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By Robert Rapier on Jun 11, 2010 with 52 responses

Five Positive Notes on Next-Generation Biofuels

In the previous essay, I discussed some of the challenges that next-generation biofuels face according to a recently released USDA report:

Next-Generation Biofuels: Near-Term Challenges and Implications for Agriculture

Here are five positive notes from the report:

1. Renewable Diesel Plant Capacity

“Next-generation U.S. biofuel capacity should reach about 88 million gallons in 2010…” This is primarily a result of the expected start-up of a next-generation renewable diesel plant. I have reported on this technology before, as well as the efforts of first-generation biodiesel producers to slow it down and protect their own interests. My guess is that unlike the ConocoPhillips project that was killed after Congress voted to deny them the full tax credit, this project will receive the same tax credit as a conventional biodiesel producer. On a level playing field, I believe the hydrocracking approach is superior to first generation biodiesel, but our political leaders will need to stop playing games with the tax credits in order for next generation diesel to realize its potential. (For a complete explanation of the different kinds of renewable diesel, see my Renewable Diesel Primer).

2. Competitive Race

Companies are taking a number of different approaches to coming up with next-generation solutions, increasing the chances that a dark horse will arise as a contender: “There are about 30 next-generation companies in the United States developing biochemical, thermochemical, and other approaches, and experimenting with a variety of feedstocks, some of which are directly linked to agriculture..”

3. Open for Business

The first next-generation plants are expected to come online in 2010: “Range Fuels and Dynamic Fuels are expected to complete the first commercial next-generation biofuel plants in 2010.” I have certainly given Range Fuels a hard time over their public statements – especially in light of recent reports which this USDA report also flagged: “According to the EPA, however, the plant’s initial capacity has been reduced from 10 million to 4 million gallons per year and initial output will be methanol.” However, readers should not mistake my position as hoping that they fail. To the contrary, I hope they succeed, because we are going to need a lot of successes. I am just skeptical that they will achieve commercial (unsubsidized) success, and unhappy that they sucked up a lot of taxpayer funds based on their initial promises that clearly did not materialize.

I would further note, however, that Range Fuels and Dynamic Fuels may be the first U.S. plants that could be classified as next-generation commercial plants (although as I have pointed out, we had commercial cellulosic ethanol plants in the U.S. by 1920), but such plants do already exist overseas. Neste Oil, in fact, has built several plants based on the same sort of technology that Dynamic Fuels is employing. There are also other overseas companies doing gasification (the Range approach) that are further along than Range is.

4. Algae Research

Just as there are many different approaches to next-generation fuels, there are many companies taking many different approaches to producing fuel from algae: “More than 30 U.S. companies currently are experimenting with different approaches to producing algae-based fuels.” Some of these approaches are unconventional: “Although the majority of algae-to-biofuel companies are focusing on producing algae oil for traditional biodiesel production, some companies are using algae to produce ethanol (Algenol), or petroleum-equivalent fuels (UOP and Sapphire).” The challenge of course will be to drastically reduce production costs, but the potential is too great to ignore.

5. Production Costs Decrease

Both production and capital costs for cellulosic ethanol are falling. The report noted “POET recently reported it had lowered production costs for cellulosic ethanol, including capital expenses, from $4.13 to $2.35 per gallon in a year as of November 2009 at its South Dakota pilot plant.” The report further notes that estimates for a 100 million gallon cellulosic ethanol facility have fallen from the $650 million to $900 million range (2004 estimate) to $320 million (2009 estimate). However, the report notes that these estimates should still be considered speculative, since “there are no actual cost data for commercial operations since none are yet operational.”

As a body of work, I highly recommend you read the USDA report if you are interested in the status of next generation biofuel facilities. It is a sober, objective assessment of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead as next generation fuel technologies continue to develop.

  1. By Rufus on June 13, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    I wouldn’t say a “Loan Guarantee” is the same as a “Handout.”

