelsDigest – Methanol: Biofuel to love or hate? – it was suggested that I might have a conflict of interest here in my defense of methanol. That is certainly a legitimate question to ask, and I don’t mind answering it. The fact is that I have zero financial interests in methanol. My company has zero financial interests in methanol. We are not producing methanol, have never produced methanol, and we currently have no plans to produce methanol. So it would be a bit hard to have a conflict of interest when I have no interests.

On the other hand, many of the methanol bashers do have conflicts. They are invested in ethanol, and have an interest in seeing ethanol continue to operate as essentially a monopoly. The reason I decided to write the essay in the first place was because there are a fair number of hypocrites who have defended ethanol against charges of corrosivity and lower energy content relative to gasoline – and then turned around and cited those as criticisms against methanol.

My Motivation

What I am trying to do here is quite simple. I am trying to open up the debate to consider merits of some energy options beyond the mandated ethanol monopoly that was forced upon us. My personal belief is that corn ethanol carries great risks because it is tied to the food supply and is dependent on cheap fossil fuels. I don’t believe we will always have the luxury of using some of our most fertile soil to inefficiently produce fuel. I think in a future in which petroleum supplies are declining, we will put a premium on being able to efficiently turn biomass into liquid fuel. Ethanol produced via biological pathways will not win that race. Ethanol is presently very good at turning fossil fuels via mandates and subsidies into liquid fuel. We have been doing it for 30 years. And yet we still see the ethanol lobby stating that they need the subsidies to survive.

So my primary interest here is in seeing the world develop fuels that can actually step in as petroleum replacements as petroleum supplies decline. A major factor that will drive the success of these replacements will be low reliance on fossil fuels (as petroleum declines, natural gas prices will surely climb as well). That fuel could be ethanol. Contrary to popular opinion I have zero bias against ethanol as a a fuel. My bias is against developing faux solutions to declining petroleum supplies and only realizing our error as petroleum shortages are upon us.

Toxicity

Critics of methanol love to throw out the “toxicity” criticism as if this alone should end all debate. Critics were running out of adjectives trying to describe just how toxic methanol is. It is a wonder that I am alive considering how often I have washed my windows with it.

There are many, many problems with toxicity argument. Ethanol is made toxic before it leaves the ethanol distillery so people won’t drink it. Shouldn’t we therefore be alarmed that this toxic substance is in our fuel supply? Of course gasoline itself is highly toxic as well, so methanol is being charged with a crime that the other fuels are guilty of as well. The fact is, our motor fuels are toxic – and flammable. Therefore they are dangerous and we have to use them with an appropriate degree of caution.

It even went so far as someone suggesting methanol could be used as a terrorist weapon. I hate to break the news to people, but the windshield washer fluid that you can buy for a buck or two at the store contains large amounts of methanol. You can also buy fuel additives like HEET that are almost pure methanol. Perhaps Homeland Security should be advised that consumers are getting their hands on this stuff.

Of course consumers are allowed to buy all kinds of toxic substances like bleach, Drano, and antifreeze (poisonous and sweet-tasting!). The thing is, we don’t drink them. We handle them with caution, and we keep them out of reach of children. So which is more dangerous: Methanol in your fuel tank or the bottle of Drano under your sink?

Corrosion

It is true that methanol is slightly more corrosive than ethanol, but then ethanol is much more corrosive than gasoline. Ethanol proponents have long told us that this is no big deal; that for under $100 cars can be made compatible with ethanol’s higher corrosivity. But suddenly, these same people throw up methanol’s corrosivity as a show-stopper. They tell us horror stories about cars dissolving under methanol’s horrible powers.

I am a big believer in validating theories, so instead of theorizing about how methanol will destroy all of our cars, perhaps it would be instructive to examine methanol’s performance in the real world. The facts are that 1). A number of methanol cars are already in service; 2). Millions of people already put methanol in their cars via gasoline additives. 3). Billions of gallons of methanol are already in the fuel supply in other countries. You would think someone might have noticed their dissolving automobile fleets if the problems were as dire as critics warn. But actually Ford solved this problem back in the 80′s and 90′s, offering flex-fuel cars that could operate on blends of methanol or ethanol (see the many references to this in the Flex-Fuel Wiki).

Energy Density

As I pointed out previously, this is another issue that brought out a lot of hypocrisy from ethanol fans. Ethanol has a lower energy density than gasoline. Ethanol fans have defended against that charge forever, trying to minimize it as a legitimate issue. Yet suddenly they raise it as an issue when the talk turns to methanol. But actually, it is again like the corrosion issue. There is a bigger difference between gasoline and ethanol than there is between ethanol and methanol. So you have to wonder how the same person can defend ethanol’s lower energy density and turn around and criticize methanol’s lower energy density.

Energy density is something I don’t get too worked up about. Ideally, we would all like to fill up very infrequently. With ethanol or methanol we are going to fill up more often. But ultimately, the convenience of driving far outweighs the inconvenience of filling up twice as often as you do now.

Devil’s Advocacy

Finally, I think a lot of people confuse my devil’s advocacy of some issues with real advocacy. When I suggest that we have a methanol mandate to match our ethanol mandate (real or de facto), then I am playing devil’s advocate. In fact, I don’t favor a methanol mandate. I did not favor an ethanol mandate. Mandates distort markets in unpredictable ways. I think the problem with mandates is that it becomes very hard to measure the true cost. And if you don’t know the true cost, you don’t really know if you can afford it in the long term.

At least with subsidies we know how much we are spending, and we can measure the market penetration relative to the subsidy outlay. We mandates, the cost is harder to pin down. Maybe the refiner takes a little hit, and then he passes some of that on to the consumer. But what the refiner is not doing is evaluating the economics of the mandated fuel relative to competitors – because the refiner is legally obligated to use it regardless of how much the fuel costs.

Conclusion

I don’t believe there is any single source of energy that is going to replace petroleum. It is going to take a combination of many different energy sources, and I believe those with the highest conversion efficiencies will ultimately win out. This is exactly why I favor thermochemical conversion processes over biochemical conversion processes; the former has significantly better prospects for higher conversion efficiencies. The product of the process can be methanol, ethanol, butanol, di-methyl-ether, gasoline or diesel. We can live with any or all of those fuels. But we can’t live with them if the conversion efficiency is low – unless we are willing to perpetually subsidize them to compensate for the low conversion efficiency. I simply don’t think this will be an option as fossil fuel supplies deplete, and that essentially defines where I am coming from.

  1. By carbonbridge on May 25, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Something which was never really discussed in the recent discussions about methanol was its excellent solvency and biodegradability factors. 

    Municipal sewer plant operators have quietly used MeOH to rejuvinate the bacteria populations in municipal sewer plants after these systems have taken a ‘hit’ from something like quantities of anti-freeze or other poisonous elements hitting the sewers.  C1 methanol rapidly dissolves and dilutes in water and simple bacteria then eat it for lunch.  The hydrogen ions pop off, one pair becomes an H2 gas and the last one on this molecule joins with the OH group to become a H2O water molecule.  Pretty simple.  And this is what biodegradability is all about on this blue planet…  It is not rocket science!

    Bacteria, single-celled organisms, even phytoplankton in the ocean all can process and grow using dilute, linear alcohols as a food source.  Same thing happens for all green living plants and trees which can process dilute alcohols as an easily digestible food source.  We will be seeing new patented recipes using methanol as the primary ingredient used as a fertilizer or growth mechanism for agricultural plants.  I first saw examples back in 1986 of how dilute methanol made corn grow much better at an Experimental Station near Farmington, New Mexico, at the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

    Last week the EPA and others were looking for alternative dispersants to utilize in the Gulf Oil Spill.  I carefully provided the suggestion that C1 MeOH, the world’s simplest alcohol might be considered as it will easily begin breaking down the crude oil slick and pure methanol going into the ocean isn’t going to impact aquatic life – it is going to feed it.  I left word with BP and with the U.S. EPA’s Secretary.  It will be interesting to see IF there is any notice of this suggestion.  BP has ownership interest in world scale methanol facilities operating at the equator in Trinidad, Tobago.  It seemingly would be easy for them to send 2-3 tankers of single-carbon methanol asap to the Gulf Region and begin liberally spraying this most basic of alcohols on the oil slick and beachfront areas now getting greased.

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  2. By Walt on May 25, 2010 at 11:52 am

    I want to toss in my final two cents on the subject…as I have faced these criticisms about methanol since I formed our company in 2004.  In retrospect, had I known methanol would be treated like the evil step-sister or wicked step-mother of ethanol I probably would not have gone down this road to build a methanol technology.  Again, it was only until I read the lawsuit between Methanex and ADM that I understood my chances to convince anyone of the value of methanol was unlikely.

    I provided some links to the complaint at the State Department yesterday, but few people want the complaint.  If you want to read the final judgment and the award….it reads like a spy novel of conspiracy and intrigue…see it here:

    http://www.state.gov/documents…../51052.pdf

    Most people don’t really care, nor do they really want to know, but the document is worth the read for those seeking to get into the Methanol business in America.  Do not be surprised if you get little help or support from the ethanol lobby and its biggest support (ADM/US government).

    Here is just one quote as reported in the judgment:

    “ADM has a reputation for seeking to create and control markets by
    influencing the political decision-makers who affect them; to that end,
    ADM makes large political contributions to both political parties in
    order to ensure that its interests are furthered.  ADM is single-minded
    in pursuit of its corporate objectives, and its corporate behavior has
    been harshly condemned by the  US Court of Appeals for the Seventh
    Circuit in a case involving another of ADM’s products: ‘The facts
    involved in this case reflect an inexplicable lack of business ethics
    and an atmosphere of general lawlessness that infected the very heart
    of one of America’s leading corporate citizens. Top executives at ADM
    and its Asian co-conspirators throughout the early 1990s spied on each
    other, fabricated aliases and front organizations to hide their
    activities, hired prostitutes to gather information from competitors,
    lied, cheated, embezzled, extorted and obstructed justice’ United
    States v Andreas, 216 F.3d 645, 650 (7th Cir. 2000).

    I expect RR will continue to be viewed as have some sort of “conflict of interest” from other authors who know good and well that nearly all of their own readership and funding comes from the ethanol/biofuel movement.

    Let’s have a fair and leval playing field, because I can guarantee with ethanol at $530/ton and methanol at $330/ton we will still be more competitive with our technology.  Read the lawsuit and judgment people…and let Methanol here in America have its place at the table.  Those of us working in this sector deserve the support in 2010 to bring these technologies to market…and quickly!

     

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  3. By John Gear on May 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

    Spot on, except for this one bit: “Mandates distort markets in unpredictable ways.”

    As you have said many times, a mandate is an infinite producer subsidy. Analyzed as such, I can find no unpredictability. The ethanol mandate’s destructive effects were well-predicted and have all come true. I can’t think of a single consequence of the ethanol mandate that was not well-predicted by numerous analysts.

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  4. By Benny BND Cole on May 25, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Yet another excellent post by RR, who yet again proves himself the nation’s foremost commentator on all issues energy.

    I feel fortunate to be able to read RR’s column–imagine only a decade back, pre-Internet. You would have to rely on regular print media for information (TV being the Gong Show). They try hard, but simply lack the depth and expertise.

    I can only hope the larger media pay attention to this blog, and, course, the broader body politic.

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  5. By rrapier on May 25, 2010 at 2:09 pm

    Spot on, except for this one bit: “Mandates distort markets in unpredictable ways.”

    As you have said many times, a mandate is an infinite producer subsidy.

    What is unpredictable is the amount of the subsidy. If you have a direct subsidy, you know. With a mandate? Unpredictable.

