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By Robert Rapier on Jul 9, 2010 with 63 responses

Radio Interview on the USDA Ethanol Report

I have had family visiting me for the past two weeks, which has slowed my posting down a bit. I am trying to finish up the followup story to the essay on the MixAlco process, but it will probably be early next week before that one is ready. Until then, here is a 12-minute radio interview that I did this week for a Midwestern radio program called Farm Talk:

RR Interview on the USDA Report and Future of Renewable Energy

We covered the implications of the USDA report covered in the previous essay, the future of cellulosic ethanol (I mentioned POET in the interview), the proposed ethanol pipeline, and what characteristics I look for in a renewable energy project.

I just listened to the interview, and I did misspeak at one point. I said that the report implies that you could take 1 BTU of fossil fuel and make 1 BTU of ethanol. What I meant to say was “the report implies that you can take 1 BTU of ethanol to make 2 BTUs of ethanol, but this is in fact not true.” Other than that, regular readers will find an emphasis on many of the themes often discussed here.

  1. By russ-finley on July 9, 2010 at 8:21 pm

    Radio, newspapers, and television are best suited for entertainment, not for discussion of complex topics and certainly not for debate.

    Some suspect they are planning to use the pipeline to make it more profitable to export ethanol, which would certainly deflate the energy independence argument.

    When you add the cost of the  pipeline to the cost of the refineries, you will have yet another industry that is too big to fail.

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  2. By rrapier on July 9, 2010 at 10:07 pm

    Some suspect they are planning to use the pipeline to make it more profitable to export ethanol, which would certainly deflate the energy independence argument.

    I actually made that comment in the interview. I asked why we are talking about exporting ethanol when we are still importing oil. If they want to give up the subsidies, tax credits, etc. then I don’t care if they export it. But I do have an issue with using taxpayer money in any fashion to subsidize ethanol exports.

    RR

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  3. By Rufus on July 9, 2010 at 11:47 pm

    We Export a large percentage of the Mercedes built at the Spartanburg, SC plant, even though we Import Mercedes built in Germany. We import oil from W. Canada, and export oil, and products to E. Canada. You could find hundreds of such examples, I imagine.

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  4. By rrapier on July 9, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    We Export a large percentage of the Mercedes built at the Spartanburg, SC plant, even though we Import Mercedes built in Germany.

    We don’t subsidize production at Spartanburg under the pretense of automotive independence. Like I said, if they stop taking tax dollars I don’t care what they do, but let’s stop pretending then that this is about energy independence.

    RR

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  5. By carbonbridge on July 10, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Russ Finley said:

    Radio, newspapers, and television are best suited for entertainment, not for discussion of complex topics and certainly not for debate.


     

    RR:  I think you did a great job in this radio interview!!!  Thanks for publically sharing this file.  However, I concur with Russ Finley, — radio is not the best medium to discuss technology where the listener can’t extrapolate a BTU from the words Cellulosic Ethanol or batch fermented traditional corn ethanol.  What does E-85 actually mean to a driver maneuvering rush hour freeway traffic?  And why would you stress keeping American volumes of EtOH at home in the MidWest?  Sitting silently and listening closely, I could interpret your answers.  While driving or working?  We’ll I don’t know.  The program announcer was genuine in his interest in both you and Hawaii as a get-a-way destination…

    Unfortunately, today’s world of citizens, investors and politicians still can’t assimilate the fact that alcohols are water soluble and will easily biodegrade as dilute bug & plant food where BP Gulf oil gushers still float on this blue planet’s water bodies and first kill the aquatic-based primary oceanic food chain.  Same persons will have a hard time envisioning what energy efficiency means which you refer to in your interview.  If you cut to the chase and tell them profits, well maybe that statement will soundly resonate…

    I’m looking forward to your second post on Professor Mark Holtzapple’s “MixAlco” fermentation process.  I anticipate comparing it to higher mixed alcohol synthesis via gas-to-liquids (GTL) non-stop and continuous methods of cleaner and more efficient thermal conversion of raw feedstock substrates.  Some rather Black and White differences here and Professor Holtzapple is confusing investors big-time with his earlier chosen name of MixAlco. 

    Further, I’m hoping that Professor Holtzapple demonstrates to you and thus to your readers any sort of higher alcohols which are even being converted second/third or fourth stage from carboxylic acids produced quite earlier via this batch fermentation process. 

    I am not an advocate of batch fermentation in any venue having personally reviewed over 85 examples of this process which can produce butanol, ibutanol, ethanol, or smaller volume amounts of propanol and n-butanol.  I think that Waste Management and Valero have mistakenly jumped their guns here.  Simply my personal opinion.

    Mark Radosevich

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  6. By Rufus on July 10, 2010 at 1:18 am

    We used to subsidize corn, and then export it all over the world. We used to subsidize oil, and export it all over the world. Today, about the only subsidy a gallon of exported ethanol would have “might” be a small producer tax credit.

    Your basic premise is kind of a stretch, anyway. There’s a mandate for ethanol use on the East Coast, and, at present (and the foreseeable future) not much in the way of “production.” In 2008 the ethanol producers were paying a fortune (up to $0.35/gal) to ship ethanol to the East Coast by train.

    Personally, I’d rather see the East Coast produce their own ethanol, but I recognize that it may be Many, Many years before that comes about.

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  7. By Takchess on July 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

    RR,
    Here is a summer reading recommendation for you.

    http://www.amazon.com/Most-Pow…..amp;sr=8-1

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  8. By Duracomm on July 10, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Rufus said,

    We used to subsidize corn, and then export it all over the world.

    We still subsidize it and one of the main subsidies is the mandate to contaminate gasoline with ethanol.

    Today, about the only subsidy a gallon of exported ethanol would have “might” be a small producer tax credit.

    The ethanol lobbyists and corn growers managed to get the government to enact a mandate that forces gasoline to be adulterated with ethanol.

    You neglected to mention that massive subsidy.

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  9. By Wendell Mercantile on July 10, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    We used to subsidize corn, and then export it all over the world.

    Ever since the days of Earl Butz, and who says we’ve stopped doing that? If it weren’t for the commodity crops we export, our balance of trade would be even worse. (Which I suppose is actually a good thing.)

    One of the great misfortunes of American agriculture policy has been to subsidize commodity crops such as corn, cotton, wheat, rice, and soy at the exclusion of other food crops such as fruit, vegetables, and nuts. It would be nice if the pecan growers in Alabama and Mississippi were as well treated by each farm bill that passes Congress.

    Almost the sole reason for the expansion of corn ethanol starting three decades ago was to increase the commodity market for corn. It was only later that the ethanol spinmeisters started saying, “Corn ethanol can free us from Middle East oil.” and “Corn ethanol is the ‘bridge’ to the biofuels of the future.”

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  10. By rrapier on July 10, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    And why would you stress keeping American volumes of EtOH at home in the MidWest?

    I stress keeping the usage as locally as possible for maximum efficiency. I think this will become very important in the future as we have to turn to sources with lower energy returns. It will be important to consume them close to the point of production. For instance, ethanol produced and used in Iowa probably has decent prospects for being able to hang around long-term. Ethanol produced in Nebraska with irrigated corn and shipped to California – almost certainly an energy sink.

    RR

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  11. By Benny BND Cole on July 10, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Question for Rufus: I just googled “Rufus” and “ethanol” and you are everywhere, even posting in economics blogs.

    That leads to believe you google “ethanol” at the crack of dawn, and then go to work. Literally.

    It is a free country and the Internet is the Wild West. There is no law requiring you, or the backers of The Oil Drum, to reveal who they are, and the sources of money they receive, directly or indirectly.

    Still, I contend it is poor practice.

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  12. By paul-n on July 10, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    Benny, I had never thought of doing that, but even if that is Rufus’ job, well, then he has a right to do it.  And, obviously has been doing so for a long time – check out this link to a book on industrial ethanol, written by Rufus in 1907!

    http://www.amazon.com/Denature…..160322002X

     

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  13. By Rufus on July 10, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    That’s an amazing find, Paul. :) Whooda thunk it?

    Benny, I notice you post over at Carpe Diem all the time.

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  14. By carbonbridge on July 10, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    And why would you stress keeping American volumes of EtOH at home in the MidWest?

    I stress keeping the usage as locally as possible for maximum efficiency. It will be important to consume them close to the point of production.

    RR


     

    And why would you stress keeping American volumes of EtOH at home in the

    MidWest?  Sitting silently and listening closely, I could interpret

    your answers.

     

    RR:  I only posed that question/statement because I was sitting silently and listening closely.  I understood what you were saying.  I simply agree with Russ that radio isn’t necessarily the best place to dialoge technical matters where lots of casual listeners won’t even understand what a BTU is or what efficiency “Ie: Profits” might be.

    Regarding exports of ethanol:  I agree with you.  We should keep this and other alternative fuels at home.  Exporting corn ethanol does nothing to wean ourselves off of imported petroleum.

     

    –Mark

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  15. By Wendell Mercantile on July 10, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    And why would you stress keeping American volumes of EtOH at home in the MidWest?

    And I might add, the first target of the ethanol lobby and Big Corn should be the good people of the Corn Belt. Once the markets in IA, IL. IN, WI, MN, SD, MO, and NE are completely saturated, then should come shipping corn ethanol to the two coasts.