    Anyway, Inbicon stated, a while back, that their breakeven price on wheat straw to ethanol is $2.35/gal. Poet says they think they’ll get it down to around $2.00, and Fiberight says they’ll be producing their product for $1.65/gal when they reach max. production. All three of these entities are currently “producing.”

    So, if you add $4.50 to those numbers you have Inbicon at $6.85, Poet at $6.50, and Fiberight at $6.15.

    Looks like a pretty big deal to me.

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  2. By Rufus on June 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    I think My first choice would have had to be the tremendous leap forward in Enzyme technology by Novozymes, and Dupont-Danisco.

    From $5.00 per gallon of ethanol to $0.50 per gallon is, literally, a paradigm shift.

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  3. By rrapier on June 12, 2010 at 7:44 pm

    Rufus said:

    I think My first choice would have had to be the tremendous leap forward in Enzyme technology by Novozymes, and Dupont-Danisco.

    From $5.00 per gallon of ethanol to $0.50 per gallon is, literally, a paradigm shift.


     

    It would be if that was the thing that was holding cellulosic back all this time. But it wasn’t.

     

    RR

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  4. By Wendell Mercantile on June 12, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    It would be if that was the thing that was holding cellulosic back all this time. But it wasn’t.

    Ditto.

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  5. By rrapier on June 13, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Wendell, it is sort of like saying “A big breakthrough in my plans for running the Boston Marathon was purchasing a new pair of Nikes.” True, that may help, but it isn’t the Nikes holding me back.

    RR

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  6. By russ on June 13, 2010 at 11:09 am

    @Robert – What? You want running shorts as well?

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  7. By Wendell Mercantile on June 13, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    “A big breakthrough in my plans for running the Boston Marathon was purchasing a new pair of Nikes.”

    LOL ~ A very apt and pointed analogy.

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  8. By Rufus on June 13, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    It seems to me like “dropping the cost” of a gallon of ethanol from $6.50 down to $2.00 is pretty big thing. A little more than the difference between a pair of Nikes, and a pair of Addidas.

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  9. By doggydogworld on June 13, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    Animal fat-to-diesel sounds great, but is there enough animal fat to make a difference?

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  10. By rrapier on June 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Rufus said:

    It seems to me like “dropping the cost” of a gallon of ethanol from $6.50 down to $2.00 is pretty big thing. A little more than the difference between a pair of Nikes, and a pair of Addidas.


     

    That’s not what happened, though. That’s just what they have made you believe has happened. But the $2 is a future projection based on what I believe are invalid assumptions. But hey, maybe I am wrong and someone will just go ahead and build one without holding out for government handouts. When that happens, then you can start to feel more confident about those $2 projections.

    Back to my Boston Marathon analogy, getting my running speed from a 10 minute mile to a 4 minute mile has been a pretty big thing. Now that last bit includes some projection on my part, but as far as your criteria are concerned I can run a 4 minute mile.

     

    RR

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  11. By rrapier on June 13, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    doggydogworld said:

    Animal fat-to-diesel sounds great, but is there enough animal fat to make a difference?


     

    The same technology works for any oil crop: Soybean, palm, camelina, jatropha, algae, etc.

     

    RR

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  12. By rrapier on June 13, 2010 at 5:51 pm

    Rufus said:

    I wouldn’t say a “Loan Guarantee” is the same as a “Handout.”


     

    It will be. Just wait and see. Lots of these guys are certainly going to get a big handout when their loans need to be guaranteed.

    So, if you add $4.50 to those numbers you have Inbicon at $6.85, Poet at $6.50, and Fiberight at $6.15.

    Looks like a pretty big deal to me.

    Your problem is always in thinking that enzymatic is the only way to produce cellulosic ethanol, and therefore in thinking the cost to produce cellulosic has fallen from over $6 to a (projected) $2. It ain’t so.

     

    RR

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  13. By Rufus on June 13, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    The only “Thermo” outfit I’ve seen put up a “Number” is KL Energy; and, their number is $3.50/gal. Every other thermo outfit seems to avoid numbers like goats avoid butcher knives.