    RR

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  6. By russ-finley on May 25, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Very little discussion was devoted to the impact on the biosphere in general. Bob Dinneen of the RFA  is convinced that there must be an “…unholy union between oil interests and environmentalists…”

    Humanity would have to defy the laws of physics to replace all oil by converting plant matter into liquid fuels. We need to seek out the most efficient ways to make energy from plants. A recent study has shown that just cofiring biomass with coal is vastly more efficient than trying to turn it into a liquid fuel.

    This suggests that we should be working hard to eliminate the internal combustion engine as our primary source of personal transport, rather than try to replace one liquid fuel with another.

    Certainly, when we make liquid fuels from plants, we should be using the most efficient means as well and nobody (who isn’t lining their pocket with corn ethanol profits) thinks that corn ethanol is the most efficient way to do that.

    A corn field is one species away from being as biologically impoverished as a mall parking lot. Industiral agriculture is a necessary evil to keep humanity fed. Using it to make fuel as well will pour gas on the fire consuming the planet’s biodiversity.

     

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  7. By Perry on May 25, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Walt, I actually read the whole pdf document,believe it or not. It’s not unusual for competitors to spy on each other. Methanex never claimed ADM did anything illegal. On the other hand, Methanex hired private investigators to dig through people’s trash. These guy’s would enter offices left unlocked by janitors and cart off trash bags full of documents that turned out to be irrevelant to anything at all. At the heart of the case was the California ban on MTBE. Methanex claimed that MTBE was safe and beneficial to the environment. HUH? Another claim by Methanex was that the ban on MTBE was in fact an attack on foreign imports,since very little methanol is actually made in the USA. I wasn’t surprised that Methanex lost the case and had to pay for arbitration costs. MTBE does foul drinking water. Thousands of homeowners will never be able to drink from their wells again.

    And no, methanol producers shouldn’t expect help from the ethanol lobby. Neither should any other industry. That’s just not the way the real world operates. Methanol interests should instead form their own lobby,if one doesn’t already exist.

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  8. By Walt on May 25, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Perry said:

    Walt, I actually read the whole pdf document,believe it or not. It’s not unusual for competitors to spy on each other. Methanex never claimed ADM did anything illegal. On the other hand, Methanex hired private investigators to dig through people’s trash. These guy’s would enter offices left unlocked by janitors and cart off trash bags full of documents that turned out to be irrevelant to anything at all. At the heart of the case was the California ban on MTBE. Methanex claimed that MTBE was safe and beneficial to the environment. HUH? Another claim by Methanex was that the ban on MTBE was in fact an attack on foreign imports,since very little methanol is actually made in the USA. I wasn’t surprised that Methanex lost the case and had to pay for arbitration costs. MTBE does foul drinking water. Thousands of homeowners will never be able to drink from their wells again.

    And no, methanol producers shouldn’t expect help from the ethanol lobby. Neither should any other industry. That’s just not the way the real world operates. Methanol interests should instead form their own lobby,if one doesn’t already exist.


     

    Hmmm, I see you missed the claims made against ADM and focused on the claims about Methanex.  Interesting reporting.  I’ve seen two independent stories written on that summary, and yours was the first who slammed Methanex in one paragraph.

    For the record…I’ve never defended Methanex in asking people to read the report…I just wanted them to see the summary and realize why Methanol has moved offshore (in addition to high prices of natural gas using old technology) and ADM is THE major player in ethanol! :)

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  9. By Perry on May 25, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    What would you have me say about ADM Walt? That they’re a very large company that does things very large companies do ? I was at an annual meeting for investors at Microsoft once, and had the bad luck to hear Bill Gates go on for 20 minutes about politicians with their hands out. He was explaining why Microsoft donates to both sides of virtually every major campaign. Methanex made much of ADM donations to Gov. Davis, while admitting those donations were perfectly legal. Methanex made a lot of commotion about “secret” meetings between Davis and ADM that turned out to have been quite public and not a secret to anyone. In short, Methanex was casting aspersions on ADM while breaking the law itself through its spying activities. Methanex changed course and tactics with this case a number of times. Each time, the panel patiently admonished Methanex to quit the stall tactics and move towards a verdict. Finally,the panel failed to see any wrongdoing by anyone but Methanex and ordered them to pay for wasting their time. I’m not going to claim ADM is run by angels. But, they aren’t the latest incarnation of satan either, although a dozen different websites will gladly tell you otherwise.

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  10. By Walt on May 25, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Perry said:

    What would you have me say about ADM Walt?


     

    United States v Andreas, 216 F.3d 645, 650 (7th Cir. 2000).  I would say….as came across clear…it is shameful…unless you are numb to politics.

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  11. By paul-n on May 26, 2010 at 3:42 am

    A good summary RR, except for the title.  I am dissappointed that we will no longer be able to have any more thoughts on methanol after this, as I think they have been quite engaging and methanol fuel has a future, even if only from NG for now

    Since you mentioned the level paying field concept, can we also have a final thoughts on ethanol, so that we don;t have to discuss it any more – I’m sure Rufus is capable of talking about other things, though I haven;t seen him do so yet. ;-)

    In all seriousness, good points all that you raised, though you missed my personal favourite – that methanol has the ability, in a methanol optimised engine, to outperform gasoline, ethanol and diesel, in terms of thermal efficiency and widest operating range.  This in itself would go a fair way to offset the energy density issue, though I do agree that it is really a non issue.  Even if a car gets half the range it does now, that is still double the range of the EV’s coming onto the market, and they take hours to “refuel”.

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  12. By Rick on May 26, 2010 at 3:51 am

    As Russ notes, bio-resources are scarce and should be used efficiently. While we burn perfectly good vehicle fuels, such as LPG, NatGas and heating oil (which refineries can upgrade to diesel) for low grade heat, we have no business inefficiently transforming biomass to liquids. Just burn the biomass (in a modern, low emissions pellet boiler) and displace the natgas, LPG or heating oil at 100% efficiency, far better than any chem eng based conversion process. Of course, this is too easy for techies to be interested and too difficult for politicians to understand, so it probably won’t become popular.

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  13. By Oxymaven on May 26, 2010 at 10:12 am

    Not sure it’s useful to throw around the term ‘toxic’ without making some assessments of relative toxicity and the potential routes of exposure. Methanol clearly is much more toxic than gasoline or ethanol. As someone who was an observer of the California methanol pilot programs (M85) in the late 1980′s, potential incidents of blindness from ingestion of methanol during siphoning gasoline was a very significant concern. It is a fact of life that gasoline siphoning occurs and there are very legitimate concerns about possible health effects / blindness etc from those kind of incidents. Also, while no one should do it, there are folks who still routinely use gasoline as a solvent and a hand cleaner. Sure, we have methanol in other products easily purchased by consumers, but I don’t think that the siphoning exposure route is of concern for them. Gasoline is used and misused in so many ways, there is a very legitimate concern about methanol’s effects during these kinds of exposures. Someone must have a link to the California methanol initiative in the late ’80s / early ’90s and some kind of a report that summarizes why they abandoned M85?

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  14. By Perry on May 26, 2010 at 10:14 am

    The Civic GX is probably the greenest car on the planet. It’s certainly the greenest internal combustion engine. Yet, 12 years after its debut, the GX is still only sold in 3 states. Production is less than 1000 per year. Waiting lists are long. Refueling is a major hurdle for prospective buyers, so Honda’s decision to send the maker of the home fueling device PHIL into bankruptcy made sense to nobody. A GX owner can refuel his car for as little as 75 cents a gallon. Why isn’t Detroit getting in on this game? Why isn’t the GX more widely available? T. Boone Pickens has a tough roe to hoe if you ask me.

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  15. By takchess on May 26, 2010 at 10:37 am

    if you are so inclined, I would enjoy reading your thoughts on Calera in a post.

    http://www.greentechmedia.com/…..-and-more/

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  16. By rrapier on May 26, 2010 at 11:43 am

    if you are so inclined, I would enjoy reading your thoughts on Calera in a post.

    Jim, I actually have a fairly technical article debunking Calera’s claims written by a Ph.D. chemist that has been in the works for a while. I will check to see where that stands.

    Thanks, RR

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  17. By Benny BND Cole on May 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Russ Finley-
    I like the idea of methanol, but especially in combination with PHEVs and high-compression motors.
    We could expect PHEV drivers to use their methanol motors only for extended trips. Since most driving is in-town, this would radically reduce fossil fuel consumption, and totally eliminate oil consumption.
    I believe it is reasonable to expect continued improvement in lithium batteries, both in cost reduction and output improvements. If oil becomes expensive, at some lithium batteries become compelling for practical and economic reasons, let alone environmental and national security reasons.
    Yes, in a perfect world we do not burn fossil fuels. But I will take really, really good for now, and that would be a PHEV-methanol car.

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  18. By Walt on May 26, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    CarbonBridge said:

    Bacteria, single-celled organisms, even phytoplankton in the ocean all can process and grow using dilute, linear alcohols as a food source.  Same thing happens for all green living plants and trees which can process dilute alcohols as an easily digestible food source.  We will be seeing new patented recipes using methanol as the primary ingredient used as a fertilizer or growth mechanism for agricultural plants.  I first saw examples back in 1986 of how dilute methanol made corn grow much better at an Experimental Station near Farmington, New Mexico, at the Navajo Agricultural Products Industry.

     


     

    It will be disappointing to see the discussion on Methanol come to a final on this blog, but the coverage has been a great change from some of the comments in my own inbox.  We obviously hope people will continue to look into long-term benefits of methanol beyond this blog.

    One of our company Advisors, Dr. Arthur Nonomura, sent me the message today to share his latest research.  It supports our latest press release where we announced new fertilizers as an ‘add-on’ to our methanol process technology.  For those interested in the research, see here:

    http://www.informaworld.com/sm…..1003669897

    Dear Walt,
    The link takes you to my latest publication in the Nobel series, number XXVI.
    Please send the link around to everybody so they can download this most
    important verification of major technological breakthrough.
    A

    For those who want to follow our progress can follow our website: http://www.gastechno.com

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  19. By Marcel F. Williams on May 27, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    It should also be noted that methanol can be converted into high octane gasoline. New Zealand use to convert its natural gas into methanol and then convert its methanol into gasoline during the energy crisis of the 1980s using the MTG process.

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  20. By paul-n on May 28, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Marcel, that MTG aspect was discussed on the first methanol thread.  You can read a good summary of the process here;

    The problem with doing this is that;

    a) it costs more,

    b) consumes more energy (though not too much), and

    c)gasoline is an inferior fuel, so you lose the fuel efficiency benefits of methanol

    The benefit is, of course, that the MTG product is 100% gasoline, and requires no modification of any infrastructure or engines

    But why to go to the extra cost to produce an inferior fuel, just to avoid upgrading hardware?  If computers and cellphones had taken that approach we’d still be talking on the analogue Motorola brick while dealing with the frustrations of MS-DOS on 8086 PC’s with 5 1/4″ floppy disks!

     

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  21. By Walt on May 28, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Paul N said:

    c)gasoline is an inferior fuel, so you lose the fuel efficiency benefits of methanol

    The benefit is, of course, that the MTG product is 100% gasoline, and requires no modification of any infrastructure or engines


     

    I did a test today which I thought was interesting and worthy of comment after I read the comments above.

    I went to the Clean Fleet Report site, and searched for “Methanol”.  The results were “0″ articles.

    http://www.cleanfleetreport.co…..s=methanol

    Then I searched for “Ethanol” and “27″ articles.

    http://www.cleanfleetreport.co…..?s=ethanol

    Although it is not a fair indicator of the quality of the articles on ethanol, etc., but rather an example of the difficulties of how an blog devoted to hybred and electric will not find much readership on methanol.  I have personally learned a lot from the past two blogs on methanol that I did not entirely know, and hope to learn more in the future.