    I admit that building an dedicated corn ethanol pipeline would require many years lead time (just imagine how many pages that EIS* will be), and someone has to be thinking about it now, but Big Corn and Big Ethanol have yet to pick all the low-hanging fruit in the Corn Belt. (Paul N, I am ever grateful to you for pointing out that Chancellor, SD, the home of POET’s 100 million gallon/year ethanol plant has only ONE E85 station. If POET and their employees can’t convince the gas stations in Chancellor to install E85 pumps, or be troubled to build their own E85 retail outlets in the town where they have a major plant, E85 must be a really difficult sale that will never make marketing inroads without a special Federal program or subsidies.)

    __________
    Does anyone think our present network of nationwide oil or gas pipelines could be built today if Federal regulations had required environmental impact studies 40-50 years ago?

    Off point, but interesting story about Laguardia Airport in New York City. In 1937 Mayor Laguardia was flying back to the city and had to land a Newark because New York City didn’t have a commercial airline airport. Laguardia got upset and said, “I want New York to have its own airport. Build one.” Construction started immediately and the airport opened in 1939. No EIS required, they just condemned the land and started construction. Laguardia was built mostly on what was called a swamp in 1937, and is called wetlands today. Federal regulations would not allow Laguardia to be built today.

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  16. By paul-n on July 11, 2010 at 1:37 pm

    After surprising myself that there is only one E85 station in Chancellor, I wondered how many there are in the cities where the ethanol lobby is centered.  The Renewable Fuels Association has their office in St. Louis, and according to E85prices.com, there are all of TWO E85 stations in St. Louis.  So for all the benefits they tout, they cannot even get anything much to happen in their own backyard.  

    Growth Energy is no better, their office is in Jefferson City, Missouri, and also has just TWO E85 stations.

    And none of these four stations report their pricers to E85prices.com.  So if you live in the ethanol (lobby) heartland, you can’t even find out what you pay for E85 until you seek out the two stations (out of hundreds in each city) that actually sell the stuff.

    Why have these two agencies not gone out and created more examples of ethanol use in their own cities?  They could have lobbied (paid for?) the city to run its taxi fleet on E85 cars, or done ethanol co-fueling of city/school buses, postal vehicles, etc etc.  Get at least one company to run their entire fleet of vehicles on E85 to demonstrate the fuel savings.

    The only trick in the playbook of these agencies is to lobby for more mandates and subsidies.  It is the equivalent of a real estate agent who can only sell a house by dropping the price

    The fed gov should not give the ethanol lobby one more inch on any front until they can demonstrate substantial consumer participation, and gasoline displacement, in at least one area.  Once they have demonstrated that, then they can come back to the government.

    There is not (as far as I can tell) a single example of a community that has substantially displaced gasoline with ethanol.  if this cannot be domesntrated, how can these lobby groups calim anything about “energy independece” for America if they have never even achieved it for a state, county, or even a single (corn country)town.  

    IF they can’t do it on that scale, then they need to face up to the fact that it can’t be done.

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  17. By Benny BND Cole on July 11, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Rufus-
    I post at a handful of econ and energy blogs. I am not paid to do so, directly or indirectly, in any fashion by anybody. I simply have an intense interest in public policy, and a need to talk about it with somebody–and people in the local bar are not wont to lengthy discussions on monetary policy or EROEI.

    But you post exclusively on ethanol, wide and far. It could be you are deeply interested in ethanol, for purely intellectual or policy reasons, and received no reimbursement from anybody. You show little interest in any other topic, such as the viability of nuclear power, or PHEVs, or methanol.

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  18. By Oxymaven on July 11, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Along the lines of localized energy independence, I would love to see Iowa declare their energy independence and show how sustainable corn ethanol might be under optimum growing conditions. I would love to have Iowa declare that all cars sold in that state be e85, and that all stations carry it. And I’m sure they would price it competitively with non-ethanol gasolines (unlike most E85 sellers, apparently), and then we could get a much better idea about what real benefits and costs are, and what real consumer acceptance would be.

    Given that he lives in Hawaii, I’ve been waiting for RR to post an analysis on that state’s efforts towards energy independence. It seems like an island state with high energy costs would also be wonderful proving grounds for this concept, but it seems to be getting off to a slow start? Seems like they should be able to tap into geothermal just like Iceland, and should be pretty ideal climate for some biomass energy crops…., but something is holding them back?

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  19. By Wendell Mercantile on July 11, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    The Renewable Fuels Association has their office in St. Louise, and according to E85prices.com, there are all of TWO e85 stations in St. Louis.

    A tip of my hat for that detective work Paul N. If the RFA can’t even make significant inroads in St Louis — their hometown — it’s no wonder they have to place their hopes on government mandates and subsidies.

    One would think the RFA would take the lead in funding and investing in E85 retail filling stations as a way of marketing the product their paying members produce. (At the very least there should be an RFA-owned filling station outside their HQ building selling E85 to St Louis drivers. Same for Growth Energy in Jeff City.)

    An RFA escrow account to back their request for a higher blend wall

    Another idea for RFA and Growth Energy: If they really want the EPA to move the blend wall to E15 or higher, they need to overcome the concerns about possible engine damage and the voiding of auto warranties. The way for the RFA and GE to do that would be to put a couple of billion dollars in an escrow account to pay for any engine damage drivers experience due to the higher blend wall.

    If RFA and GE are correct and higher blends actually would cause no damage, their money would be safe and go untouched. If there is a problem, drivers whose engines are damaged would have recourse.

    The only reason they could possibly refuse to set up such an escrow account is if they have doubts about their claim that higher blends would do no damage.

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  20. By Wendell Mercantile on July 11, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    …should be pretty ideal climate for some biomass energy crops…., but something is holding them back?

    Oxymaven,

    Something has changed on Hawaii. In the last 30 years, sugar cane production has actually dropped — from ~ a million tons/year in the early 1980s to ~ 259,000 tons/year. The acreage dedicated to cane has also dropped from 100,000 to 21,000 acres.

    You’re right, Hawaii has an excellent climate for growing cane, and there is no fundamental reason they couldn’t have done what Brazil did over the same period with respect to cane ethanol. No fundamental reason except one: Brazil has a huge supply of cheap labor (some would say slave labor) — Hawaii doesn’t have that resource to tap into. There just aren’t that many people in Hawaii that can be forced into spending their days in a cane field wielding a machete.

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  21. By Rufus on July 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm

    Benny, as you should have noticed (since we were on the same blogs,) I was one of the few posting on econ blogs in favor of Obamacare. I caught an incredible amount of heat for that.

    Having said that, though, I do believe the biggest challenge facing our country in the coming years is Transportation Fuel. I think we have a Very Serious Problem coming at us, and I decided several years ago that Ethanol was the most likely way out.

    I, also, would like to see RFA, and Growth Energy do more to boost E85, and Blender Pumps, but I’m aware that they can only do what their members give them money to do. As you know, that crazy run-up in corn prices in 2008, and the cratering of gasoline prices in 2009 really hurt the ethanol industry. Several Distillers went under, and the ones that were left were barely alive.

    The anti-ethanol folks did a Brilliant campaign against them with the phony food for fuel, and then ILUC blitzes, and by pressuring UL to drag its feet on certifying the E85 pumps (even though those pumps had been pumping ethanol for thirty years in the U.S. as well as Brazil.)

    Also, keep in mind that only about 3% of the customers that drive into a filling station are driving Flexfuel vehicles, and that over half of them didn’t even know it. It didn’t help, of course, that those “flexfuels” vehicles weren’t very efficient at using ethanol. Hopefully, the fact that “more,” and “better” flexfuels will be coming out in the coming years will help.

    Of course, everyone has their own agenda. An example would be: Ford came out almost immediately, and said that E15 would be just hunkey-dorey. GM, on the other hand, perceives themselves to have an advantage in the Flexfuel Race, and, correctly in my mind, figures that E15 will substantially raise the cost of ethanol, and be a serious setback to their E85 program, so they came out slamming E15.

    In the real world, where the players are playing with really large stakes, things can get “complicated” in a hurry.

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  22. By Benny BND Cole on July 11, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Rufus-
    Great answer–except for the kernel (get it?) I was looking for. Are you in any way, manner, shape or form, directly or indirectly, associated with the ethanol lobby or industry?
    Are you posting purely as a matter of intellectual interest?
    What is your real name? What city do you live in?

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  23. By paul-n on July 12, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Oxy,

     

    I too would like to see RR write about Hawaii’s energy situation.  For electricity, they are one of the last major users of oil fired generation, getting 75%(!) of their electricity from petroleum.

    There is one commercial wind farm on Maui (there may be more now) – you would think that the windsurfing capital of the world would be a good place for wind.  Part of the Big Island has a solar insolation level similar to Arizona.  And Kauai sure seems like a good place for growing biomass.  And with retail electricity at $0.26/kWh, the most expensive in the country, if renewables aren’t viable there, they aren’t viable anywhere.  This where that $2bn solar plant should be getting built – it would actually be profitable here, and would displace oil usage!

    Sugar production has dropped as the islands grew their tourism industry, diverting land and water away from sugar.  That said, they could grow more than they do now.  

    A ton of sugar yields 166 gallons of ethanol, so if they put all their existing production to ethanol,  they would have about 50 million ga;/yr, or 90,000 gal/day.

    Sounds good, except that they use 1.26 milion gallons/day of gasoline!

    Even if they went back to their historic highs of over 1 million tons/yr of sugar, that would only produce 366,000gal/day.  When you account for the energy content, it is the equivalent of 240,000gal.day, or 20% of current gasoline usage.