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  14. By rrapier on June 13, 2010 at 6:09 pm

    Rufus said:

    The only “Thermo” outfit I’ve seen put up a “Number” is KL Energy; and, their number is $3.50/gal. Every other thermo outfit seems to avoid numbers like goats avoid butcher knives.


     

    Avoiding numbers is probably better than fabricating them.

    RR

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  15. By Rufus on June 13, 2010 at 6:22 pm

    Well, fiberight is “ramping up,” now. We won’t have to wait too long to find out.

    Of course, Inbicon is part of a Publicly-Traded company, and they’re producing now. They say the break-even for straw to ethanol in Denmark is $2.35. I don’t know why a Large Publicly Traded Company would lie, considering the penalties involved.

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  16. By rrapier on June 13, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    Rufus said:

    Well, fiberight is “ramping up,” now. We won’t have to wait too long to find out.

    Of course, Inbicon is part of a Publicly-Traded company, and they’re producing now. They say the break-even for straw to ethanol in Denmark is $2.35. I don’t know why a Large Publicly Traded Company would lie, considering the penalties involved.


     

    Yeah, you are right. I can’t ever think of a case where a publicly traded company lied.

    Of course they don’t have to lie. I am not lying when I say I will run a 4 minute mile. I make certain assumptions about certain things I will do and about the training I will do, and voila – I run a 4 minute mile. And I am going to demonstrate it just as soon as I get myself a loan guarantee.

    Goodnight from Germany.

    RR

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  17. By Wendell Mercantile on June 13, 2010 at 10:25 pm

    Inbicon stated, a while back, that their breakeven price on wheat straw to ethanol is $2.35/gal.

    Rufus~

    That’s no doubt true, but is their estimate of the cost to convert wheat straw to ethanol, assumes an abundant supply and low cost for wheat straw feedstock. What do you think will happen to their production costs when they are no longer a stand-alone production facilty and must compete with other production facilities for the feedstock?

    The key to cellulosic ethanol is not the enzyme, but the logistics of finding, buying, and transporting the needed feedstock on what would have to be a massive scale. An enzyme converting wheat straw to ethanol in a lab model at $2.35/gal is not the same as using that enzyme in a full-scale production plant that must compete for feedstock on an open market, figure out how to transport and store the massive amounts such a full-scale operation would need, and then also figure out the logistics of distributing the finished ethanol to the market.

    It’s great to have scientists that can develop the enzyme, but they also need some logisticians and MBA-types that can figure out for them full scale production costs.

    No doubt there are some serious questions on that issue which is why they all need government loan guarantees or subsidies instead of just pitching their scheme to an investment banker and getting the money they need direct from them.

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  18. By Rufus on June 13, 2010 at 11:01 pm

    Rule of thumb, Wendell: The bigger the refinery, the farther feedstock must be transported, and the higher the cost per ton of the feedstock. This is, especially, important with low-density cellulosic feedstocks.

    Thus, my championing of small, local biorefineries.

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  19. By Perry on June 14, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Back in ’07, when world oil demand peaked, spare production capacity was only one million bpd. Now, we’re told spare capacity is 5M bpd. World demand will surpass ’07 levels in the next couple of months. Let’s just hope all that spare capacity isn’t a mirage.

    http://omrpublic.iea.org/balances.asp

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  20. By rrapier on June 14, 2010 at 3:50 am

    Rufus said:

    Rule of thumb, Wendell: The bigger the refinery, the farther feedstock must be transported, and the higher the cost per ton of the feedstock. This is, especially, important with low-density cellulosic feedstocks.

    Thus, my championing of small, local biorefineries.


     

    Thus, a big disconnect because industrial processes like this need economies of scale. So when they project $2 per gallon, I can assure you that small, local biorefineries are not what they are projecting. A cellulosic ethanol process is a complex animal. This isn’t like setting up a still to produce moonshine.

    RR

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  21. By moiety on June 14, 2010 at 3:59 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    Rufus said:

    I think My first choice would have had to be the tremendous leap forward in Enzyme technology by Novozymes, and Dupont-Danisco.