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  22. By JN2 on May 28, 2010 at 8:54 am

    According to Wikipedia, the NFPA 704 red score for Methanol is 3 and 1 for Ethanol.
    3 = ‘Short exposure could cause serious temporary or moderate residual injury (e.g., chlorine gas)’
    1 = ‘Exposure would cause irritation with only minor residual injury (e.g., acetone)’
    I think I prefer 1 to 3!

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  23. By paul-n on May 28, 2010 at 11:15 am

    JN2,  When was the last time you were “exposed” to motor fuel, as in that you drank it, or got it all over your skin, and didn’t wash it off?

     

    The way the fill pumps are in California (not that I live there) with the flex collar to prevent vapours escaping, it’s pretty hard to ever even see a drop of the fuel, let alone touch it or drink it.  So, if you follow normal, well established handling procedures, there is no need to ever be exposed to motor fuel.

    The fact is, motor fuel, even in its current state (gasoline) is dangerous (and carcinogenic) and should be respected, and should not be be drunk, or used as handwash.  

    Methanol is so toxic and dangerous that it is sold, without restriction, as washer fluid, at every gas station, and as solvent/stove fuel, at every hardware store.  The same cannot be said for gasoline, or ethanol.  Ethanol is highly controlled as to how it is sold (as liquor) and must be made toxic (usually by adding methanol) when sold as industrial ethanol, as some people will try to drink it.  

    If we have a future system where vehicles are running on E100, I think there is much more danger from people deliberately trying to get the ethanol, and to purify it and drink, than there is from people accidentally ingesting methanol.

    Methanol is by far the saftest of  the three fuels in terms of fire safety, it is the most energy efficient fuel, it can be produced from any organic feedstock, and it is harmless to the environment.

    Winning four out of five ain’t bad, and the fifth aspect (toxicity) can be, and is, managed with proper procedures and equipment, all of which is already in place.  

    Yes, despite all the safety measures, people can ignore them and that is their decision,and they live with the consequences.  This is most true of driving itself , yet we continue to allow that!

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  24. By Marcel F. Williams on May 29, 2010 at 1:47 am

    @Paul,

    I agree with you that methanol is the superior fuel– especial if it is used in a fuel cell powered automobile. But people currently have automobiles running on gasoline. So it would obviously be cheaper for them to use gasoline derived from methanol than to go out and buy a methanol or a flex fuel vehicle. Its probably going to be a few decades before a majority of Americans will be driving vehicles that are capable of using methanol.

    Gasoline from methanol would enable us to gradually introduce clean carbon neutral gasoline into into our transportation fuel economy– if Federal or State governments mandated that a certain percentage of all gasoline sold in America or in their state be at least partially composed of carbon neutral gasoline derived from carbon neutral methanol.

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  25. By paul-n on May 29, 2010 at 12:46 pm

    Marcel,

     

    I don’t think you need to junk the vehicle, engines (fuel systems, actually) can be modified for methanol/ethanol.

    It is six of one and half a dozen of the other.  By making gasoline, we perpetuate the current gasoline economy, and there is no incentive to produce alcohol optimised engines, as alcohol will be turned into gasoline.  The painful point of starting to change from gasoline is merely shifted into the future, and in the meantime, we all uses more fuel per mile than is necessary.  Yes, it is carbon nuetral, but I think the more important objective is to use less, regardless of where it comes from.

    Make the alcohol available as a fuel, and blend in 5-10% with gasoline. People and carmakers will start to respond.  It has been done in Brazil, it can be done here.  There is actually some desire to move “off” oil, if there is an acceptable replacement , turning methanol into gasoline keeps us “on” it.

     

    I think we should look for petroleum alternatives, not alternative petroleum.  And as soon as that decision is made, by the way, the world price of oil will drop, so those things that MUST use petroleum( airlines, plastics, etc) will be cheaper too.

     

     

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  26. By Marcel F. Williams on May 29, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    @Paul N

    I think the fossil fuel economy is more deleterious to our economy and to our environment than the gasoline economy (as long as the gasoline comes from carbon neutral resources). In automobiles that don’t use fuel cells, some gasoline component is probably still going to be needed such as M85 (85% methanol 15% gasoline).

    I think there should be a continuous transition towards more vehicles using methanol. But I also think there should be a fuel transition with all transportation fuels (gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel) using an increasing percentage of fuel from carbon neutral resources.

    As more and more vehicles on the road become capable of using methanol, the more people will use the cheaper methanol over the more expensive gasoline from methanol. However, I do think we need to mandate that all future automobiles sold in this country be at least capable of using methanol (or at least M85).

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  27. By Charles Powars on May 31, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Methanol History in California #1
    I couldn’t find this information in the RR essays and comments to date, but if all this has already been posted, I apologize. I will label facts with “F” and opinions with “O” (because so much of what is written mixes these two up).

    F: In California in the 1980s through mid-1990s, thousands of M85-capable LDVs (almost all OEMs offered FFV models) and hundreds of M100-fueled HDVs (mainly transit buses, some school buses, and a few trucks) were operating in California. A substantial fraction of the LDVs were actually fueled with M85, because the California Energy Commission (CEC) cofunded installation of M85 dispensers in dozens of fueling stations and created a Methanol Fund that kept the energy equivalent price of M85 less than that of gasoline. The reasons for California’s promotion of metahnol are complex. Short version: Studies showed that MeOH was the best transportation fuel that could be made from abundant-in-US coal (makes way more sense than synthetic gasoline or diesel fuel), and it was believed at the time that this was a good approach to air quality improvement.

    O: Current low-emission vehicles owe much to California’s methanol program. Auto OEMs and oil companies became concerned that CARB would mandate M85 and EPA might even follow, which would be inconvenient. So they formed and funded something called the Auto Oil Air Quality Improvement Program. Auto-Oil tested hunderds of combinations of gasoline blends in LDVs with various emission-control setups. Their program concluded that the right gasoline blend (which included an oxygenate, mainly for anti-knock since they had to cut down on high-octane components) with modern EFI + TWC closed-loop emission controls resulted in exhaust and evap emissions (particularly so-called air toxics) as low or lower that M85. The best oxygenate evolved as being MTBE. California’s methanol program was dealt multiple wammys. OEMs and oil companies (that operated stations with M85 dispensers) stopped supporting the program based mostly on the Auto-Oil results. Companies like Methanex raised the price of methanol because they were going to make big-$ in the MTBE business. Beyond early adopters, consumers didn’t go for FFVs because every station didn’t dispense M85 and vehicle range was a little less.
    I won’t go into the MTBE angle, except to express the controversial opinion that, to a large extent, the auto and oil companies brought this on to themselves. And corn farmers (and ADM, Etc.) may have ended up as the ultimate winners when the government eventually mandated that the oxygenate had to be renewable. My opinion of the biggest misjudgment in the whole history: how many gasoline station storage tanks leak and how impractical it is to stop the leaks

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  28. By Charles Powars on May 31, 2010 at 6:30 pm

    Methanol History in Claifornia #2

    Here I will list most of what were perceived (in the late 1980s -early 1990s) to be the most problematic “issues” associated with using methanol as a routine automotive fuel. This mainly applies to M85 for LDVs and M100 for HDVE (more on this in #3), although many at the time hoped that we could come up with one “universal” methanol fuel formulation. Again, I realize that much of this has already been discussed, but perhaps this will add a useful perspective:

    Cold starting (High heat of vaporization helps power density but really hurts cold starting. Lots of cold start = f(RVP) = f(gasoline%) studies.)

    Spark plug wetting & fouling (MeOH is conductine. Problem is neither big nor trivial)

    MeOH “attacks” some metals and elastomers (Already covered.)

    Wear (Unvaporized MeOH tends to wash oil from cylinder wall thus sometimes increasing ring wear. Again, not a big problem but not trivial.)

    Vapor-air mixture in fuel tank ullage is flammable (I haven’t seen this discussed, and we thought it to be a fairly big deal. Obviously is a function of temperature-dependent vapor pressure, UFL, LFL. As most of you know, at typical temperatures, gasoline ullage is too rich and diesel ullage is too lean… but unfortunately M100 is flammable 5C to 30C. M85 is flammable -30C to -5C.)

    Methanol is a poison (I know this has been discussed, but here is my 2 cents: 250 ml is almost always fatal. Call it toxic if you wish, but MeOH is in a category altogether different from gasoline and certainly ethanol. It is also tasteless. A small counterpoint: gasoline is mildly carcinogenic and MeOH is not at all. 15% gasoline porvides significant taste deterrence. Big worries at the time: siphoning and winos.

    Flame luminosity (Hard to see methanol fires. But the same reasons cause MeOH fires to have much less radient heat transfer. Adding gasoline obviously increases luminosity. Methanol advocates used to like to point out that Indy 500 mandated MeOH for safety reasons.)

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  29. By Charles Powars on May 31, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Methanol History in California #3

    Some history on the use of MeOH in heavy-duty vehicles, which may be of interest to a few fellow gearheads:

    In my humble opinion, one of the problems with almost all “alternative” fuels is the fact that they have a low cetane number and so they don’t work in diesel engines. DME is about the only exception I’m aware of. This is a fairly big deal if one of the main motives for considering alternative fuels involves air quality. For example, in areas like Southern California, a huge % of the NOx and PM comes from diesel trucks, buses, Etc. And unlike spark (gasoline) engines where NOx is easy to control with a TWC, it’s not at all easy to control NOx and PM from diesels (unless you think adding a SCR and urea tank is no big deal).

    About 1979, Detroit Diesel (then part of GM) discovered something interesting and largely unexpected: their 2-stroke diesels would run fine on M100, even with its low cetane characteristics. The glow plugs needed to be on for starting and a very small low-load region of the operating map. The key was the huge hot exhaust residual in scavaged 2-strokes and the odd turbocharge into a roots blower with an air bypass induction system that these engines used. DDC 2-strokes were used in essentially all buses and some trucks at the time.

    Per my previous comments, California (CEC & CARB) was pushing MeOH at the time. So the State cofunded programs to deploy hundreds of M100-fueled transit buses, school buses, and a few trucks. One of the problems that turned out to be bigger than anticipated is that, even though these engines had much lower NOx and PM emissions than counterpart diesels, the exhaust contained some aldehydes (Sp?) which people could smell and some drivers and passengers said the smell made them ill. As the bloom on the California MeOH rose faded as explained in my Comment #1, interest in M100-fueled HDVs also faded… for some of the same reasons plus some different reasons. DDC had been sold to Penske, which had less interest in MeOH. More importantly, the days of 2-stroke diesels were numbered, primarily because they had no hope of meeting future emission standards. Even DDC was releasing their new Series 60 4-stroke diesels (which was the main engine that led to the Diesel Engine Manufacturers’ Consent Decree with DOJ for clever emissions test cheating… another story). The 4-stroke engines absolutely needed a high-cetane fuel, so a complicated system like diesel fuel pilot injection is needed to get high-efficiency diesel-cycle benefits with low-cetane fuels.

    Users of M100 buses were only too pleased to switch back to diesels because of course no alternative fuel will ever be as easy to use and match all the performance benefits of gasoline and diesel fuel. The biggest operator of M100 buses was LACMTA (Los Angeles area), which announce that they were discontinuing MeOH buses because they were experiencing too much wear. In my opinion, this came from their PR person asking, “Gimme a short sound bite for a press release.” As you may know, LACMTA now operates the nation’s buggest fleet of CNG busses.

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  30. By Wendell Mercantile on May 31, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Thank you Charles Powers. Very informative.

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  31. By rrapier on June 1, 2010 at 12:20 am

    I second that. Lots of interesting information, Mr. Powars.

     

    RR

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  32. By paul-n on June 1, 2010 at 2:06 am

    I third that, great information.