    So Hawaii could currently produce about 5% of its gasoline consumption from sugar ethanol.

    The real problem would appear to be that there is too much gasoline, and oil in general being used in Hawaii, but that’s a whole different story – which I welcome RR’s views on. 

     

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  24. By vasha on July 12, 2010 at 12:25 am

    Brazil uses sugar cane not corn. Sugar cane can be grown in the US. It is superior to corn for production of energy. Methane can be produced by waste disposal conversion. But unless Hydrogen or cold fusion comes online it is not the fuel of the future due to the lack of BTU’s produced per gallon vs gasoline.
    The specter of foreign oil has been debunked as we have plenty of crude. But we need new modern multi refineries and R&D as well as pipelines to the markets.

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  25. By carbonbridge on July 12, 2010 at 12:48 am

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    An RFA escrow account to back their request for a higher blend wall

    If they really want the EPA to move the blend wall to E15 or higher, they need to overcome the concerns about possible engine damage and the voiding of auto warranties. The way for the RFA and GE to do that would be to put a couple of billion dollars in an escrow account to pay for any engine damage drivers experience due to the higher blend wall.

    If RFA and GE are correct and higher blends actually would cause no damage, their money would be safe and go untouched. If there is a problem, drivers whose engines are damaged would have recourse.

     


     

    Wendell:  Please don’t fall into any sort of trap here.  What engine damage?  What are you reading?  What have you personally experienced apart from learning in this thread that the RFA or Growth Energy people are living without many E-85 pumps in their own backyards…

    I’m wondering how many readers here have personally driven ethanol (or other alcohol blends) in excess of 10% volumes splash blended into gasoline?  Most of the ethanol blended to meet federally mandated Clean Air Act requirements is at 5.6% volumes.

    Only those motorists who have driven higher volume blends of alcohols (in unmodified cars/pickups) are aware that the full potential of this C2 ethanol oxygenate doesn’t even begin to become realized until these alcohol volumes are in fact much higher volumes.  Like 20% or 25% or even greater volumes.  

    Then engine performance becomes much more affected (ask race car drivers) and the lesser BTU’s inherent with oxygenates (the Oxygen atom in all alcohols doesn’t provide even one BTU of combustion strength here) starts shifting backwards and actually begins increasing mileage as more powerful engine torque is thus developed.  The FFV chip does this automatically by adjusting air/fuel ratios then advancing the spark ignition timing to find the sweetest high spot just prior to pre-detonation or ping.

    I’ve personally driven thousands of miles and combusted thousands of gallons of C1 methanol, C2 ethanol and C1-C8 higher mixed alcohols all of which were seamlessly splash blended into both gasoline and diesel.  I’ve also combusted these same anhydrous alcohols as totally neat or substitute fuels while making basic air/fuel and spark ignition engine adjustments just like a race car mechanic would.  And when combusting alcohols neat, they don’t have to be dried to anhydrous state.  In the summer time I’ve routinely watered-down anydrous alcohols with 10% and 20% volumes of distilled water.

    When blending alcohols into petroleum-derived diesel fuel, I keep these alcohol blends lower (below 10% volumes) when combusting this mixture in un-modified engines.  Regarding gasoline engines, the exact opposite is the case.  Therein I’ll increase these seamless alcohol volume blends higher to 25%, 35% and 55% levels with gasoline combusted once again in unmodified engines.  I’ve never plugged up a fuel filter (yet) with scums and petroleum varnishes being scrubbed from the hydrocarbon petroleum fuel systems.  Nor have I caused a leak to occur anywhere within the fuel system of cars, trucks, motorboats, motorcycles or two-stroke chainsaws, weed eaters or snowmobiles by using high-volume blends of alcohols into gasoline.

    Never have I harmed any engine by combusting high volume alcohol blends while also paying to have certain test engines dismantled and thoroughly reviewed after combusting high volumes of alcohols – even via prescribed engine destroy tests.  What I’ve learned is that higher volume alcohol blends actually work as decarbonizers to clean engines from the inside so that they perform more like they did when these engines were brand new!

    Prior to 1980, lots of so-called neoprene gaskets were actually a bastard material which swelled from solvent alcohols.  But since 1981 or so, there probably has not been a lawn mower engine, motorcycle engine, car, pickup, semi-truck, jet ski, snowmobile, chainsaw or any aviation engine constructed which features gaskets or hoses or any elastomers which are intolerant with solvent alcohols.

    Alcohols burn slower and cooler, not hotter at faster.  Think of that Oxygen atom in the alcohol’s OH group as being one-half of water.  This is why the ignition spark can be advanced so greatly to find a very much higher ‘sweet spot’ for ever increasing volumes of alcohols blended into gasoline.  And I’m talking about everyday engines here, not FFV’s which are common, everyday automobiles in Brazil.

    The Oxygen atom integral to every oxycarbon alcohol molecule is what first provides polarity to this alternative fuel.  This magnetic switch in polarity is what allows alcohols to dilute into water and thus feed bugs, microbes, phytoplankton, plants, trees and grasses with a free lunch.  This is the basic defination of BIODEGRADABILITY which is not well recognized in this confusing world of biofuels development…  If algae oil were free, it still wouldn’t easily biodegrade.  But biofuels editors who write about this daily still don’t realize this basic fact.  It is this polarity switch caused by an OH group is what also allows alcohols to seamlessly blend back with hydrocarbon oils and ground coals of any rank. 

    The Oxygen atom in alcohol doesn’t combust, – what it is doing is to ‘fan the flames’ and get all or nearly all of the most complex hydrocarbon elements in oil and coal to fully combust.  This increase in combustion efficiency is what nets out in increased engine torque and/or boiler efficiency while vastly reducing the unburned hydrocarbons in the emission stream.

    The 20% stronger BTU content plus 138 octane ratings characteristic of synthetic GTL-produced C1-C8 higher alcohols seem to perform best at approximately 35% alcohol volumes to 65% gasoline in unmodified car and pickup engines.

    May I suggest that you or any reader here get your hands on some anhydrous ethanol or E-85 and begin spiking your own gasoline blends and experiment with it a bit.  I serioulsy doubt that anyone will harm their own car engine at all from increased volumes of corn ethanol.

    I interpret this ’15% blend wall’ issue as merely more politics between un-knowing politicians, lobbyists and very knowledgeable auto manufacturers and it all ties back into the tax subsidies, who receives them and also who controls which market share.  Collectively, we all need to look no further than the BP Gulf Gusher which is spewing into the ocean to distinguish that ALL OILS (even edible plant and animal oils) still float on this planet’s water bodies.  Oils phase separating from water is the biggest problem with hydrocarbon oil, OPEC imports, balance of trade deficits AND the uncombusted emissions of oils and hydrocarbon coals which also phase separate into this earth’s water-laden atmosphere. 

    Finally, I don’t see any sort of cash escrow account needed to be raised by RFA or others to repair engines harmed by the next (political) movement of 15% EtOH blends into everyday gasoline.  If there were more E-85 pumps out there, then motorists could experiment with varying volumes of ethyl alcohol into their own unmodified automobile gasoline engines.  And after some personal experimentation in spiking their gasoline, I’ll bet most motorists would find that the best blend of corn alcohol might be larger in volume than the 15% blendwall volume which is being debated now.

    Mark Radosevich

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  26. By Rufus on July 12, 2010 at 12:53 am

    Benny, I am in no way connected to ethanol, agriculture, or academia. I’m a retired insurance peddler, currently residing in Tunica Co., Ms.

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  27. By carbonbridge on July 12, 2010 at 1:38 am

    Wendell much earlier said:…should be pretty ideal climate for some biomass energy crops…., but something is holding them back?

    Something has changed on Hawaii. In the last 30 years, sugar cane production has actually dropped — from ~ a million tons/year in the early 1980s to ~ 259,000 tons/year. The acreage dedicated to cane has also dropped from 100,000 to 21,000 acres.

    You’re right, Hawaii has an excellent climate for growing cane, and there is no fundamental reason they couldn’t have done what Brazil did over the same period with respect to cane ethanol. No fundamental reason except one: Brazil has a huge supply of cheap labor (some would say slave labor) — Hawaii doesn’t have that resource to tap into. There just aren’t that many people in Hawaii that can be forced into spending their days in a cane field wielding a machete.


     

    One more thing to remember here Wendell is that while carbon is the essential building block of all liquid fuels, even alcohols — when compared to float-on-water bio-oils or crude oils — this same carbon substrate converted as a basic building block does NOT have to come from anything purposefully planted, fertilized, copiously watered, weeded and harvested like the sugar cane which you and others have reference above in this thread. 

    Growing any agri-based feedstock to produce new and alternative fuels is the biggest misconception among citizens, politicians and even most scientists.  People just naturally think that “biofuels” need to come from something agri-planted, grown and harvested.  Not so.  And the world will soon be learning more about these differences which still boil down to the fact that carbon is carbon is carbon as an energy building block.  However this carbon doesn’t have to come from annually harvested biomass. 

    I wonder how much trash and sewer sludge and scrap tires are accumulated each and every day in Hawaii?  (Or in New York, LA, Mexico City, Moscow, Baghdad or Billings?)  These wastes of society contain far more carbon building blocks than new acres of sugar cane could ever compete with.  I would NEVER encourage anyone in Hawaii to begin re-planting former volumes of sugar cane or fast-growing trees to be inefficiently used as renewable carbon feedstock for sugar/yeast ethanol fermentation.