    From $5.00 per gallon of ethanol to $0.50 per gallon is, literally, a paradigm shift.


     

    It would be if that was the thing that was holding cellulosic back all this time. But it wasn’t.

     

    RR


     

    Ditto ditto.

     

    As I posted elsewhere cellulosic ethanol will have a hard time reaching $2 even when basing the enzymatic costs on corn (which also has higher yields).

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  22. By russ on June 14, 2010 at 4:37 am

    A good example of the supporting plants required is the Great Plains Gasification Project in Bismark, ND.

    The feed stock: lignite

    Primary product: CH4 for sale

    By products: Don’t remember them all but xenon, krypton, argon, amines, sulfates and on and on

    The gasifier section to process the lignite is one small corner of the site – the other 80% plus is for the by product plants plus air separation air separation. 

    When we looked at the Lurgi Dry Ash process we found the real problems to be the multitude of aux plants required plus investment in them to be a killer.

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  23. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Thus, my championing of small, local biorefineries.

    Rufus~

    Have you yet laid the groundwork for a small local bio-refinery in your county? Someone has to take the lead on this. Why not you? Or do you feel it’s too risky? And if you — with your expertise of the process — feel it’s too risky, how do you expect anyone else to make the needed investment to prove your idea?

    The best way for you to champion your scheme would be to get out there and show us it works instead of constantly talking about it on RR’s website.

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  24. By Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Fiberight is projecting a $1.65 cost per gallon on a refinery that only turns out a little over 6 million gal/yr. That’s quite a bit smaller than the refineries I’ve been touting.

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  25. By Better Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 10:10 am

    I’m already producing ethanol for 10 cents per hectare.

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  26. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Fiberight is projecting a $1.65 cost per gallon on a refinery that only turns out a little over 6 million gal/yr.

    Sounds pretty good. But is that: Only a projection? Or a demonstrated fact? Have they built one yet? Is it up and running? Or are they waiting for a government subsidy, tax credit, or loan guarantee?

    If they can actually meet their projection, I’d think the investment bankers would be beating a path to their door; or at the very least Rufus would have already put his retirement fund into Fiberight stock. If you have that much faith in their projections Rufus, call your stock broker, put some money into Fiberight and report back to us periodically on how the stock is doing.

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  27. By Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Don’t you ever read these comments, Wendell. They bought a small existing facility ($24 Million,) and converted it to sorting municipal solid waste, and producing ethanol from the 40% of waste that’s suitable for use.

    The top executives are all from the solid waste, and brewing industries.

    They’re in production, now. Ramping toward their 6.5 mgpy max capacity.

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  28. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 11:45 am

    They’re in production, now. Ramping toward their 6.5 mgpy max capacity.

    So you’re saying $1.65/gallon is a demonstrated fact? I can go to the front gate of their plant and buy ethanol for $1.65/gallon. Or you could call them on the phone and arrange for a railroad tank car to be delivered to your county for $1.65/gallon plus delivery costs? Is either of those a fact, or just “projections?”

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  29. By Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 11:50 am

    Why do you keep asking the same questions over, and over? I’ve stated at least a dozen times that they are “projecting” a cost of $1.65/gal when they reach max production. Why are you having a hard time with that?

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  30. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Because there is a huge difference between a “projection” and a demonstrated fact during full-scale commercial operation. Why do you have such a problem understanding that?

    You jump on every press release you read where someone makes a projection as though it is a fact. Don’t bother us with rosy projections when they are trying to lure investors and get favorable media attention; tell us when we can call the company and actually buy their ethanol for the price they “projected.”

    Have you invested in Fiberight yet? Have you made a deposit on a new flex-fuel Buick Regal yet?

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  31. By rrapier on June 14, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    Not only are they just projections, but you never know the assumptions they are using to come up with them. I could project free ethanol if I presume someone will pay me a high enough price to take their biomass. So without knowing the basis of the projections, they really are quite hollow claims.