    The fact that there were some issues that were not big, but not trivial, suggests that some further development may have been able to address these.

    MTBE is another case of the oil companies getting what they want, and massive groundwater pollution is the result.

    But the most interesting thing I learned is that the program was started because of the potential for coal as the feedstock.  There is no question that if the US really wanted to get off imported oil, this would probably be the solution that could be implemented fastest, and on the largest scale.  It seems odd that coal industry has not supported this, or if they have they have kept it very quiet.

    Of course, a methanol vehicle is also an ethanol vehicle too…

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  33. By Walt on June 1, 2010 at 3:11 am

    This is so refreshing to read.  Thank you!

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  34. By paul-n on June 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    Thomas, I wouldn’t be willing to call the ICE dead just yet.  The car companies are developing electrics, yes, but they are a long, long way from being ready to replace all existing vehicle types, unless drivers are willing to have dramatic decreases in performance, and increases in price.  

    For an interesting look at just how little real progress has been made in 100 years of electric cars, have a look here;

    The main reason for electrics is to get off oil.  Alcohol does the same, and is, arguably, cheaper.  It certainly achieves some things electric cars don’t (long range being the most obvious).

    Electric cars are good for city transport, but transit is even better.  You could replace more ICE cars, in less time, for less money and energy, with well planned transit projects.  But this is just not as sexy as electric cars and so is not being done.

    Since the midset of most drivers is a larger car that can do everything, rather than a small electric that is only good for city commuting, my bet is on Volt style plug-in hybrids.  Make them alcohol/CNG flex fuels, and you can have a completely oil free vehicle, at lower cost and more usefulness than a pure battery electric.

    One other thing I’m sure the automakers are aware of.  Until now, starting up a new car company was virtually impossible because of the investment required in factories, and engine and driveline development/manufacturing.  But with electrics, you can by the battery/motor/controller systems and put them in anything with four (or three) wheels, hence the plethora of niche electric vehicle makers popping up.  Some will stay, some will go, more will come.  But the opportunities are there.  Creating a startup to build a competitor to the F-150 is not possible, but to compete with a small electric vehicle, absolutely.  

    I expect we will also see a small revival in in kit cars, in electric form, as the seller just needs to design and source components, and can skip the large assembly factory.  similarly for electric conversions to existing cars.  There are plenty of mechanically skilled people who are underemployed and have time to do just such a project.  This will also compete, pricewise, with new electrics.

    So, for the next decade at least, the auto companies profits will still be coming from ICE’s, and they will sell more of them if they can run on more fuels.

     

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  35. By Thomas on June 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    This did make for an interesting read, but all this seems academic now that the major car companies are running towards the antichrist of all fuels: the electric motor.

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  36. By Walt on June 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Charles Powars said:

    Methanol is a poison (I know this has been discussed, but here is my 2 cents: 250 ml is almost always fatal. Call it toxic if you wish, but MeOH is in a category altogether different from gasoline and certainly ethanol. It is also tasteless. A small counterpoint: gasoline is mildly carcinogenic and MeOH is not at all. 15% gasoline porvides significant taste deterrence. Big worries at the time: siphoning and winos.

    Flame luminosity (Hard to see methanol fires. But the same reasons cause MeOH fires to have much less radient heat transfer. Adding gasoline obviously increases luminosity. Methanol advocates used to like to point out that Indy 500 mandated MeOH for safety reasons.)


     

    Charles, I have been thinking about your comment and wondered if had any thoughts on biodiesel.  I have heard that biodiesel can use up to 20% methanol, and has been implemented in garages, local farms and in more controlled production plants.  Do you know if any one has been drinking the biodiesel, or does the reduced methanol content (below 20%) make drinking it not harmful?  The toxicity is clearly a problem for those who are siphoning and have drinking problems, but I was wondering if that concern has arisen in biodiesel garages, farms, plants, etc.?

    In our meeting with the local fire marshal and township planning people, we were required to place notices on any fencing around the methanol pilot plant on how to handle the methanol fires if started, and determine if water would put out the fires.  The visibility was something we had not yet addressed, but indeed was a concern as you mentioned.  The most important thing for them was how to extinguish the fire and signs.

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  37. By Charles Powars on June 1, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Walt,
    I don’t know anything about the toxicity of biodiesel-methanol blends and so I can’t help you there. Also, I’m sure that you can find good resources regarding “how to handle methanol fires”… certainly better than any input I can provide.

    A few slightly related anecdotes:

    1. A concern in the 1980s California MeOH program is that a severely beverage-challenged person might understand that methanol is alcohol and try to drink it (perhaps by straining it through bread per the old Sterno legand). There was a deliberate effort not to call it methyl alcohol.
    2. All light-duty FFVs had flame arresters in the fuel filler neck, which made siphoning difficult if not impossible. Heavy-duty MeOH engines came with instructions to install a flame arrestor in the vehicle (usually bus) fuel filler neck as part of the engine installation procedure (which often involved changing the whole fuel tank, depending on material the importance of driving range).
    3. Hydrogen flames are even harder to see than MeOH flames. Because interest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been so high in the 2000s, lots of R&D (mostly government $) has been directed at hydrogen safety safety issues. Zealots dismiss many hydrogen safety issues by playing the buoyancy card, but this doesn’t apply to fire detection. I find it interesting that quite serious guidance documents recommend keeping a straw broom on hand and extending it into anything you think might be a hydrogen flame to see if it catches fire.

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  38. By Walt on June 1, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Charles Powars said:

    Walt,

    I don’t know anything about the toxicity of biodiesel-methanol blends and so I can’t help you there. Also, I’m sure that you can find good resources regarding “how to handle methanol fires”… certainly better than any input I can provide.


     

    I was researching this morning some of the biodiesel equipment companies, and they all had a section on methanol being used in their processes up to 20% and most had some handling instructions.  It was interesting that I did not find any companies that had to take the steps like in the 1980′s to warn people about not drinking methanol, but I did not look through all the sites.  I just wanted to see the main search results.

    Indeed, in most arguments today I only see the toxic issues come up with methanol/gasoline blending, and how people “could” start killing themselves if they blended up to 15% in the gasoline, but in the 20% added to various oils to make biodiesel I have not seen the same concerns being raised.  I’m sure some people will be consistent requiring all methanol be banned from gasoline up to 15% and biodiesel up to 20% due to the history of potential deaths due to injestion and people rubbing it on their skin.  However, most are not so consistent in what I’ve seen, but rather just want to mandate methanol be removed from gasoline supply due to its health risks, but allowed for biodiesel (with higher concentrations) since people have been trained how to handle it at home, farms and at commercial scale plants.  It is an interesting irony that dawned on me this morning.

    Thanks again for sharing your helpful information.  It keeps us thinking about RR articles more and more.

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  39. By Walt on June 1, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Plus, don’t forget to account for this USEPA risk
    analysis
    , from we excerpt the following information: – “Gasoline-ignited
    fires in 1986 involving cars, buses, or trucks resulted in 760 deaths,
    4,100 serious injuries, and $215 million in property damage. Projections
    indicate that casualties would drop dramatically if methanol were
    substituted for gasoline as the country’s primary automotive fuel.
    Looking just at vehicle fires in which gasoline is the first material to
    ignite, a switch to methanol could save an estimated 720 lives, prevent
    nearly 3,900 serious injuries, and eliminate property losses of  millions of dollars per year
    ”.

    http://www.epa.gov/omswww/cons…..8-fire.pdf

    http://www.treehugger.com/file…..the_of.php

     

     

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  40. By Mercy Vetsel on June 1, 2010 at 8:22 pm

    > Methanol is a poison… 250 ml is almost always fatal. Call it toxic if you wish,
    > but MeOH is in a category altogether different from gasoline and certainly
    > ethanol.

    Really? I keep hearing that toxicity is problem for widespread methanol adoption but I don’t see the evidence for this.

    If so, why on earth do they sell Kool-Aid colored methanol in child-accessible windshield wiper fluid bottles in almost every gas station and grocery store in the country?

    That question aside, I couldn’t find any evidence for the claim that methanol is more toxic than gasoline.

    Doing some quick Googling “msds gasoline oral ld50 g/kg” and “msds methanol oral ld50 g/kg” seems to indicate that at least for rats and rabbits, methanol is about as toxic as gasoline.

    -Mercy

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  41. By paul-n on June 1, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    The fact is, drinking either methanol or gasoline, or any fuel, is hazardous to your health!  That is just something we have accepted long ago, as part of using these wonderful liquid fuels.

    if someone really wants to drink toxic stuff, there are many choices.  We should not preclude a potentially very useful, and renewable, fuel, just because there is the possibility some people will find a way to poison themselves with it.

     

    Far more people die of ethanol poisoning each year, but we actually sell that stuff for drinking!

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  42. By Charles Powars on June 1, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Mercy and Paul,

    RE: Relative toxicity of methanol and gasoline

    Try the American Association of Poison Control Centers, for example.
    Table22A of their Annual Report lists data for hundreds of substances, including outcomes. From that table:

    Gasoline: 16,103 exposures reported, 0 deaths
    Methanol: 619 exposures reported, 7 deaths

    Available at: http://www.aapcc.org/dnn/Porta…..report.pdf

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  43. By carbonbridge on June 1, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    Methanol Fires vs: Gasoline or Diesel Fires:

    The EPA data four posts back was quite interesting and it illustrates some excellent points.  The two lowest alcohols, C1 MeOH and C2 EtOH feature 107 & 108 neat octane ratings.  These lower alcohols also exhibit only 1 to 2 points of RVP or Reid Vapor Pressure.  In comparison, summer gasoline features 8 RVP and winter gasoline is raised (with butane bubbled through gasoline) to boost the RVP to about 12.  This higher aromatic content (defined as RVP) assists with cold starts.  Then after cold engines start — this higher aromatic RVP of winter gasoline just simply pollutes far more.  

    Cold starts are amplified with engines still using carburetors.  Direct fuel injection for the past 25 years really obviates most winter cold-start problems.  Yet gasoline sold from a commercial pump has to perform wonderfully in new cars, older cars, a 1908 Model T Ford, or in snowmobiles, jet skis, motorboats and also in 2-stroke chain saws, weedeaters, motorcycles, etc.  Thus increased RVP in winter gasoline is really not necessary for most of the freeway traffic combusting it for 5 months of the year.

    Methanol would have been a logical replacement for gasoline about 1908 when Henry Ford introduced his first assembly-line to produce Model T automobiles.  However, twice the methanol volume is necessary in comparison to gasoline as MeOH features about 56,000 BTUs per gallon and most gasoline today provides approximately 112,000 BTUs.  When appropriate air/fuel ratios are dialed in via carbs OR fuel injectors, then ignition spark advance can really be ratcheted upwards because of these higher octane levels featured by the oxygenated alcohols.  Simply dialing in the proper air/fuel ratio and then finding the ‘sweet spot’ of advanced spark ignition is what provides more “Indy 500 Race Car-type torque power” from lower alcohols when they are properly tuned.  

    This is what the FFV (flex fuel vehicle) $35 factory-installed computer chip actually does.  This FFV chip dials in the proper air/fuel ratio and then pushes the spark advance upwards until sensors determine a pre-ignition ‘ping’ and then just slightly lowers this very high spark advance so that a ping does not occur.  Setting the spark advance as high as possible without predetonation (ping) occuring is where the most engine torque power is achieved and typically also provides the lowest emissions profile as well.  The cleaner emissions profile results because nearly all of the fuel alcohol is totally combusting.