    The paradigm shift is to change the processing chemistry sets and move away from batch-fermented ANYTHING employing acidic enzymes and bio-bug yeasts and instead switch to 24×7 continuous processing methods where super-heated steam becomes the active process driver here.  And I voice my opinions as an experienced biologist – someone who has personally witnessed scores of these carbon-based alternative fuel processing systems.  Thus I believe it is continous processing using super-heated thermal steam, not batch methods of bio-bug fermentation which might save this ailing planet’s ecology while decentralizing new wealth and simultaneously creating value-added new economies.

    • Wars for OIL?

    • Out of control Gulf Gushers killing aquatic food chains and poisoning land inhabitants? 

    • Or something new, a quick fix – yet still not interpreted nor understood? 

    • We’ll see if even the word BIODEGRADABLE can become interpreted or not…  While I’m not a fan of inefficiently fermenting corn kernals into ethanol – this resulting C2 alcohol product is very biodegradable and gentle upon the earth.

    Mark

    [link]      
  28. By Wendell Mercantile on July 12, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Never have I harmed any engine by combusting high volume alcohol blends while also paying to have certain test engines dismantled and thoroughly reviewed after combusting high volumes of alcohols…

    CarbonBridge,

    If — as you say — there is no possibility of engine damage, then RFA and GE should have no concerns about setting up an escrow account to pay for possible engine, should they?

    It would simply be a statement of the ethanol industry’s good faith and something they could use as leverage to convince the EPA to approve higher blends of gasoline/ethanol.

    If there could be no damage, setting up an escrow account to cover potential engine damage sounds like a “win-win” for the ethanol industry.

    [link]      
  29. By Wendell Mercantile on July 12, 2010 at 10:36 am

    I wonder how much trash and sewer sludge and scrap tires are accumulated each and every day in Hawaii? (Or in New York, LA, Mexico City, Moscow, Baghdad or Billings?) These wastes of society contain far more carbon building blocks than new acres of sugar cane could ever compete with.

    Mark,

    I agree, and am all in favor of bio-gasifiers to convert waste organic material — of which as you said there is an abundance in the world — into syn-gas and methane, and then to use those as feedstock to make methanol for spark ignition engines, and di-methyl ether (DME) for compression ignition engines.

    If only we had spent the money we’ve wasted on corn ethanol over the last three decades on developing a transportation system that uses methanol and DME made from organic waste, cellulose, lignin, and non-food crops.

    [link]      
  30. By Bob Schmidt on July 12, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Carbon Bridge,

    After reading David Blume’s book about the oil company propaganda concerning ethanol damage to modern gas engines, I decided to take the chance.  I’m one of the lucky few with an e85 station a few miles from my home.  About 3 years ago I started slowly increasing the e85 content in my 2006 Scion to eventually about 2/3 to 3/4, at which point the check engine light would come on for long term fuel trim (ECU thinks it is running too lean, too much oxygen and not enough crud in the exhaust for the catalytic converter, so there must not be enough gas to burn available oxygen).  My mpg was about 20% lower than regular but performance was great.  After about 20K miles of that and the annoyance of the check engine light, I installed a white lightning e85 conversion kit.  It goes in series with the fuel injector lines, providing an extra pulse the magnitude of which is controlled by a potentiometer.  Very simple install.  On full e85 with the pot set at about 50%, I get about 25% less mpg.  I am currently running e85 with the pot set to about 25% and am getting about 10-15% lower mpg (Based on driving to Denver and back at the speed limit, very scientific).  But e85 is $2.10 and premium is $2.95 (e85 is 105 octane).  So I’m actually coming out ahead at the moment.  For those who are interested in what an engine designed for ethanol might look like, google “scania diesel ethanol’.  Note the high thermal efficiency and extremely low polution that ethanol can deliver.  Ahem, much better mileage than gasoline, anyone?

    [link]      
  31. By Benny BND Cole on July 12, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Rufus–
    If true, congratulations on having such an active mind, and interest in public affairs. I salute you, though I think you are a nut about ethanol.

    [link]      
  32. By Bob Schmidt on July 12, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    Wendell,

    I agree that there is a vast amount of money and energy wasted on corn ethanol.  I think the fundamental problem is the subsidies for wasteful fossil fuel usage.  First we use petroleum intensive methods for corn production and use petroleum to transport it to a huge central site for processing.  Then we use a great deal of fossil fuel (coal, natural gas, etc) to run the fermentation and distillation processes (This is the really huge part).  More petroleum is required to transport the co-products to where they can be used.  Why would we waste so much energy to create a liquid fuel?  Because the cost of the fossil fuel energy is heavily subsidised.  Why are opponents of ethanol so sensitised to it’s subsidy yet blind to the perverse incentives for waste that fossil fuel subsidies create?  Brazil replaces 50% of their gasoline usage at a cost around 83 cents per gallon using no subsidy on 1% of their arable land with an about 8 to 1 EROEI.  And yes, there are problems, they have low cost labor and use the sugar cane bagasse to produce excess electricity in addition to ethanol production when much of the plant nutrients should be returned to the soil.  But I do believe a path of environmentally sustainable economic energy return is possible with a local polyculture of sources and sufficient attention to detail.

    [link]      
  33. By paul-n on July 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Bob, I had come across the Scania ethanol buses before (on the web, not in person) seems like a great idea to me.

    Stockholm has just ordered more of them

     

    In Sweden, Scania is preparing to deliver 85 ethanol-powered buses to the City of Stockholm’s transportation company. The city is already the world’s largest user of ethanol buses. Storstockholms Lokaltrafik’s (SL) owner, the Stockholm County Council, has set a target that at least 50 percent of all passenger transport in its territory should occur using renewable fuels by 2012. At the end of 2009, the figure was nearly 30 percent.

    Fully story here;

    So Stockholm, a place that is hardly in the middle of ethanol producing country, has already managed a 30% fuel substitution, and yet FRA and Growth Energy have managed only 10%, and then only by gov forcing people to do so.  

    Why not bring some of those buses here, to the centre of the ethanol world (Tunica County, Ms) – at least it would give Rufus some vehicles to talk about other than the Buick!

    Seriously though, if the Swedes can achieve that, when they have to import most of their ethanol, surely we can do at least as well when we make our own?  Would this not be great for every bus , garbage truck etc  (and tractors) in corn country to be running on this stuff?

    When will the US ethanol industry invest some serious time and effort into some real world projects instead of just lobbying?

    [link]      
  34. By rrapier on July 12, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    Bob Schmidt said:

    For those who are interested in what an engine designed for ethanol might look like, google “scania diesel ethanol’.  Note the high thermal efficiency and extremely low polution that ethanol can deliver.  Ahem, much better mileage than gasoline, anyone?


     

    Bob, I actually wrote a story on Scania:

    http://www.consumerenergyrepor…..d-equally/

    Cheers, RR

    [link]      
  35. By carbonbridge on July 12, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    Wendell said:

    I wonder how much trash and sewer sludge and scrap tires are accumulated each and every day in Hawaii? (Or in New York, LA, Mexico City, Moscow, Baghdad or Billings?) These wastes of society contain far more carbon building blocks than new acres of sugar cane could ever compete with.

    Mark,

    I agree, and am all in favor of bio-gasifiers to convert waste organic material — of which as you said there is an abundance in the world — into syn-gas and methane, and then to use those as feedstock to make methanol for spark ignition engines, and di-methyl ether (DME) for compression ignition engines.

    If only we had spent the money we’ve wasted on corn ethanol over the last three decades on developing a transportation system that uses methanol and DME made from organic waste, cellulose, lignin, and non-food crops.


     

    Wendell:  There are two distinctly different ‘thermal’ front-ends here in comparison to anything batch fermented using acid enzymes and biobugs.  And in my opinion, please watch out for groups using genetically-engineered versions of E-coli as their active process drivers to produce other types of ‘biofuels’ so confusing to politicians, publics and investors.  

    One thermal front-end is ‘gasification’ of any solid material be it biomass, coal, tires, petroleum coke bottoms, garbage or sewer sludge as likely carbon feedstock candidates to displace anything grown and harvested, even non-food grasses or oil seeds or algae.  All of these solid substrates are very ‘carbon rich’ and they are all plentiful and very low cost in relationship to anything planted and annually harvested.  The other well known and even better understood thermal front-end method of carbon conversion is the ‘steam reformation’ of methane.  And here, the likely candidates are stranded methane, contaminated methane, bio-methane as buried dumps are releasing or copious amounts of waste ‘flare gas’ typically found in offshore environments.  These sources of stranded or contaminated methane can be made available to produce biodegradable alcohols at far cheaper prices than purchasing cleaned methane out of the Henry Hub pipeline distribution grids.  Look no further than Prudoe Bay in northernmost Alaska to assess the largest ‘stranded repository’ of methane natural gas on the North American continent.

    Both of these front-end thermal-conversion techniques produce an intermediate syngas.  The gasification of solids typically produces CO & H2 and steam reformation of methane produces a CO & H2, H2, H2 syngas.  Back-end catalysis conversions will re-arrange these gaseous molecules into liquids like Fischer-Tropsch float-on-water (expensive yet clean) OILs or very low-cost and biodegradable C1 methanol (featuring one-half of gasoline’s BTU content) OR methanol where it is further catalyzed at much greater efficiencies into a blend of higher mixed alcohols typically being a C1-C6 or C1-C8 or C1-C10 range of higher alcohols.  This blend of mixed alcohols features 20% more BTU’s per unit volume than does fermented grain ethanol and contains approximately 81% of the BTU content of gasoline.  It is this formula which I look forward to comparing soon with Prof. Holtzhapples MixAlco process on these pages.