    Besides, even Rufus said at one time that he doubted that projection.

    RR

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  32. By Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    They’ve already cut their deal with the city, and several of their top executives are from the waste management business; I imagine they have a pretty good handle on what their feedstock costs will be.

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  33. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 1:13 pm

    I imagine they have a pretty good handle on what their feedstock costs will be.

    You imagine? Are you going to invest in them based on what you imagine?

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  34. By Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    They’re a Privately-Owned Entity, Wendell. We can’t invest in them.

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  35. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    OK, I’ll broaden the question: Would you invest in any publicly-traded cellulosic company based on what you imagine, instead of what you know to be a fact?

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  36. By Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    No, I think not. I would invest in Novozymes, or Danisco. They have “patented” products. You can’t patent alcohol.

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  37. By Perry on June 14, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Every technology has to be explored. We need to know the costs and drawbacks of each process. Each will get its turn at the trough when the time comes. X amount of corn ethanol at $2.50 gasoline. X amount of cellulosic at $4.00 per gallon. And maybe even X amount of algae fuel at $9 a gallon. It would be nice to know how much each process could realistically produce, and at what price.

    Suppose we need 10M bpd of biofuel 10 years from now, and oil is going for $200 per barrel. Peak oil is well underway and supplies will drop by several million barrels each year. Obviously, cars on the road today can only handle so much ethanol. That won’t change a lot in 10 short years. So, what other technologies can leap over the blend wall, and at what price?

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  38. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

    So, what other technologies can leap over the blend wall, and at what price?

    Perry~

    Methanol from natural gas and/or coal — either below the prices you cited for corn ethanol, cellulosic ethanol, and algal fuel.

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  39. By Perry on June 14, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Isn’t methanol subject to a lower blend wall Wendell? I’ve read where automakers won’t honor warranties where a blend higher than 5% is used.

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  40. By Perry on June 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    The blend wall is a major hurdle. If we’re near this blend wall today, I wouldn’t expect cellulosic to meet much of our needs 10 years from now. Even if the EPA raised the standard to E15, and the number of flexfuel vehicles on the road doubled, we’re still talking less than a million bpd of cellulosic to hit the blend wall again. Then what? Methanol won’t help a bit in that situation. It’s an alcahol too. If we’re at the blend wall, we can’t add more alcahol. That leaves drop-in fuels. How much drop-in fuel can realistically be produced, and at what cost? Do any of them promise to scale at 5- $7 a gallon?

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  41. By paul-n on June 14, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    Perry wrote..

    Obviously, cars on the road today can only handle so much ethanol. That won’t change a lot in 10 short years.

    and

    The blend wall is a major hurdle.

    I don;t think either of these statements are really true.  Firstly the “blend wall” can be addressed by running more vehicles on E85 (or M85, or A85, a mix of M+E)/ As Rufus points out, many flex fuel capable vehicles are not running it. There has been little market development to make people actually WANT to run on E85.

     

    Many late model vehicles could easily have the appropriate modifications to make them flex fuel capable – much easier than propane conversions, and these are done all the time.

    You can run diesels on ethanol, either dedicated or co-fueled, so the farmers and truckers (and even trains)could run on 80% ethanol, but so far there has been ZERO effort to develop these markets

    There is so much that CAN be done to increase the use of alcohol fuel, if the need/desire/incentive is there.  The ethanol lobby has created this “straw man” of the blend wall, instead of getting out and developing the markets for their product, even when some of those markets are their own producers!

    As for no changing in 10 years, well, in WW2, entire countries (e.g. Sweden) changed their vehicle fleets to run off woodgas, in less than two years!  In ten years, more than half the vehicle fleet will turn over, so all that is needed there is mandate all new vehicles to be flex fuel, it is all of $85 per vehicle.

    Then, if the government and ethanol lobby want to accelerate things further, they could provide free conversions for late model vehicles, say 2005 and newer.