    Basically, the FFV chip is calibrated relative to ‘Oxygen Content’ in the alcohols whether the alcohol is at low dilution in gasoline or at high dilution ratios such as M85 or E85 mixtures.  Herein lies just one basic, yet easily solvable problem.  Methanol (industrially produced for 25¢ per gallon) features 50% oxygen content.  CH3OH MeOH pairs up one large Oxygen atom to one central Carbon atom and the four Hydrogen ions in this molecule are really just along for the ride.  The hydrogen ions do combust but four hydrogen ions provide far less BTU content than contained in the single Carbon atom in the methanol molecule.  All the hydrogen ions contained in ‘hydrocarbon’ oils or coals are really just balancing the magnetic valence of the respective molecules.  These hydrogens compliment the combustion cycle less and less as the carbon chains in these oil molecules become longer and/or more complex.

    EtOH ethanol features about 33% Oxygen content.  The Ethanol molecule (produced via batch fermentation for about $1.50 per gallon) is identified as C2H5OH.  C2 Ethanol is different from C1 Methanol primarily because it features one more Carbon atom and two more associated hydrogen ions.  The FFV’s first sensor detects the dissolved oxygen content in gasoline/alcohol blends.  Thus E85 chips are calibrated to 33% oxygen content contained within anhydrous ethanol.  If Methanol were substituted for Ethanol – then a E-85 FFV chip’s calibration would be off somewhat and the engine’s air/fuel ratio would be on the lean-side.  That is unless there was an easy mechanical switch inside the glove box for the driver to flip to C1 MeOH or C2 EtOH or perhaps to a third setting for C4 higher mixed alcohols which average a carbon molar content similar to butanol – yet do not react nor combust like neat, batch fermented C4 n-butanol actually does.

    These simple, linear-chained lower alcohols are water soluble.  This is the simple secret to their biodegradability aspects in comparison to the crude oil now floating on the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  

    Try combusting a metal spoonful of C1 methanol to observe how clean it’s flames are in comparison to a spoonful of ignited gasoline or diesel.  If you don’t have methanol handy, stop at the nearest liquor store and buy a pocket flask of Everclear.  This is C2 ethanol dried to 95% of anhydrous or 190 proof.  This is the strongest beverage alcohol which college kids typically pour into cool aid or fruit juices.  Therein you can observe nearly invisible flame colors of lower alcohols in comparison to the yellowish flames with black sooty smoke from refined hydrocarbon oils which this planet’s populace has been combusting for the past century.

    Then put some tap water into spray bottle and observe just how little volume of water spray it takes to dilute the burning spoonful of a lower alcohol beyond it’s point of combustion.

    Going a bit further now, please realize that a semi-tanker spill of such fuel-grade alcohol along the freeways

    1) is harder to ignite than is gasoline – simply because the alcohol only has 1/4 the aromatic vapor pressure of gasoline and

    2) IF a tanker spill of alcohol does ignite (and it surely can) then firemen would only have to spray a mist of water over these cooler combusting alcohol flames in order to extinguish them.  

    Once quenched, flush the spilled, diluted alcohol into the barrow ditch with another fire-tanker or two of water and simply feed the plants and bugs living there with a free lunch.  This is the basic ‘safety mechanism’ inherent with all fuel-grade alcohols.  Alcohols don’t ignite as quickly with a static spark as they naturally feature a less aromatic RVP vapor pressure.  Alcohol flames are cooler, not hotter, — and easy dilution with water will extinguish them.

    As I mentioned at the beginning of this thread, the human liver or that of reptiles [and birds] can’t process a C1 methanol molecule but the same liver can process a C2 ethanol molecule.  That is why beverage ethanol is the antidote for methanol poisoning after a finger is first shoved down a person’s throat to initiate the gagging reflex and expel what MeOH might remain in the stomach.  Either alcohol when diluted in water WILL provide a basic and natural food source for aquatic organisms, bacteria, phytoplankton and EVERY green plant or tree.  This is the biodegradability factor missing with hydrocarbon oil or coal.

    Going back in history to 1908 with the advent of Henry Ford’s new Model T horseless carriage – the principle hydrocarbon being marketed then by J.D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company was kerosene (jet fuel C10-C15) used as an illuminant in wick lamps.  The lighter fraction (gasoline C5-C10) of crude oil refining didn’t have any major market until a four-cylinder, 4-stroke engine showed up in FoMoCo’s new automobile assembly line.

    It is true that the first Model T’s were dual-fuelers, 70 years ahead of the first FFV dual-fueler engine adjustment via modern computer chips.  Henry had a thumb-screw attached to the end of the mechanical spark advance lever which opened and closed a single carburetor jet much like a camera iris.  The ignition spark was retarded for gasoline and in reverse, the spark was highly advanced for wet or dried ethanol.  This carburetor’s fuel jet was opened to allow more alcohol (with less BTU’s) into the combustion chamber.  The carb jet was made smaller via the thumbscrew to allow less gasoline into the engine as this light hydrocarbon mixture provided about 33% more BTU content than did the fermented C2 ethanol.

    J.D. Rockefeller also controlled the two major railroads operating in the USA at that time and instructed Mr. Ford to remove his first dual-fuel updraft carburetor – OR – lose Standard Oil’s rail transport which brought FoMoCo it’s raw materials including iron ore to be smelted into steel.  The original dual-fueled carb was only installed on Model T’s between September 8th and late December of 1908.  The blueprints on file at FoMoCo for the Model T’s carburetor begin with a downdraft carb version (allowing for gasoline use only) beginning in January of 1909.

    Personally, I have been there in the bowels of the Ford Museum in Dearborn and have pursued such Archive Research.  The reason why wet farm ethanol produced “from sumac gathered along the roadside” didn’t begin cleanly powering the new Model T horseless carriage was because of pressure from a famous Oil Monopolist and this pressure continues 102 years later.  This same major Oilman carried enough swing to stop Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-liquids (German-based synthetic fuels production) here in the USA post WW II in 1950, 51′ and 52′.  It all revolves around controlling market share here folks – the same reason why oilmen manufactured MTBE for 25 years – so they didn’t lose market share to agri-ethanol when mandated under the Clean Air Act to oxygenate urban gasoline to help relieve smog.

    The United States has been involved in two World Wars both instigated by Germany because the Germans didn’t have enough Oil to fuel their own Industrial Revolution.  I believe that the U.S. occupies Iraq today specifically to conquer and exploit the 3rd largest oilfield on this planet.  And I’m surely not alone in this belief.

    Today’s ecological disaster spewing into the Gulf of Mexico is only the latest stage in the development and exploitation of planetary crude oil resources.  Citizens seem to miss the fact that ALL Oils float on water, even edible plant oils and animal fats.  The one Oxygen atom contained within all alcohol molecules via the OH group is what imparts magnetic polarity to the alcohol molecule.  And apart from hydrocarbon oils and coal – the simple alcohol molecule is:

    1) water soluble – thus biodegradable;

    2) alcohols are oil soluble and seamlessly blend with refined petroleum products making them premium fuels;

    3) thirdly alcohols are also coal soluble.  They can impart clean-coal combustion cycles very similar to alcohol/gasoline/diesel blends…

    Please think about the implications herein!  

    This isn’t rocket science.  This is third grade chemistry which can immediately affect this polluted and ailing planet and rebuild global economies smashed by recession following international banker’s greed. 

     

    Now who might choose to participate today in NEW equity ownership of the next generation of bio-alcohol fuels be they

    a) GTL 24×7 synthesized Methanol,

    b) batch fermented corn or sugar cane Ethanol or

    c) a new blend of synthetically-produced C1-C10 Higher Mixed Alcohols originating from garbage, sludge, ground tires, coal, methane, CO2 and biomass focused principally with beetle-killed pine?

    Mark Radosevich      

    mark  at  carbonbridge  dot  net

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  44. By paul-n on June 2, 2010 at 2:06 am

    Mark,

     

    Fascinating stuff – who knew about Rockefeller squeezing Ford?

     

    One question, can you elaborate on what you mean by “coal soluble”?

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  45. By paul-n on June 2, 2010 at 2:17 am

    here’s a good piece on methanol in diesel engines, from Caterpillar in 1990 (http://www.sae.org/technical/p…..ers/902160)

    Transient emissions (without exhaust after- treatment) showed the expected NO\dx and particulate emissions reduction relative to the diesel.

    Two 3406 DITA methanol engines were installed in Kenworth W900 trucks and operated in line-haul service across the Rocky Mountains between Coquitlam, B.C. and Canmore, Alberta, Canada accumulating 327,027 km (203,122 miles)/5310 hours and 272,171 km (168,983 miles)/4404 hours, respectively. Despite the fact that the methanol engines were still in a very early stage of development, availability and fuel energy consumption closely approached that of the two diesel control trucks employed in this program. Post-test inspection showed major component life to be equal to or better than the diesel. Life of components such as glow plugs, fuel injection nozzles, and valves require additional development before the methanol engine is commercially viable.

    This long duration 3406 methanol engine demonstration in a grueling, high utilization application has provided further evidence of heavy-duty methanol engine feasibility. With additional development, the heavy-duty methanol engine is capable of becoming a commercially viable product should future economic and social conditions dictate the use of methanol as a heavy-duty engine fuel.

    300,000 miles is a pretty good test run!  As expected, some modifications needed to the fuel handling parts of the engine, but fuel economy as good as diesel!  And that was 20 yrs ago, I’m sure those problems could be easily solved today, if they haven;t been already.

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  46. By carbonbridge on June 2, 2010 at 6:00 am

    Paul N asked:  One question, can you elaborate on what you mean by “coal soluble”?

    •••••••••••••••••••••••

    Paul N.,  (Sure, I’ll elaborate a bit!)

    Ground coal, just like crude oil or any refined petroleum oil product isn’t miscible with water.  Water is repelled by all hydrocarbons be they solids, liquids or gases.  

    Now, add that missing Oxygen atom typically derived from boiling H2O into steam and catalytically splitting hot water/steam into H2 and O gasses.  Then to complete the first phase of GTL synthesis, combine this missing Oxygen atom into mid-stream CO & H2 syngas.  Then catalytically rearrange the three atoms contained within syngas and you have produced an Oxycarbon liquid instead of Fischer-Tropsch hydrocarbon oils such as syn-diesel, syn-jet kerosene or syn-gasoline.  This is how C1 methanol is produced AND how C1-C10 higher mixed alcohols (including the C2 ethanol in the mixture) are also produced using a different catalyst.

    Note that ‘Oxycarbon’ is a chemist’s defination for fuel-grade alcohol in which every molecule features an OH group which is missing in oils, coal or fossil gasses such as methane, ethane, propane, butane, etc.

    This OH group imparts a magnetic polarity to alcohols which is not found in hydrocarbon oils, coal or fossil gasses.  Thus the ‘now-magnetic alcohols’ become water soluble AND biodegradable PLUS they ALSO will now BLEND seamlessly with refined petroleum oil products and ground coal.

    Most of us are very familiar with the fact that C2 ethanol and gasoline blend quite well.  Other alcohols also mix with gasoline such as C1 methanol, C3 n-propanol, C4 n-butanol, C5 n-pentanol, C6 n-hexanol and onwards up the chain of higher alcohols.

    All of these alcohols are magnetically attracted to water AND to all flavors of oils AND to ground coal.  

    You can pour any fossil oil or plant oil or animal-derived fatty oil into water and watch it phase separate just like what is now happening in the Gulf ocean.  Grind up some coal (even a charchoal briquette) into talcum powder consistency (go ahead and use the wife’s coffee grinder, it works wonderfully for this purpose) and attempt to mix finely ground coal with water.  Just like oil, hydrocarbon coal doesn’t mix at all with water, it too will phase separate.