    The intermediate syngas thermally-derived from society’s waste or stranded, gaseous carbon can be converted into DME (di-methyl ether) as you have indicated.  For those who are unfamiliar, – DME is a pressurized gas very similar to Propane.  DME combusts cleaner than does C3 Propane simply because it features an Oxygen atom in its recipe where C3 propane is a hydrocarbon, devoid of any intrinsic and very important Oxygen content.  DME’s molecular formula is  C2H6O  or it may also be written as  CH3OCH3.   Propane’s molecular formula is  C3H8.

    While DME combusts cleaner than C3 Propane does, it does not carry as much BTU energy content.  A molecule of DME (as a pressurized, liquified gas in bottles) features two carbon atoms of BTU strength per molecule (plus one Oxygen atom without any BTU’s) whereas a molecule of Propane contains three carbon atoms yet minus the Oxygen atom.

    I know that in the Orient some semi-truck drivers carry several pressure bottles of DME bolted behind the truck’s cab.  I do NOT endorse this method of carrying either DME or bottled Propane at about 125 lbs. psi bolted to semi-cabs or in smaller vehicles like pickups or in car trunks.  Pressurized, bottled gas really has no safe place in the transportation sector, it should be utilized instead for stationary applications like firing a BBQ gas grill or providing gaseous fuel to a rural homesite where at least these pressure tanks of gasses/liquids are stationary.  For this same reason, I never will believe that methane natural gas will ever become a norm in the transportation sector even though there are many proponents for this such as Benny and T. Boone Pickens. 

    Months ago, we engaged in detailed discussions on this same blog about converting gaseous methane as new and abundant fuel for the U.S. transportation market.  Last time I checked, methane is pressurized to about 3,000 psi in comparison to DME or Propane at 125 psi.  Nada for any of these bottled gasses for mobile transportation use in my humble opinion.  And nada for bottled Hydrogen at 10,000 to 15,000 psi for the transportation sector as well.  Please don’t think of utilizing any pressurized gas – even clean-burning DME for transporation when the alternative is liquid fuel (some of it biodegradable) at ambient temperatures and pressures.  Liquid fuels sloshing around in the gas tank are dangerous enough – collisions involving pressurized gases, bottles and regulators which do iignite are far more deadly.

    Mark

    [link]      
  36. By Bob Schmidt on July 12, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    RR,
    Thanks for the link, very cool stuff. It is frustrating and seems very wrong to me that we spend so much of our time engaging in highly politicized battles of competing propaganda on just about every subject while other countries are more able to move forward with rational solutions. I fear for us.

    [link]      
  37. By carbonbridge on July 12, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Wendell earlier asks:

    Never have I harmed any engine by combusting high volume alcohol blends …

    CarbonBridge,

    If — as you say — there is no possibility of engine damage, then RFA and GE should have no concerns about setting up an escrow account to pay for possible engine, should they?  It would simply be a statement of the ethanol industry’s good faith and something they could use as leverage to convince the EPA to approve higher blends of gasoline/ethanol.  If there could be no damage, setting up an escrow account to cover potential engine damage sounds like a “win-win” for the ethanol industry.


     

    What is ‘potential’ engine damage?  Again, please don’t fall into a trap here of your own making Wendell.  I would interpret any new escrow account for ‘ethyl alcohol engine damage’ to be something akin to ‘Cash for Clunkers.’  Who would be responsible for evaluating ‘what damage’ to any engine after combusting 15% volumes of ethanol splash blended with gasoline?  I cannot support any such financial ‘fall-back’ mechanism.  It would become a folly rather quickly.  15% EtOH blend wall volumes are NOT going to harm or cripple anybody’s engine.  I can hear owners of 35 yr. old motorboats screaming — same people who own very, very old motors and fuel tanks riddled with petroleum-derived scums, varnishes and rust deposits which have been anchored in or near salty air conditions for decades.

    I will attempt to add some other thoughts later about high compression diesel engines being converted to combust alcohols as a neat, substitute fuel.  For the time being, consider what a biodegradable exhaust emission might be like.  I’ll bet most folks would never stop to realize what a biodegradable exhaust might actually be like — OR smell like…

    -Mark

    [link]      
  38. By Walt on July 12, 2010 at 8:20 pm

    Mark/CarbonBridge,

    Great Stuff in your commentary…just excellent to frame a different argument that is much needed here.

    I have been following Lotus as they seem to be really supportive of methanol and ethanol shaking hands in friendship one day in the future, and are actually spending a lot of money to bring a new line of cars to address most of the world that can afford methanol, but not gasoline.

    http://www.greencarreports.com…..ar-concept

    Outside of America, it is really exciting to see how much interest there is in methanol, ethanol (Brazil of course), higher alcohols, etc. and other fuels beyond petroleum gasoline and diesel.

    From your commentary, I am beginning to see why.

    We will start testing a 5 ft. by 10 ft. trailer mounted methanol process hopefully the end of this month by going to local compressors at oil & gas production sites, and rate racing the gas to our trailer to make fuels.  Then, we have several flared gas sites we hope to test next.  Nothing like letting the petroleum industry fight about how bad methanol and ethanol are on engines when I’ll be using it locally in my car making it for practically free, and also reducing flared CO2 emissions effecting the neighbors who have been complaining for years of the smelly gas flares!

    [link]      
  39. By paul-n on July 12, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Mark,

    Since we love talking about how efficient alcohol engines can be, I thought I’d put up some graphs here to spark the discussion.  I have posted on several occasions about how engines can be optimised to run more efficiently on M or E than on gasoline or diesel, and here are the graphs, taken from these two papers, by Brustar et al, in 2002;

    http://www.methanol.org/pdf/IS…..F-XV-EPA.pdf

    http://www.methanol.org/pdf/20…..1-2743.pdf

     

    First, the Diesel efficiency for an unmodified VW Jetta turbo diesel engine

    (4cyl, 1.9L, inlet manifold pressure 1.5 bar, compression ratio 19.5:1);

     

    Now the same engine with spark ignition and port injection of E100;

     

    Now the same engine with port injection of M100;

     

    So clearly, we can get better efficiency, and a wider torque curve, on either alcohol, using an off the shelf engine block, and an off the shelf port fuel injection system.  You could even leave the diesel injection for the ignition source, though this is not the way this test was set up.

    They also tested  the efficiency of various ethanol/gasoline blends;

    This graph shows the knock limit for E10 and E 30, you just can’t get enough compression to get good efficiency with so much gasoline in there.

    And they did the same for methanol;

    I like this graph as if you extrapolate the blend factions to M0 (pure gasoline) you expect BTE of about 33%, which is actually what a Prius gets at optimum output. 

    As I have said before, the sooner we get rid of the fuel gasoline fraction completely, the better and more efficient we are.  AS RR said in his post about Scania engines, not all BTU’s are created equal, and M and E BTU’s can be much superior, if we use the right engines.  And currently, we don’t – it’s as simple as that.

    Given that Detroit is not far from corn country, you would think that someone there would be working on this, and come out with an engine/vehicle with a high compression engine for E100, call it the “moonshine special” or even “the Rufus Rocket” or some such, and really show what ethanol can do.  

    For maximum versatility, I would start with a diesel pick-up, and set it up for dual fuel, using the diesel as the ignition source, and have it idling on diesel only, and switchable from diesel only operation or dual fuel.  Then the driver can decide if he wants to run on Saudi oil, or all-America corn ethanol (or methanol), which is a cheaper fuel – seems like a no brainer!

    Imagine a vehicle fleet (e.g US postal vehicles, or POET’s own delivery trucks) set up to run this way.  Once the benefits are demonstrated, perhaps then the ethanol industry can get some respect, and we can make some real progress to kicking gasoline out of the dance, instead of partnering with it!

    [link]      
  40. By Walt on July 12, 2010 at 10:50 pm

    M30 is referred to as “methanol gasoline” for those who are not familiar with how China uses it in cars…M85 was also approved last year.

    ——————————-

    LONDON, January 27 /PRNewswire/ — Brascan Capital Ltd., an energy
    and private equity is the beneficiary of an
    agreement
    which gives to Brascan a worldwide exclusive distribution for Euro 5bn
    over 5 years for several additives like M30 and M15 which can produce
    high clean methanol methanol, methyl alcohol, or wood alcohol, CH3OH,
    a colorless, flammable liquid that is miscible with water in all
    proportions. Methanol is a monohydric alcohol. It melts at −97.  gasoline.

    Since 2006, the Chinese have found a good way to use methanol
    gasoline. It helped them to solve the problem of gasoline shortage, also
    help their national to have good control of pollution from car emission.
    In 2009, Chinese car sale has reached number one in the world, but the
    fuel consummation has not increased much. The answer is simple. Methanol
    gasoline is in the fuel station for sale. It is clean and cheaper than
    the regular gasoline. Petro China Company Limited (“Petro
    China”), the China’s largest oil and gas producer and
    distributor, has selected the high clean methanol gasoline to be used in
    the province of Zhejiang. According
    to
    Salvador
    Trinxet Llorca, co-CEO
    of Brascan, Sinopec, the other China’s largest oil and gas producer
    is currently using high clean methanol gasoline in the province of
    Sanxi. In 2010, the high clean methanol gasoline will be used in many
    provinces.