    And, bring back the cash for clunkers program, but with one significant change.  You pay the people to retire the old vehicle, regardless of whether of not they are buying a new one.  A family that restructures their life to need only one car instead of two, or zero instead of one, can still benefit, and the reduced fuel use is of more benefit to the country than buying another car.

     

    We can easily displace lots of gasoline with alcohol,the trick is to set up the system such that there is a real net benefit by doing so.  By net benefit I mean a significant reduction in oil use, and that the biofuels have a fossil fuel energy return ratio of at least 2:1.

    Complacency is the real problem here, if the majority see no need to change, and there is no real incentive for them to change, then they won’t change!  Creating a change that adds real benefits, rather than just adding government subsidies for no benefit, is trick.  If the government can create the right framework, the innovators will make it happen.  Instead, the government has not created the right framework, and has tried to pick winners, with less than stellar results.

     

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  42. By Wendell Mercantile on June 14, 2010 at 5:58 pm

    I’ve read where automakers won’t honor warranties where a blend higher than 5% is used.

    Do you have a citation for that, or is that just what you think you’ve read? That had been true in the 1980s, but I’m not sure it still is. In IRL engines, ethanol and methanol are essentially interchangeable.

    The corn ethanol lobby is generally anti-methanol, so they may be responsible for disinformation about methanol.

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  43. By Rufus on June 14, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    The potential of flexfuel vehicles might be quite a bit better than you’re imagining, Perry. The Detroit 3 are churning out about 1.2 Million FFVs/yr, now, and they’re promising to do 50% FFVs by 2012 (about 2.5 million/yr,) and 80 FFVs by 2015.

    What makes this very important is that, although there are about 7 million such vehicles on the road, only a couple of million are “badged” as such, and the majority of those unbadged vehicles don’t even know their vehicles are “flexfuel.”

    Also, of prime importance is the fact that about half of all miles driven are driven in cars 6 years old, or newer.

    Also, as the GM, Ford, and Chrysler FFVs become more efficient, ala the soon to be released Buick Regal 2.0L, the Japanese will be forced into the game (either out of economic necessity, or by Congress.)

    This will cause E85/Blender pumps to proliferate. We’ve added about 100 such pumps in the last couple of months, bringing the total to about 2318 at present. I think there’s a very good chance that in seven, or eight years half of the autos filling up at the corner station will be flexfuels, and a sizable percentage of those will be using a much cheaper, and higher performance (than gasoline) higher ethanol blend.

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  44. By Perry on June 14, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Wendell, according to the Methanol Institute, “many vehicle warranties allow 3-5% methanol in gasoline, however, many contain warnings against the use of methanol.” PDF file, page 41.

    http://ourenergypolicy.org/doc…..TFLBLF.pdf

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  45. By Wendell Mercantile on June 15, 2010 at 10:18 am

    …according to the Methanol Institute, “many vehicle warranties allow 3-5% methanol in gasoline, however, many contain warnings against the use of methanol.”

    Thank you Perry. That may be how their legal departments force the car makers to word it as a matter of policy, but there’s no technical reason why a flex-fuel car made for E85 can’t also use M85, or some combination of the two.

    In a real crunch that could be easily overcome. As one of my old bosses used to say, “There’s always someone who can approve an exception to policy.”

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  46. By Fred Linn on November 1, 2010 at 1:30 am

    Methanol is highly toxic and readily absorbed through the skin and by inhalation. Ethanol is not. Ethanol is far safer to handle and use.

    Ethanol is safe enough to drink everyday—-millions of people do.

    Health care workers wash their hands with ethanol based sanitizers several times an hour everyday.

    In the event of an accident we’d be far better off having ethanol than methanol. The time to think of tragic consequences to an unfortunate accident is before it happens—-and do what we can to minimize the damage that might occur.

    Just my thought on the subject. The fuel properties of both alcohols are very similar—-it only makes sense to me to chose the one that is much safer to work with.

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  47. By paul-n on November 1, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Fred, 100% grade fuel ethanol is not safe to drink, and no one does this on a daily basis.