    Spend $5 on that pocket flask of C2 Everclear 190 proof beverage ethanol from the liquor store and do a few visual experiments which I suggested in my last post.  Ignite a (metal) spoonful of alcohol, review the clean, nearly colorless and cooler flames and dunk a burning spoonful of alcohol into a glass of water to safely and easily extinguish it.  Seeing with your own eyes is proof of the pudding here be you an engineer, chemist, housewife, Joe the Plumber or cab driver.

    Then after attempting to mix finely ground coal with water, next try mixing some ground coal with C1 methanol, C2 ethanol (Everclear) even C3 iso-propanol rubbing alcohol which you can purchase at the drug store for 80¢.  You will witness that the ground coal immediately mixes with any alcohol and will form a uniform slurry which I’ve described as “black ketchup.”  The consistency of this slurry can be adjusted by withholding or adding more alcohol liquid.  

    You might even notice that this coal/alcohol slurry will then pump and pipeline through even plastic PVC pipes in a ‘plug flow’ configuration.  This means that there is very little resistance imparted by the ground coal to the walls of the pipeline.  In fact, the coal particles never even touch the sides of a pipeline and wear it out.  Instead, this coal/alcohol slurry slides through a pipeline on a layer of alcohol molecules rather effortlessly and vast quantities of coal/alcohol slurry may be transported via pipeline instead of by rail as we typically witness.

    I could go into a deeper college lecture herein regarding the properties of ‘plug-flow’ configurations and what can be mechanically accomplished herein regarding efficiencies uphill or downhill pipeline relative transport costs, but I won’t at this juncture.  We simply are discussing some “other possibilities” here for that nasty, toxic Methanol which the naysayers are so worried about.  [Hey laymen and disinformation specialists:  C1 Methanol  is nothing more than an Oxygen atom derived from H2O water and catalytically screwed to a simple gaseous CH4 methane molecule.  Methane gas then falls out as the world's simplest LIQUID alcohol tradenamed Methanol.] 

    Pretty simple GTL chemistry here and it has been commercial since 1923.  In fact, methanol is the largest-volume chemical (don’t think of calling it a fuel) produced and sold on this planet.  Still methanol isn’t a fraction of the volume of crude oil being fought over, drilled and developed, shipped, pipelined, refined and marketed.

    Fuel alcohol(s) are magnetically attracted to the ground coal particles as I’ve mentioned.  In fact, the alcohol will permeate the micro-cellular pores in the ground coal and mechanically push out Nitrogen atoms which cling in these extremely small spaces of pressurized carbon atoms.  The liquid alcohol is more magnetic to the coal than is nitrogen gas.  Pure nitrogen being expelled to the air is absolutely no problem as ambient air is approximately 72% pure nitrogen.

    By applying a specific resonant frequency the alcohol-laden coal will purge its sulfur contents – both inorganic sulfurs and stubborn, clingy organic sulfurs can be expelled prior to coal’s combustion.  These sulfurs pop out of the coal clinging onto a Carbon atom and become a Carbonyl Sulfur.  This purged mixture of Carbonyl Sulfurs can be either cleaned and profitably re-sold or safely landfilled.  

    The main function of alcohols magnetically clinging to coal particles first is to provide a less expensive means of transportation.  Next is an effortless purge of nitrogen and a nearly effortless purge of sulfurs which both are typically emitted as NOx or SOx compounds within traditional coal-fired combustion emissions.  The alcohol will also magnetically attract the normal H2O moisture content contained within coal, thus becoming a very effective and simple drying agent.  And last, the alcohol volume in this slurry is finally spun down to only 2% moisture content by an industrial-sized centrifuge before the ground coal is combusted after being blown into coal-fired boilers with high air pressure.

    To Summarize:  The alcohol first beneficiates and cleans ground coal of tramp materials plus nitrogen and sulfurs while simultaneously drying it of moisture.  The trace of residual alcohol remaining on the powdered coal then works to become the gunpowder over the dynamite keg so-to-speak.  A trace of alcohol remaining on the now-cleaned and moisture dried coal will initiate a combustion event cycle not previously experienced by coal burners.  

    Expect nearly a doubling of temps in the industrial boilers while combusting maybe 30% less coal volumes.  A much more complete combustion event takes place (similar to adding alcohols to gasoline, diesel or even kerosene jet fuel) and the resulting emissions profile may be 50% cleaner than before.

    This is really the KISS principle at work here – and it isn’t rocket science, it is more of the 3rd grade chemistry involving Oxygen (which otherwise is absent in hydrocarbon oils, coal – even methane natural gas) producing a near-term, highly profitable, quick-fix pollution solution.  I might well be describing a still elusive planetary “Clean Coal” solution here.

    Do the simple experiment which I’ve suggested and physically combine some finely ground coal with any alcohol to see with your own eyes what happens.  Touch a match to this alcohol/coal slurry mixture and see what happens in comparison to attempting to ignite a spoonful of coal/water mixture.  

    Engineering VP Paul — I do appreciate your curiosity and hope this explanation provides you and others with some additional insight to Methanol and OTHER higher alcohols.  

    Mark Radosevich

    [link]      
  47. By Walt on June 2, 2010 at 8:06 am

    CarbonBridge said:

    When appropriate air/fuel ratios are dialed in via carbs OR fuel injectors, then ignition spark advance can really be ratcheted upwards because of these higher octane levels featured by the oxygenated alcohols.  Simply dialing in the proper air/fuel ratio and then finding the ‘sweet spot’ of advanced spark ignition is what provides more “Indy 500 Race Car-type torque power” from lower alcohols when they are properly tuned.
    The FFV’s first sensor detects the dissolved oxygen content in gasoline/alcohol blends.  Thus E85 chips are calibrated to 33% oxygen content contained within anhydrous ethanol.  If Methanol were substituted for Ethanol – then a E-85 FFV chip’s calibration would be off somewhat and the engine’s air/fuel ratio would be on the lean-side.  That is unless there was an easy mechanical switch inside the glove box for the driver to flip to C1 MeOH or C2 EtOH or perhaps to a third setting for C4 higher mixed alcohols which average a carbon molar content similar to butanol – yet do not react nor combust like neat, batch fermented C4 n-butanol actually does.


     

    Mark, is there a way to modify the chip to handle this feature?  Or a way to install the switch manually through a local auto service center?  Would it be possible to modify it to run E85 (E100) or M85 (M100) on all cars, or only FFV?

    [link]      
  48. By Walt on June 2, 2010 at 8:17 am

    CarbonBridge said:

    J.D. Rockefeller also controlled the two major railroads operating in the USA at that time and instructed Mr. Ford to remove his first dual-fuel updraft carburetor – OR – lose Standard Oil’s rail transport which brought FoMoCo it’s raw materials including iron ore to be smelted into steel.  The original dual-fueled carb was only installed on Model T’s between September 8th and late December of 1908.  The blueprints on file at FoMoCo for the Model T’s carburetor begin with a downdraft carb version (allowing for gasoline use only) beginning in January of 1909.

    Personally, I have been there in the bowels of the Ford Museum in Dearborn and have pursued such Archive Research.  The reason why wet farm ethanol produced “from sumac gathered along the roadside” didn’t begin cleanly powering the new Model T horseless carriage was because of pressure from a famous Oil Monopolist and this pressure continues 102 years later.  This same major Oilman carried enough swing to stop Fischer-Tropsch coal-to-liquids (German-based synthetic fuels production) here in the USA post WW II in 1950, 51′ and 52′.  It all revolves around controlling market share here folks – the same reason why oilmen manufactured MTBE for 25 years – so they didn’t lose market share to agri-ethanol when mandated under the Clean Air Act to oxygenate urban gasoline to help relieve smog.


     

    This is interesting and makes sense to me now.  I read it this morning, and during the past 5 years developing a methanol technology could not for the life of me understand why I get such resistance from oil companies.  Combine that with the ethanol lobby, the US patent office (who have their own examiners who thrive on ignoring your arguments) and US government grant legislation and it is an uphill struggle against heavy currents.  We have had our third super major turn down our technology in the past 60 days, and I can guarantee it is not due to economics, technology merit or ability to reduce carbon emissions and gas flaring…it is mostly due to the unknown.  Well, maybe now it makes more sense why there are literally a handful of global methanol companies, and China (outsiders of course) has probably 50 methanol producers.

    Thanks for opening my eyes…it is time to shift away from the super majors…and wake up!  Excellent post Mark.

    [link]      
  49. By Walt on June 2, 2010 at 8:31 am

    CarbonBridge said:

    By applying a specific resonant frequency the alcohol-laden coal will purge its sulfur contents – both inorganic sulfurs and stubborn, clingy organic sulfurs can be expelled prior to coal’s combustion.  These sulfurs pop out of the coal clinging onto a Carbon atom and become a Carbonyl Sulfur.  This purged mixture of Carbonyl Sulfurs can be either cleaned and profitably re-sold or safely landfilled.  

    The main function of alcohols magnetically clinging to coal particles first is to provide a less expensive means of transportation.  Next is an effortless purge of nitrogen and a nearly effortless purge of sulfurs which both are typically emitted as NOx or SOx compounds within traditional coal-fired combustion emissions.  The alcohol will also magnetically attract the normal H2O moisture content contained within coal, thus becoming a very effective and simple drying agent.  And last, the alcohol volume in this slurry is finally spun down to only 2% moisture content by an industrial-sized centrifuge before the ground coal is combusted after being blown into coal-fired boilers with high air pressure.


     

    The same principle applies to sulfur in natural gas, or high sulfur gas.  Our methanol solvent removes the CO2, H2S, Sulfur and other impurities that are required.  The cost is practically nothing since we make methanol in our process…so we don’t have to ship in methanol as in traditional Recitsol processes used in gasification from coal processes.  http://www.gasification.org/Do….._Paper.pdf

    Methanol is a brilliant chemical and solvent…a basic building block that green plants love to consume and grow…as a sugar.  Now that is SWEET!

    [link]      
  50. By Walt on June 2, 2010 at 10:02 am

    “Americans have felt this powerful combination punch before: As the
    U.S. dollar falls, it will greatly accelerate the increase in crude oil
    prices. We should see $100/bbl shortly, and $4 gasoline is certainly
    not out of the question.
    This will increase cost of goods to most every retailer, be they
    purveyors of Legos from Denmark or Eggos from Atlanta. In turn, sellers
    will face the inevitable and unenviable choice of either raising
    prices to consumers who just paid $4/gallon to drive to the store, or
    eating that cost increase, and destroying their bottom line.”

    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..e-village/

     

    If this happens, perhaps methanol at $1.00 per gallon will get a second look as a long-term fuel rather than a chemical in America?  M85 could be a solution to compete with $4.00 gasoline prices.

    M85 Price Build-Up
    5/3/2010
    Methanol $0.23 <–GasTechno Methanol price
    Gasoline $2.27
    M85 $0.54
    Mark-Ups $0.38
    M85 Pump Price $0.92
    Methanol
    Energy Content
    56,800
    Gasoline
    Energy Content
    114,000
    M85
    Energy Content
    65,380
    Energy
    Content Ratio
    1.65
    Effective Price $1.51
    [link]      
  51. By russ on June 2, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Quote 3. Hydrogen flames are even harder to see than MeOH flames. Because interest in hydrogen fuel cell vehicles has been so high in the 2000s, lots of R&D (mostly government $) has been directed at hydrogen safety safety issues. Zealots dismiss many hydrogen safety issues by playing the buoyancy card, but this doesn’t apply to fire detection. I find it interesting that quite serious guidance documents recommend keeping a straw broom on hand and extending it into anything you think might be a hydrogen flame to see if it catches fire.

    İn 30 years of designing, constructing and operating iron ore direct reduction plants where large volumes of natural gas most of which is reformed to H2 + CO we never once used a straw broom to look for a buning leak. The process gas stream composition was 55 to 65% H2 with the balance being CO. The last complex İ managed fed in excess of 200,000 standard cubic meters of natural gas per hour to the process. Recirculated process gas flows were in excess of 1,000,000 NCMH. That is the total of flows for a combination of 5 units at one site.