    // <![CDATA[//
    Luis Roca,
    the other co-CEO of the British company, highlight that
    M30 high clean methanol gasoline is made by compounding self developed additive, which overcomes the original short comes of methanol low
    heating point, causticity, store carry delaminated, settles big
    proportion methanol catalytic combustion technology and tail gas
    purgation mutual dissolves with delaminating, low temperature starting,
    high temperature gas obstruct, engine spare part material causticity
    problem, does not need to change engine and can be used directly or
    mixed with regular gasoline. It’s been authenticate by China
    authority bureau as the technology is at leading edge, it is the best
    economical fuel of gasoline substitute for vehicle possess very
    conspicuous economic benefits and social efficiency.

    Salvador Trinxet Llorca said “This energy company reached and
    international cooperation with Petro China on Sep 2009.” It is the
    first additive petrochemical company to provide clean methanol gasoline
    to Petro China. The cost-advantaged additive and the agreement will help
    secure the foundation for additional growth in China. An extremely high
    level of interest in this product had been exhibited by other Chinese
    and UK oil and gas producer and distributor companies.

    http://www.brascancapital.com

    [link]      
  41. By carbonbridge on July 13, 2010 at 3:58 am

    Walt and Pete and Bob and Others said exciting things about neat alcohol combustion:    M30 is referred to as “methanol gasoline” for those who are not familiar with how China uses it in cars…M85 was also approved last year.

    —————————

     

    Gentlemen:  I’m getting old, I miss important EPA engine test releases circa 2002 qualifying neat methanol and ethanol blends plus also focusing on 30% to 50% alcohol blends into gasoline to ‘even begin’ realizing some of the extra benefits of higher alcohol blend ratios with petroleum-derived fuels.  All of this performance data is far in excess of the 15% blend wall now being debated.  This EPA data which

    Pete listed was indeed technical but to anyone who has paid for and pursued such engine performance and emissions profile research, these results indeed speak for themselves.  Thanks for sharing Pete. 

    I hope that people take the time to review at least the two pdf files which you’d linked as summary EPA reports.  Therein they will learn a great deal about fuel injector ports, proper positioning of nozzles and switching over to spark ignition in a 19.5 to 1 high compression diesel engine.  This mechanical switch to spark ignition is very logical.  Diesel fuel is typically sprayed into piston cylinders very late in the compression cycle, just before top dead center.  And then the high heat of the extra tightly compressed air is what touches off the late-arriving C15 to C20 paraffinic diesel.

    When high volume alcohols or even neat alcohol blends are fed into a diesel engine a few things happen which make a lot of sense.  The extra high compression in diesels (averaging 16 to 1 up to 20 to 1) actually helps oxygenated alcohols to perform even better.  And the OH group on every alcohol molecule performs better as the compression ratios rise significantly.  In the URL which RR and Bob S. were relating to, this Scandanavian diesel bus engine firm had further boosted compression ratios in these commercial diesel engines all the way up to 28 to 1.  Until reading that background I had never before heard of diesel compression going that high. 

    Neat alcohols like this and peform even better at higher compression.  For reference, gasoline powered lawn mower engines are typically only about 6-1 compression ratios.  Most unleaded gasoline engines we drive in cars and pickups today are 8.5 to 1 compression.  The muscle cars we used to drive in the 60′s and 70′s (before unleaded gasoline was mandated) had 10, 11 and sometimes 12 to 1 compression ratios.  Many Indy and Nascar racing engines push compression ratios to about 13 to 14 to 1, sometimes even higher.  So for the non-diesel folks, please understand that 16 to 20 to 1 compression ratios are very high.  28 to 1 compression ratios in custom alcohol-only diesel big bus engines are extremely high.

    Next the alcohols with that OH group (the oxygen atom doesn’t burn, it fans the flames and works to get all the carbon components to fully combust) really like advanced engine ignition.  This is easier to control if a distributor and spark plugs are put back into diesel engines which heretofore didn’t have spark plugs.  It allows the engine mechanics or the engine’s computer to better control and adjust the overall sweet spot (air/fuel ratio x compression x point of ignition timing) for the best combustion burn providing the greatest engine torque power netting out in the cleanest exhaust emission profile.  I was gratified to read in the EPA reports highly reduced NOx in the emissions.  NOx is typically the hardest element to reduce in the ICE emissions stream and NOx is something like 200x tougher on the atmosphere than is CO2.  CH4 methane is about 22x tougher on the atmosphere than is CO2.  So really reducing NOx in very high compression ratio diesel engines propertly adjusted to combust neat single-carbon methanol or two-carbon ethanol was wonderful to read and interpret.

    These same characteristics are further amplified when C1 or C2 alcohols become a synthetic blend of C1-C6 or C1-C8 or C1-C10 higher mixed alcohols.  But here, tonight, isn’t the time to begin makingfurther comparisons.

    Please take something else into consideration here Pete.  I read your enthusiasm for replacing gasoline with alcohols.  That is wonderful.  But how long would it take to accomplish this feat even if the World Bank were funding every new alcohol refinery project that could rise forward from anywhere around the planet?  It would take about 10 years (one short decade) to just build out enough new capacity to really begin blending alcohols into nearly ALL Flavors of refined petroleum, not solely into gasoline.  There are more flavors of refined petroleum marketed than just gasoline or diesel.  There is kerosene-based jet fuel, lower quality diesel combusted in railroad locomotives, home heating oil (a close cousin to diesel) then way lower and much thicker bunker oils which are used to fuel large container ships, tanker ships, cruise line ships, etc.  Alcohols can function in all of these petroleum blend situations before ever even moving into the coal-fired power plant arena and providing equalateral combustion enhancements to ground coal – just the exact same way that oxygenated, biodegradable alcohols work to increase combustion effiencies in piston and turbine jet engines when spash-blended with gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.

    So I think it would be more like a 50-year time span before new planetary alcohols volumes could even grow to the point where alcohols equated to even 20% of the refined petroleum volumes now being combusted on this planet.  And this says nothing about Peak Oil declines. 

    When I get into specific discussions about higher mixed alcohols produced via GTL methanization methods which are NOT yet on the freeway in any sort of volume, I also reference Jane Doe motorist seamlessly combusting this new fuel in her FFV-equipped automobile.  She then gets to experience maybe a 30% race car-type of power boost from her car in comparison to gasoline.  And this is the circumstance where she is emitting a biodegradable exhaust stream as well, something which is never discussed nor scrutinized.  When properly combusting neat alcohols, the conventional emissions profile is way, way reduced yet new emissions of aldehydes and ketones (which dilute in water and then naturally oxidize and break down) will show up.  These new emission elements are pointed at like a methanol disinformation campaign and said to become precursors to formaldehyde.  This just reminds me of bass-ackwards discussions regarding ozone which I also won’t go into any further here.  Suffice to say that Jane’s tailpipe smells a whole lot sweeter.  And I then tell her it actually is a whole lot lighter – lighter in the fact that it isn’t carrying a host of unburned hydrocarbon oils and soot which phase separate with our water-laden atmosphere to become smog.

    So when new volumes of alcohols are NOT available for every motorist to combust neat or almost neat or in E-85 proportions in a FFV equipped car – then I ask the following question.  Should motorist Jane combust a gallon of neat alcohols, enjoy the extra engine power and mileage benefits and also have a biodegradable exhaust emission?  Or for the next few decades, should that same gallon of neat alcohol (watch the Chinese here) be distributed into 10 gallons of freeway gasoline or into 15 gallons of freeway diesel providing multiple motorists with the opprotunity to achieve increased power, mileage and maybe a 50% to 69% reduction in their emissions profile?  I think that the answer is obvious and that subsidized corn ethanol, despite its food v: fuel issues should stay at home in the USA and not be exported abroad.

    Last comment to Walt:  Thanks for sharing with us all the recent rundown of 30% methanol/gasoline blends which China is now accomplishing – ostensibly to a very willing marketplace.  China began a heretofore unheard of huge buildout of methanol GTL plant construction a few years ago and has really been very quiet about this.  Their gov’t decided NOT to get involved in the food vs: fuel controversy and made it illegial to ferment ethanol from any foodstock or edible grain.  The Chinese were going to go to C1 methanol as a oxygenate instead of C2 ethanol to assist with increased combustion efficiency in passenger cars plus a highly reduced emissions profile too.  Tonight was the first time I’ve ever read about 30% methanol volumes being blended into everyday Chinese gasoline.  I think that is wonderful news and would like to learn more from this new Chinese experience with oxygenates.

    In closing: (College lecture is over, the bell is gonna ring!)  This reminds me of Indy 500 racers combusting neat methanol for 37 years until they politically switched to neat corn ethanol about four summer’s ago.  And to think that these same exchanges between us all here today on RR’s blog couldn’t have been completed in a month’s time if we were mailing letters back and forth.  How fast these decades are flying by with all sorts of new technological developments integrating so quickly into mainstream consumer markets.  Let’s all hope that BP’s new oil well plug begins to cease this devasting Gulf gusher.  Maybe Tesla electric tech will jump out at all of us from the ether and we can become independent from electric grids?  Or maybe Prez. Obama will come clean on the last 70 years of UFO gov’t coverups or choose to discuss anything concerning freefalling Twin Towers?  Or maybe not? 