    Yes methanol is more toxic and can be absorbed through skin or inhalation – so don;t shower in it or breathe it!  

    In the course of normal handling of gasoline, you never touch it or breathe it, and so too with methanol.

    In the event of an accident you are far safer with methanol – that’s why Indycar switched to it from gasoline decades ago.  Methanol is harder to ignite than ethanol/gasoline, does not create balck smoke AND can be put out just using water.

    Run your vehicle on hydrous methanol (up to 50% water!) and it is safer still.

     

    The toxicity argument is a straw man – a good drink of any of these fuels will kill you – and it is pretty hard to drink them by accident.  To have significant skin absorption you need to be washing in the stuff, and to breathe enough you need to be over a bowl of it.  None of this will happen in normal fuel usage, or even in an accident.  Indycar drivers crash all the time and their saftey record on methanol was much better than on gasoline.  since switching to ethanol, there have more incidents of serious fires.  

    The properties are indeed similar, and handled properly, they are both safe.  It makes sense to go with the one that is easiest to make, and gives the most work per btu – that would be methanol.

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  48. By Wendell Mercantile on November 1, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Ethanol is far safer to handle and use. Ethanol is safe enough to drink everyday—-millions of people do.

    Fred,

     

    I’d wager that more die each year form ethyl alcohol than from methanol, and here’s a study that says more die from ethanol than from heroin or crack cocaine:

    Study says alcohol more dangerous than heroin, cocaine

    The former U.K. drug czar has published a study damning alcohol as a more dangerous drug than heroin or crack cocaine and urged governments to radically readjust their targets in the fight on narcotics.

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  49. By Herm on November 1, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    What is the cost of the CTL fuel being made in S Africa?

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  50. By Kit P on November 1, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    Both Ethanol and Methanol can be used safely as a fuel as demonstrated by years of experience.

    Ethanol MSDS

    https://fscimage.fishersci.com/msds/89308.htm

    http://sciencelab.com/xMSDS-Et…..of-9923955

     

    1000 ppm TWA;

     

    Methanol MSDS

    http://www.methanol.org/pdf/Me…..olMSDS.pdf

    http://sciencelab.com/msds.php…..Id=9927227

     

    200 ppm TWA

     

    “I’d wager that more die each year form ethyl alcohol than from methanol”

     

    Wendell there is a difference between industrial safety and intentional acts of stupidity.  If can not tell the difference between responsibly enjoying a glass of wine or beer at home and extreme behavior, I really hope you are not a pilot.  Most of can enjoy ethanol as a beverage; however, methanol is a poison.  You will die if you drink it.

     

    Of course it is the dose that makes the poison.  College students have died of drinking too much water.  It also depends on what you are doing.  While smoking is not good for you, it can be down right dangerous if done while fueling something.

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  51. By Wendell Mercantile on November 1, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    If can not tell the difference between responsibly enjoying a glass of wine or beer at home and extreme behavior…

     

    I can, but too many can’t. Ethyl alcohol not only kills from consuming too much of it, it also kills because too many drive while impaired after drinking it.  Approximately 40% of fatal traffic accidents in the U.S. are due to at least one of the drivers involved drinking too much ethanol. 

    You’re just being pedantic, you know very well that drinking ethanol causes tens of thousands of deaths yearly. Deaths in the U.S. each year due to methanol poisoning can be counted in the hundreds, and those are mostly people so addicted to ethanol they drink methanol out of desperation.

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  52. By paul-n on November 1, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    What is the cost of the CTL fuel being made in S Africa?

    Sasol is building a new CTL plant in India, and the cost is about $125,000 per barrel/day of capacity.  Assuming a ten year ROI, you will produce 3650 barrels and need $35/barrel just for the capital cost.  You also need to buy 3/4 of a ton of coal for each barrel you produce, and then there is the operation and maintenance of the facility.  Add in a meaningful profit margin, and you are probably at least at $80/bbl, and possibly $100.

    The fact that there are only a handful of CTL plants under construction in the world today suggests that it is not economic compared to $80 oil

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