    Reduction of the iron ore in the furnaces is enhanced at higher temperatures than that exiting the reformers so a system to inject gaseous oxygen into the hot reducing gas stream was devised. When the cost of naphtha was low we would inject liquid naphtha into the hot gas stream and/or into the furnace where it would reform/crack on the hot iron. 

    Purging to insure an inert atmosphere before starting reducing is all critical as is keeping the system pressurized when reducing gases are present but that is it. H2 escapes it either burns immediately or goes up and away. Your people have to be taught gas safety and to learn they WİLL adhere to the rules. One critical point with H2 is that if it escapes into a closed area it can concentrate at the highest point and any spark or static can cause it to ignite – that can get exciting. 

    The iron ore plants as well as hydrogen plants in refineries have been operating for many years (40+ for the iron ore side) and have a very good safety record. Steam reformers have been around since ?? did they come on the ark? 

    İt gets a bit more tricky when the public gets involved as some fool can mess up most anything. Having said that, İ believe that H2 can be handled safely.

    [link]      
  52. By Thomas on June 2, 2010 at 3:26 pm

     

    Paul,

    I agree that ICEs will have its place in our transportation system for some time to come. Mass transit is the most efficient means to move people around in a perfect world. EVs will eventually commoditize cars the way personal computers have been. With minimum technical skills someone can put a pc together, however the pc market is still dominated by big, albeit, diversified companies. CNG is the way to go for large trucks if we want greater energy independence. They tend to have hubs that lend themselves to centralized fuel distribution. We have lots of NG in this country and there are large well established industries in place to drill, refine and distribute it. Ethanol/Methanol has to be “grown”, distilled, and distributed by major industries yet to be fully formed (maybe ten years away). Mid-sized cars and trucks will stay ICE until batteries are economic (maybe ten years away). Why bother? Just drink the alcohol!

    I found your article to be misleading and inaccurate commentary. A 1500 lb.,1.5 hp machine made from wood with a top speed of 30 mph has not qualified as a “car” for a long time and should not be compared to a modern EV.

    See pg. 261 of Without the Hot Air for a more scientific analysis of the electric car’s potential with current Li-ion battery technology. Download the pdf for free at http://www.withouthotair.com.

    He looks at a 2700 lb. Lithium-Ion powered car with an energy density of 120 W*h/kg (Nissan Leaf is 140 W*h/kg)  and  regenerative braking. In “city” driving conditions with an avg. speed of 30 mph (the top speed of those electric carriages). He calculates a range in excess of 300 miles. So in fact, “real progress” has been made over the last 100 years.

    When a major car company can deliver a 100 mile range in realistic city driving conditions with a 2700 lb curb weight (Honda Civic) they’ve got a game changer. The bottle neck is the cost of the battery. ($18,000 for Leaf’s ~60-75 mi range, 660lb battery). This is expected to drop in mass production.

    I think you have overlooked the fact that the mindset of consumers has changed when it comes to car purchases. Ask the big three how sells of SUVs (“arger cars that can do everything) are going. People have switched to smaller more, fuel efficient cars as gas prices have risen and they’re income has stayed flat or gone down.

    If we look at the available technologies in terms of top to bottom efficiency, electrifying the vehicle fleet is the way to go. Electric motors are far more efficient than ICEs and have better performance (think instant max rpm). A Honda civic uses the equivalent of 27kw*h per 100 miles compared with 9.3kw*h per 100 miles for EVs (pg.122-127).  How much corn do you have to grow to go 100 miles? Additionally, one 20% efficient coal power plant can “fuel” thousands of EVs while every ICE has a “power plant” that’s about 20% efficient. The energy saved here is even larger than at the EV vs ICE level. We can have cleaner air and use less energy even if every EV was powered with coal.

    EVs are going to be a lifestyle symbol of all those who want to appear “green” while they drink their frappamochachinos. This is the same crowd that popularized cell phones, laptops, and ipods. A car without a tailpipe will appeal to early adopters in a way that alcohols can’t compete with. That’s why the major car companies are going in this direction. So at the end of the day we need cheaper batteries, a smarter energy grid, and alot more power plants. Hedge your bets Paul.

    [link]      
  53. By carbonbridge on June 2, 2010 at 6:45 pm

    Walt asked:

    Mark, is there a way to modify the chip to handle this feature?  Or a way to install the switch manually through a local auto service center?  Would it be possible to modify it to run E85 (E100) or M85 (M100) on all cars, or only FFV?


     

    Yes Walt, a FFV chip can and will need to be calibrated to properly adjust air/fuel ratios for different BTU strengths of alcohols.  For example:

    Methanol at 56,500 BTU’s per gallon features an oxygen content of 50% as I’ve previously indicated.  Thus a M-85 Blend would provide 85% MeOH volumes featureing 48,025 BTU’s plus 15% gasoline volume x 112,000 BTU’s = 16,800 BTU’s.  Therein the approximate BTU’s contained in one gallon of M-85 would be 48,025 + 16,800 BTU’s for a total of about 64,825 BTU’s per gallon.  This is only 58% of the total BTU’s contained in a typical gallon of street gasoline.  Thus the FFV chip’s calibration has to add approximately 42% more fuel volume via the fuel injectors and then the spark ignition gets automatically ratcheted up very high to take advantage of this blend of methanol/gasoline fuel which might provide 102 octane.  The automatic adjustments of the FFV chip would then provide the motorist with race-car torque engine power, a very clean exhaust emission and maybe this blend would provide 75% of the normal mpg driving range which gasoline alone would deliver.

    Of course, the FFV chip sensing oxygen concentration would automatically adjust air/fuel volumes and spark advance or retard the spark as soon as a M-85 blend was diluted down with further volumes of richer BTU gasoline to even become a neat gasoline blend.  FFV chips originally were manufactured in the 80′s and were calibrated for 50% oxygen levels in Methanol featuring about 56,500 BTU’s per gallon.  After only a handful of years, these original M-85 FFV equipped autos were discontinued by Detroit automakers and soon a replacement E-85 FFV chip appeared. 

    These recent discussion threads on RR’s blog have covered some of the history, arguments and government politics between the GTL Methanol (chemical) Industry and the Fermentation Corn Ethanol (fuel) Industry.

    Now let’s run the same basic calc’s as above regarding two-carbon Ethanol which features 75,500 BTU’s gallon and provides a 33% dissolved oxygen content.  Thus a E-85 blend would provide 85% volumes of Ethanol x 75,500 BTU’s or 64,175 BTU’s.  Then 15% volumes of 112,000 BTU gasoline provide another 16,800 BTU’s to total 80,975 BTU’s per gallon of an E-85 fuel mixture.  This ethanol/gasoline mixture contains approximately 72% of the carbon energy density of gasoline.  Thus, about 28% more total fuel volume needs to added via the fuel injectors in comparison to 42% more fuel volumes necessary when combusting M-85 blends.  And these calcs all originate from the fact that the same auto is combusting only PURE gasoline as a baseline fuel.  OK?  Please understand that Methanol and Ethanol are only about one octane point different (107 and 108) even though M is a single-carbon alcohol and E is a two-carbon alcohol.  Once again, spark ignition is highly advanced and a E-85 fuel blend ALSO provides more engine torque power than gasoline when properly adjusted.  I’d guess that E-85 would provide approximately 85% the mileage range of neat gasoline, about 10% more miles per gallon when compared to a M-85 blended mixture.

    A third scenario would be to re-calibrate a FFV chip for a blend of C1-C8 or C1-C10 higher mixed alcohols to include methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol, pentanol, hexanol, heptanol, octanol, nananol and 10-carbon decanol.  All of these alcohols are normal, single-chained alcohols – no branched iso-molecules here.  This EPA registered blend of higher mixed alcohols provides 90,400 BTU’s per gallon in comparison to C2 ethanol at 75,500 BTU’s or C1 methanol at 56,500 BTU’s.

    The oxygen content of the higher mixed alcohol blend is 33.6% and non-linear blending octanes rise above 130 for this synthetically produced GTL blend of alcohols produced in the same fashion which C1 methanol is catalytically synthesized via traditional GTL processes.

    Thus 85% volumes of this mixed alcohol blend provide 76,840 BTU’s coupled with 15% volumes of gasoline providing 16,800 more BTU’s for a total of 93,640 BTU’s or 84% the BTU equivalent of 112,000 BTU neat gasoline.  Again, the air/fuel ratio is properly adjusted by the FFV chip and about 16% more fuel volume is fed into the piston cylinders via the fuel injectors.  Spark ignition timing is even further advanced (compared to M or E) to find the piston cylinder’s “sweet spot” for the most thorough combustion event.  Race-car engine torque power is achieved, an even cleaner exhaust emission is realized and I’m assuming that this blend of mixed alcohols plus 15% gasoline volumes would provide about 93% of the fuel mileage range of gasoline.

    I’m providing real-world yet back of the napkin comparisons herein.  Please understand that I am NOT a FFV computer chip calibration expert yet I understand the differences and basic relationships between 50% oxygen content in Methanol at 56,500 BTU’s per gallon vs: 33% oxygen content within 75,500 BTU per gallon grain Ethanol and 33.6% oxygen concentrations contained in synthetic GTL higher mixed alcohols featuring 90,400 BTU’s gallon.  I made a previous comment in this thread that IF a M-85 blended fuel were run through a E-85 FFV computer chip, the resulting air/fuel mixture would be lean.  And that is because the FFV chip is sensing greater oxygen concentrations in the fuel and it “thinks” that 75,000 BTU Ethanol is providing this volume of oxygen, not 56,500 BTU Methanol.  Making any sense here?

    Ten years ago I provided FFV engineers at Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, with a sample of C1-C5 higher mixed alcohols ending with C5 n-pentanol and another sample of C1-C8 higher mixed alcohols finishing with 8-carbon n-octanol.  Both samples of higher mixed alcohols were neat fuel, anhydrous dried blends of synthetic alcohols and contained no gasoline nor other additives.  FoMoCo’s FFV calibration engineers reported to me that both of these mixed alcohol blends pegged their FFV calibration meters at 100%.  I asked them what did they mean here?  Their response was that both of these blends of higher alcohols contained MORE BTU’s as a neat alcohol recipe by themselves than the BTU’s which were contained in 85% volumes of grain Ethanol with 15% volumes of stronger BTU gasoline.  Then we all realized that “calibration” of the next generation FFV chips would be necessary to accurately adjust air/fuel volumes of a 20% stronger BTU blend of alcohols in comparison to neat Ethanol.

    The spark advance function of the FFV chip was not nearly as far off.  This function advances ignition spark timing until a predetonation ping is felt, then slightly retards the spark timing so that NO predetonation occurs.  A third FFV sensor in the tailpipe actually ‘sniffs’ the exhaust emissions and further fine-tunes the relationships between air/fuel ratios and spark ignition timing to produce an even better, more complete combustion event in the piston cylinder.  This is what is being sought after as complete or nearly complete oxidation combustion in ICE’s provides the greatest engine torque power while netting out the cleanest emissions profile.  This Win-Win is what a $35 FFV chip is working to accomplish!

    Subsequently, I paid for the tests of a baseline blend of C1-C5 mixed alcohols to be combusted as a neat fuel in a brand new FFV equipped automobile at the world’s largest fuels, engine and emissions test lab located in San Antonio, Texas.  Remember, that a E-85 FFV chip is calibrated for 85% volumes of 75,000 BTU ethanol and 15% volumes of 112,000 BTU gasoline.  The tests which were recorded in this FFV system used pure C1-C5 mixed alcohols with absolutely NO gasoline volumes.  The tests included engine torque as measured by dynamometers, actual driving tests by trained professionals and detailed emissions evaluations recording 85 different emission elements.  In comparison, your annual smog-check on the family car only records the “big five” of emissions elements.