    Onto the next day.

    –Mark

    [link]      
  42. By Wendell Mercantile on July 13, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Who would be responsible for evaluating ‘what damage’ to any engine after combusting 15% volumes of ethanol splash blended with gasoline? 15% EtOH blend wall volumes are NOT going to harm or cripple anybody’s engine.

    Mark~

    If there is no possibility of damage, what would be the harm of the ethanol industry setting up an escrow account to cover possible damages? It would be a tremendous public relations move on their part saying, “We are so confident of our position, we are willing to bet two billion dollars no one will collect.” The ethanol industry would gain a public relations coup without taking on any substantial risk.

    As to who would handle payouts from the engine-damage escrow account, it should be an independent special master similar to what is being done with the BP escrow account set up to handle claims in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Special Escrow Accounts

    In fact, I like this entire idea of special escrow accounts for industries that want special deals from the government.

    For example, if a wind energy company wants to build a large wind farm in a pristine agriculture area, they should set up an escrow account to handle claims of people whose mink quit breeding, whose cattle are stressed, or people who can no longer get a good night’s sleep, or those whose houses lose value, etc.

    If Wal-Mart wants tax breaks and concessions to build a new distribution center, they should set up a special escrow account for the damage to the roads their trucks would do, the loss of quality of life those who have homes around the distribution center would experience, etc.

    [link]      
  43. By Thomas on July 13, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Like the escrow account idea, Wendell.

    [link]      
  44. By paul-n on July 13, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Actually, I don’t like the escrow idea.  You end up with a large pot of gold, and many hands trying get a share of it, and inevitable political manipulation as to what happens to it.

    And, it means you have billions of dollars of capital sitting there, useless, when it could be employed doing something (hopefully in the renewable energy industry)

    Seems to me a better way to achieve the same result would be for the ethanol industry to take out some kind of insurance – maybe Rufus can arrange that for them?

    A better way still would be to definitively resolve the issue at a technical level, after all, the cars companies have been making ethanol compatible vehicles around the world for some time now.

    [link]      
  45. By carbonbridge on July 13, 2010 at 5:52 pm

    Paul N doesn’t agree either:

    Actually, I don’t like the escrow idea.  You end up with a large pot of gold, and many hands trying get a share of it, and inevitable political manipulation as to what happens to it.

    And, it means you have billions of dollars of capital sitting there, useless, when it could be employed doing something (hopefully in the renewable energy industry)

    Seems to me a better way to achieve the same result would be for the ethanol industry to take out some kind of insurance – maybe Rufus can arrange that for them?

    A better way still would be to definitively resolve the issue at a technical level, after all, the cars companies have been making ethanol compatible vehicles around the world for some time now.


     

    Gentlemen:  I gotta agree with Paul N. here.  I think that a magic escrow fund assembled by the RFA and Growth Energy ethanol lobbyists to deal with engine damage claims is loony-tunes and I’ve already described it as something like a “Cash for Clunkers” program.  However it is a free country and perhaps anyone so inclined needs to promote their own ideas to these ethanol lobby groups OR to your own political representatives.

    What I’m still waiting to witness is Detroit’s ‘Big Three’ coming out with FFV chips integral to one-half the new cars which they produce.  This shouldn’t be such a big deal as this know-how is more than 20 years old…  Then when a motorist finally comes into contact with an E-85 pump (this may take several years) then they can combust these high volume alcohol blends.  What people don’t recognize is that by having a $35 FFV chip installed in their car, then this chip also senses the 5% or 10% or 15% debated blend-wall volumes of alcohol blended into gasoline and begins making corrective air/fuel ratio adjustments and advancing spark ignition timing to fine-tine your car to whatever alcohol volumes you may be combusting.  This nets out in better engine performance and a much cleaner exhaust emissions profile.  I judge the engine’s effiency improvements with alcohol blends directly by reading the emissions profile at a smog check station.  Sniff my tailpipe, eh?

    –Mark

    [link]      
  46. By Walt on July 13, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    CarbonBridge said:

    Last comment to Walt:  Thanks for sharing with us all the recent rundown of 30% methanol/gasoline blends which China is now accomplishing – ostensibly to a very willing marketplace.  China began a heretofore unheard of huge buildout of methanol GTL plant construction a few years ago and has really been very quiet about this.  Their gov’t decided NOT to get involved in the food vs: fuel controversy and made it illegial to ferment ethanol from any foodstock or edible grain.  The Chinese were going to go to C1 methanol as a oxygenate instead of C2 ethanol to assist with increased combustion efficiency in passenger cars plus a highly reduced emissions profile too.  Tonight was the first time I’ve ever read about 30% methanol volumes being blended into everyday Chinese gasoline.  I think that is wonderful news and would like to learn more from this new Chinese experience with oxygenates.


     

    Mark,

    If you want to see how the methanol market has matured in China, here is a good place to start:

    http://www.cpcia.org.cn/Englis…..?aid=69510

    They do not publish freely current information, but this link will give you the massive methanol program that is ongoing in China, and when you look at its production/consumption numbers they continue to grow.  If you believe in Methanol based economy (as some have written about), move to China!

    In America, unfortunately, the door is closed at nearly every turn to implement methanol technologies that are better and cheaper than anything in the marketplace.  It was funny that before we even finished our construction the largest engineering firm in China (SEI) sent someone from Beijing to fly and meet with us taking pictures at every angle of our plant, and returned to Beijing.  We had some delightful initial discussions, but I suspect my patents there will determine who is the last man standing…as they are hoping to export Methanol to USA in the future.  I think we import about 80% of all our Methanol now into America, and we are the 2nd largest consumer of Methanol behind China.

    Our 13 Methanol plants (guess) have all been closed (due to older technology & high natural gas prices) except for I think 3 of them (guess), and all the production is moved offshore.  Compare our list of approx. 3 Methanol plants operating here to the dozens of plants in China operating currently…with many more planned as their older plants will close, and newer plants will be constructed to meet their methanol fuel demands.

    If anyone would ever like to start a “new and improved” Methanol Lobby (as the other one in DC does not do anything from us new methanol technology companies trying to enter the market) to try to break into the marketplace, let’s talk.  It is time to work together with the Ethanol people (even if it is a small group) to bring to the forefront what is continually moving offshore.

    Mark…do you hear me!? :)

    [link]      
  47. By carbonbridge on July 14, 2010 at 1:07 am

    CarbonBridge to Walt:  Please phone me and we’ll discuss China methanol (chemical vs: transportation market prices).  I wonder who would consider funding a new roundtable with the EtOH industry?

     

    [link]      
  48. By paul-n on July 14, 2010 at 1:53 am

    The original plan for integrating methanol into the fuel system, proposed in 1973, was to start with the low blend (5-15%) and gradually increase this.

    Clearly, we have not progressed beyond this point, except that it is ethanol and not methanol that we are dealing with.  

    Given the viability of both of these non-oil alternative fuels (M and E, or A; a mix of M + E) it seems there are a few simple, but significant steps that need to be taken to get things moving;

    • Mandate all new gasoline engined vehicles to be flex fuel, or heavily tax those that aren’t (e.g. a $2000 oil dependence tax, at the time of sale).  Basically give certainty that this IS going to be (part of) the way forward.
    • new version of cash for clunkers program to remove more older vehicles BUT cash is for retiring old one, regardless of whether they buy a new one or not (they may go car free, on convert a used car to a flex fuel)
    • Definitively resolve the issue about >10% blends (of either or both alcohols).  This will require a third party to drive this process, such as the US Dept of Transport, and a consumer group, and comprehensive testing of late model non flex fuel vehicles.  This really isn’t that big of a deal – if the ethanol industry had put aside just 1% of the subsidies they have received overt the last decade, they would have $300million for such a program, and it wouldn;t even cost a tenth of that!
    • Alongside this program, identify/create conversion kits to turn late model vehicles into flex fuel compliant
    • Research methods for optimising economy of existing flex fuel vehicles when running on A85(mainly tuning kits with different mix/spark timing maps, but there are other things too) 
    • Optimising emissions – if vehicles run on A85 only (or A100) – can the catalytic converter and other emission control gear be dispensed with? Design fuel dispensers for A85 so that a gasoline dispenser can;t go into an alcohol only vehicle.
    • Specialised development program for  co-fueling  kits for diesel engines, or complete conversion (spark ignition) and get some fleet demonstration projects going (e.g. city buses, garbage trucks, corporate fleets, farm tractors, etc)
    • An X-prize style alcohol efficiency event, for legal road going flex fuel vehicles
    • Get a single community to go completely gasoline free (or at least A85) e.g.Catalina Island off L.A., to evaluate the benefits
    • introduce a limited time tax credit or similar for A85 pump installations

    None of this is particularly difficult, or time consuming or even that expensive, and doesnt; really require new technology, it’s just commercialising what is already known.

    While raising the blend to 15% may remain a thorny issue, the real objective is to get people and trucks driving on A85, and getting the cost savings of doing so.

    I think the fleet and community scale demonstration project is an important one to get going first, as it gets results from the real world, not just test labs and car mfrs.

    This would also re-start the declining US methanol industry.  The US currently is a methanol importer (from China!), but it would not be too difficult  to build some gas to methanol plants, or possibly even retrofit/add on to existing refineries to do this (RR?)