    The total comparison here was pure mixed alcohols at a lowball baseline of C1-C5 against pure gasoline in a brand new FFV computer equipped Ford automobile.  Every result was nearly perfect except for the emissions comparison between the neat alcohols and neat gasoline.  The FFV chip was calibrated for E-85 and the baseline mixture of neat alcohols contained MORE BTU’s than the E-85 blend with gasoline would have contained.  So the FFV auto was actually running a ‘richer mixture’ of mixed alcohols which was not properly adjusted for the absolute correct air/fuel ratio.  The FFV chip did correctly calibrate neat gasoline into the same engine and adjusted it most properly.  Keep in mind that a FFV chip will accurately adjust for the 5% and 10% ethanol volumes being sold across America.  So even if your home area doesn’t host E-85 fuels at the local gas stations, do search for a FFV chip in the next new car or truck you may purchase as it will give you even better performance for the lower, EPA mandated ethanol volume blends on sale everywhere.

    I’ve yet to come across a two or three-way programmable FFV chip but I suspect that something like this could be implemented within a year.  Detroit is expected to be outputting FFV chips in about 50% of their new cars during these next two production years.  Detroit is gearing up to copycat what has been “standard equipment” under the hoods of cars down in Brazil for the past 15 years or more.  This really should not be such a big deal to incorporate alcohol tolerant gaskets and fuel lines (this HAS been done in the USA since about 1981) and implement a $35 FFV chip into the automobile’s electronic system.

    If M-85 were to resurface into the marketplace (Methanex are you out there?) OR if significant volumes of the stronger BTU and stronger octane higher mixed alcohol were to be made available on the freeways – then it is quite possible that a 2-way or 3-way adjustable FFV chip would come next.  Such internal programing to this chip would be relatively easy.  I’ve listed the “basic differences” herein relative to oxygen concentrations amid differences in total BTU content of different alcohol recipes.  Producing these different alcohols is another story all together.

    And to your last question:  Yes!  As many motorists already realize, you can combust 100% neat ethyl alcohol through a E-85 FFV chip designed to incorporate a 15% mixture of gasoline in this same blend.  In this case, the car will perform exceedingly well but the exhaust emission profile will showcase a slightly ‘leaner fuel blend.”  The computer chip is being fooled once again as it was calibrated for 100% gasoline to be diluted up to 85% volumes with ethanol, not 100% volumes of ethanol.  Car still runs fine though.

    There are companies who today are selling after-market FFV chip kits to install on most makes of cars and light trucks.  I have no personal experience with these after-market FFV kits.  I do however have experience in combusting thousands of gallons of pure methanol, pure ethanol and pure higher mixed alcohols in older and newer cars and trucks where I have mechanically adjusted the relative air/fuel ratios and advanced spark ignition timing to 20 degrees advanced at 800 rpm idle and 48 degrees centrifugal spark advance at 3,000 rpm.

    My own mechanics who helped me make such adjustments to spark advance kept shaking their heads.  They never in their careers had advanced spark ignition so high.  Yet the same mechanics had never tuned an Indy 500 race car engine either.

    In cross-country driving of neat alcohols blends in autos NOT sold as FFV equipped — I’ve never once plugged a fuel filter nor had any fuel line, gasket or elastomer problem whatsoever.  Instead, when combusting pure, neat alcohols I provide folks with a ‘biodegradability’ demonstration and pour a couple of gallons of distilled water into a 20 gallon fuel tank of alcohols.  Yes, I can feel that I’ve watered down the BTU strength of my alcohol fuel – but when combusting neat alcohols, a little or a lot of water can be tolerated.  What we don’t want to do is blend significant volumes of non-dry hydrous wet alcohols with hydrocarbon gasoline.  This creates combustion problems and modern engines do NOT like 5% to 10% volumes of water co-blended and bound into gasoline via alcohols.

    I can understand that outboard motorboat enthusiasts have had ethanol/gasoline blends dissolving some of the 10 and 20 and 30 yr. old hydrocarbon-based vanish, resins, rust and gunk which accumulates in watercraft stored for decades in a salty, marine environments.  To them I can only suggest that they replace aging, rusted and corroded fuel tanks, run some new off-the-shelf rubber or metal fuel lines and let these alcohol/gasoline blends start cleaning their motorboat engines from the inside out as all alcohols are natural engine decarbonizers.  I’ve expensively mapped the metal wear differences between C1 Methanol and C2 Ethanol as neat fuels and do not consider metal wear nor elastomer/gaskets/fuel lines/filters to be of any significant problem whatsoever.

    Disinformation continues to abound, just like the naysayers on this blog and other places are attempting to freak out or scare citizens about methanol’s toxicity.  I don’t drink gasoline nor diesel.  I don’t drink blue windshield washer fluid.  I would NOT voluntarily consume any fuel-grade alcohol either.  Nor would I consume Drano, toilet bowl cleaners or dishwasher or laundry soaps.  I got a taste of bar soap once when I was a child, it was wielded by my Mother who was upset with some school-yard profanity I had uttered.  That memory still lingers after 50 years…  Anyway, let’s get real and get on with new business opportunities at hand while the world turns and the Gulf oil still gushes.

    Please understand that Methanol and Ethanol are only ONE CARBON atom different in their molecular formulas.  Yet the processes to produce them and the carbon feedstocks thus converted PLUS the inherent financial profits generated are as different as night and day.

    Mark Radosevich

    mark  at  carbonbridge  dot  net

    [link]      
  54. By carbonbridge on June 2, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    Walt said:
    “Americans have felt this powerful combination punch before:
    If this happens, perhaps methanol at $1.00 per gallon will get a second look as a long-term fuel rather than a chemical in America?  M85 could be a solution to compete with $4.00 gasoline prices.

    •••••••••••

    Walt:  You are starting to get a vision on why methanol, the simplest single-carbon alcohol has been purposefully labeled as a chemical and kept out of automotive fuel tanks for the past 100 years.  At one-half the energy density of gasoline, it takes 2x the volume of methanol to travel the same distance as refined petroleum fuel oils.  BUT, since methanol is so cheap to produce, paying for twice its volumes in comparison to gasoline or diesel will still provide a very significant savings to the motorist.

    And, there are other advantages too.  Like emitting a biodegradable exhaust emission.  And having a safer fuel at ambient temps and pressures in your fuel tank while zooming at 75 mpg down the freeway.  And when properly adjusted for air/fuel ratios and spark ignition, fuel alcohols typically provide 35% more engine torque.  (Why did Indy 500 racers combust single-carbon methanol as neat, substitute fuel for 37 years before politically switching to two-carbon ethanol just a few years ago?)  And rather importantly, building out new local or regional methanol economies means not having to import crude oils from around the globe with all of those unintended consequences of world wars, shipping, pirating and always leakage of the non-biodegradable oil product into land masses or oceans.  And finally, producing the simple oxygenated methanol or a blend of synthetic higher alcohols from ANY waste carbon source will provide equity owners with profits which dwarf those being produced from imported fossils.

    Benefits like these would certainly spur decentralization among many new equity owners including municipalities who could fund such new community economic developments via citizen equity participation through bonding mechanisms.

    Thus there is physically is NO reason to plant any agri-biomass product, fertilize it, water and weed it and then annually harvest it simply for its intrinsic carbon content.  My suggestion for farmers is to plant and harvest the cleanest of foodstuffs including meats and eggs and therein charge a premium price for organic varieties of staple foods.

    Disinformation and misunderstandings abound concerning a broad range of new biofuel technologies.  The general consensus is that something needs to be planted and harvested to then be somehow converted into a new biofuel alternative.  Not so!  Look no further than the current investor excitement over green pond scum (algae) and genetically modified biobugs like E-coli to see where development money is currently focused.  This is happening because people and biofuels digest editors alike simply don’t understand the basics of steam-driven thermal technology which can cleanly convert waste carbon on 24×7 continuos basis vs: anything which is batch fermented with genetically-modified biobugs, acidic enzymes and yeasts.

    Perhaps citizens and governments should first look no further than municipal daily waste streams such as garbage and sewer sludge for a source of cheap, available and renewable carbon building blocks.  Ground tires, petroleum coke, bottoms coal of any rank, stranded or contaminated sources of CH4 methane natural gas plus CO2 greenhouse gas can all be used as basic carbon feedstocks.  Should the alternative fuels offtake be cleaner, more expensive, float-on-water Fischer-Tropsch synthetic oils?  Or should the desired and more profitable offtake be biodegradable, low-cost (bug & plant food) alcohols which can replace hydrocarbons via a $35 FFV chip?  Actually, if the truth were to be known and understood, for the next 70 years – new volumes of profitable fuel alcohols should be seamlessly blended back into the present-day infrastructures of liquid petroleum and solid coal hydrocarbons.

    The primary biomass carbon-source for clean conversion through 150 yr. old gasification front-end methodology is beetle-killed pine.  Along the spine of the Rocky Mountains from Canada down into New Mexico are 5+ million acres of dead and dying pine trees which average 6,000 to 6,400 BTU’s per pound.  Wyoming and Montana coal are in the 8,000 BTU/lb. range for comparison.  Ground tires feature 15,000 BTU/lb.  Sewer sludge (wet or dry) can range in the 6,000 to 8,200 BTU/lb range.  Getting the bigger picture a little bit more?

    Could the U.S. Renewable Fuels Standard which mandates new biofuels production with generous $1.01 per gallon tax credits really become considered as a biodegradable carbon-bridge to the world of hydrocarbon fuels?  Or should the RFS be viewed somehow as a near-term and immediate replacement for petroleum?  The peak oil graphs recently illustrated on RR’s own energy discussion blog pages depict crude oil’s volumentric demise beginning in the next 18 months.  Such charts were produced via diligent research by the DOE’s Energy Information Administration with collusion by the Military Establishment.

    So…  Do we spin our wheels and continue to grow new sources of agricultural carbon for an annual harvest?  Or should society and investors focus on other sources of carbon building blocks readily available, some with high tipping fees attached?  Should we collectively employ technology which produces a float-on-water and non-biodegradable (tragically mislabeled) bio-oil?  Or should we employ very similar and far less expensive steam-driven thermal catalytic technology to produce a water soluble, biodegradable, oil soluble and coal soluble bio-alcohol?  You choose.  And vote with your own dollars.

    Mark Radosevich

    p.s.  I’ve previously tried to communicate such messages to public figures like President Obama, John Kerry & his wife, other political candidates then to spokespersons like Robt. Redford, Mr. CO2-Al Gore and others – but continually face walls of paid gatekeepers who cannot interpret what recycling CO2 greenhouse gas into bio-alcohols is all about.  Same people would really struggle trying to interpret what “direct and partial oxidation of methane into methanol” is all about with your own firm’s patented technology Walt.  Maybe we should publically inform them that American scientists can technically convert lemons into lemonade and that they should not worry about any of the simple, yet high pressure plumbing pipes and catalysts which produce these deliciously sweet and profitable recipes?  Instead, let folks ponder what such new and decentralized energy industry might accomplish the near-term regarding self-sufficiency and methods of global economic recovery.

    [link]      
  55. By Walt on July 24, 2010 at 10:51 am

    I am looking for someone to help me write a bookklet on blending
    methanol and gasoline up to M15, M30 and M85 as well as what is
    generally required to modify existing vehicals to operate on these
    blended fuels.  I want this to be written in a technical manual format,
    and welcome anyone who would like to participate.  You can contact me
    through http://www.gastechno.com

    [link]      
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