    To implement such a plant would actually be a positive step towards reducing oil imports, without requiring political impossibilities like import tariffs or higher gasoline taxes.  It is really just enabling more people to use alcohol fuels.  Since getting people to use less has not really worked, we can at least get more of them to use something else.  And since alcohol fuels can be more efficient, they will less anyway.

    China is already moving down this path, as is Brazil – here’s a “fuel race” that’s worth being in!

     

     

    [link]      
  49. By Walt on July 14, 2010 at 6:33 am

    Paul N said:

    This would also re-start the declining US methanol industry.  The US currently is a methanol importer (from China!), but it would not be too difficult  to build some gas to methanol plants, or possibly even retrofit/add on to existing refineries to do this (RR?)

    China is already moving down this path, as is Brazil – here’s a “fuel race” that’s worth being in!

     

     


     

    Paul, our imports come mostly from Chile and Trinadad…however, China as a growing major producer has her eyes set on other markets beyond her borders for methanol.  Methanex is the major player from Canada, and controls not only the North American/European pricing entirely, but is a major reason (my opinion only) why the Methanol Institute in Washington, DC is not going to promote any new Methanol technologies, or lower cost solutions than “Methanex Only” brands and control over the market.  They will obviously pay lip service to promoting new “end uses” for Methanol, Formaldehyde, Acetic Acid, etc. coming from natural gas or biomass, but in my face-to-face discussions with them they are not going to promote any new technology to produce methanol cheaper than traditional methanol.  They have billions invested in their market control, and cheaper methanol is a threat to that so like all “quasi” monopolies (except in China) it is best not to make a lot of waves.  You can see it in the Methanol Institute budget which is peanuts that they cannot even afford a new website unless they can source an Summer Intern who would take on the challenge.  It really is laughable as a lobbying group for the industry…unless Methanex wants something done and will fund it.

    This is all my own speculation and a bit negative I understand.  Perhaps it is justified or not, I’m sure there is too sides to the issues, but I can honestly say in the past 5 years I’ve listened to only one side…and that is a very controlled message which seems to support only Methanex and a few other international producers.  The reason I mentioned another Lobby Group is that I think there is a whole lot more to be said on the issue than what comes out of this 1-2 man? operation in DC running the message for the methanol industry.

    The competitive spirit in me says that perhaps we need another voice for the industry, and I’m not a political person.  I cannot stand the lies and under the table deals in politics so I cannot take on this role alone.  My voice is mostly silenced as I’ve been to the table many times only to have (after lots of disclosures) some executive behind some phone call kill the discussions.  Whatever the reason, I don’t know, but it is clear methanol does not have a good reputation, nor even the basic truth being promoted except in China.  You can be assured the Ethanol or other voices against methanol are not going to march into China bad mouthing methanol…I know this for a fact since I have been going to China since 1996 and have a decent pulse on the heavy club they carry in business and politics.  The bad message will stay in North America primarily to keep imports high and silent as long as possible, and ethanol growing at a reasonable pace.  This is historically and financially accurate.

    I think just working with a few “small people” (as the saying goes) to implement more methanol usage in cars, trucks, etc. and some video’s taking the fuels message to the average person could make a difference.  I don’t think we will do it from the top down…as I’ve tried that route, and it is not going to work.  I’m not good at politics.  I’d rather start from the bottom up and rebrand the message as it should be with a handful of really smart people who can craft the message.  High fuel prices are coming…believe RR if you don’t believe me!  Carbon taxes are coming, and the sea change will happen perhaps next year…I believe they will start at the gas pump…but I could be wrong.  I just believe they will from the sources I’m talking with about how to get these into the marketplace.  Do we need a CarbonBridge at the pumps, or competitive pumps?

    Maybe.

    [link]      
  50. By Bob Schmidt on July 14, 2010 at 9:39 am

    This is probably in the ‘beating a dead horse’ category, but I watched the CEO of Better Place LLC on Bloomberg this morning. He was talking about the outlook for charging stations for electric cars. He said they were going to start in Israel and Denmark. Europe looks good but not the USA because of the ‘underpricing’ of gasoline in the US by about $3.50. Imagine the howls of protest if politicians tried to make us pay what most of the rest of the world does. Do we really have to look much farther to see why our renewable energy industries are crippled compared to our competitors?

    [link]      
  51. By Wendell Mercantile on July 14, 2010 at 9:53 am

    And, it means you have billions of dollars of capital sitting there, useless, when it could be employed doing something (hopefully in the renewable energy industry)

    Paul N.

    You’re right, the escrow account would tie up a lot of capital, and is probably a non-starter. But the point is that Big Ethanol has to be proactive instead of just whining about the EPA not moving the blend wall.

    If a chief concern is that blends of 15% or more might cause engine damage, then Big Ethanol has to actively ease that concern, not just whine about how slow and unresponsive the EPA is.

    Whether it’s an escrow account, insurance, or simply a guarantee from Big Ethanol that they will be liable for any engine damage that higher blends cause, Big Ethanol has the ability to move this off top dead center — if they will just say they will be accountable.

    [link]      
  52. By paul-n on July 14, 2010 at 10:24 am

    Wendell, agreed that thy need to address this issue, rather than just mandate it.

    @ Walt, What I think it needs, is not another lobby group, though that wouldn;t hurt.  What it needs is Exxon to get involved.  They now own a huge nat gas company, and some refineries, so to start making methanol is  a way to add value to their cheap nat gas.  And they have the distribution and retail to carry t through.

    They are one of the few companies that could just ignore Methanex and do it.  And if they do, others will follow.  Methanex can choose to jump on, or not.

    Some bottom up support is also needed, but I think the oil companies, alone, could make this happen, and if they don;t want to to, then it likely won’t, and we are stuck with minimum mandated blends.  Seems like a great PR move to me, to displace mid east oil imports with made in America Ethanol – even Rufus would get behind that!

    [link]      
  53. By Wendell Mercantile on July 14, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Seems like a great PR move to me, to displace mid east oil imports with
    made in America Ethanol – even Rufus would get behind that!

     

    Paul N.

     

    I assume you meant “Made in America methanol.”  The coal companies could also jump into the liquid motor fuels market with methanol.  The fact that corn ethanol got such a jump over methanol just goes to show the clout those 42 farm state senators have.

    [link]      
  54. By paul-n on July 14, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    Wendell,

    My mistake, that’s what I get for posting late at night (hadn’t even been drinking any ethanol!).
    Don’t forget there are a few senators from coal and NG states too – if they all unite under the banner of alcohol they can probably do whatever they want.

    I really don;t see any downside except maybe the refiners, but if they can switch to making methanol, then it’s all good.

    [link]      
  55. By carbonbridge on July 14, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Walt asked:

    Do we need a CarbonBridge at the pumps, or competitive pumps?

    Walt understands my CarbonBridging terminology because he and I have visited at length in private conversations.  What he’s referring to is carbonbridging of hydrocarbon oils (or coals) with missing Oxygen which can seamlessly and profitably enter into fuel recipe equations via water soluble, biodgradable, oil soluble or coal soluble fuel-grade alcohols.

    What I have been quietly working on for over a decade is a GTL catalysis mechanism very similar to C1 methanol synthesis which has been operating world-wide since 1923.  Methanol is the largest volume chemical sold on planet earth.  It is most commonly utilized as a chemical precursor to produce plastics, plastics, more plastics, nylon, rayon, paints, varnishes, thinners, even blue windshield washing solvent as we’ve previously discussed on this blog.

    What methanol is NOT commonly used as is a fuel substitute for gasoline or diesel.  MeOH is just now fast-tracking into Chinese transportation pools with obviously great success and motorists seem to be pleased with both performance and emissions results.  Heretofore while single-carbon methanol was limited to chemical markets for nearly a century amid rampant disinformation, single-carbon MeOH was only used as a premium racing fuel by Indy 500 race cars for 37 years until it was politically replaced with two-carbon ethanol about four years ago.

    There was a mention in this thread of blending methanol and ethanol together as a gasoline oxygenate.  I think is this a wonderful idea and might finally begin to merge two previously warring industries towards a common goal.  This could occur just as fast as alcohol producers would come to the same table and begin talking. 

    I can tell you from longstanding personal experience that a mixture of methanol and ethanol will peform better than either of these two alcohols do independent of one another.  Mechanically, I figured this out back in 1993 when I added about 65% methanol volumes to 45% neat ethanol volumes which I was combusting on a cross-country trip when I was busy lobbying my support for a particular ethanol mandate being proposed in Congress back then.

    While I was not hooked up to any engine brake/traction dynomometer with this initial experience, I had enough mileage experience in combusting neat methanol and neat methanol to instinctively determine that these two alcohols responded better as a blend than either one did independently.  Years later, I was involved in rigorous and expensive 3rd party laboratory test protocols which began examining a blend of synthetically-produced C1-C5 normal alcohols and comparing the results of elastomer, laboratory gc and mass spec analysis, octane, reid vapor pressure, water binding capability, engine wear and emissions profiles – all in direct comparison to neat gasoline, neat diesel, neat methanol or neat ethanol values.

    Blends of normal (n) higher mixed alcohols performed much better and shocked some of the laboratory testing staff who collectively had been accomplishing such expensive and verified tests dating back to about 1945.

    What immediately went through my head back in 1993 when first combusting a mixture of alcohols was the striking differences between the two chemisry sets which produced these two lower alcohols.  C1 methanol was produced in a continuous 24×7 process using super-heated steam (steam reformation of methane) as the process driver.  CH4 methane or coal was the typical carbonaceous feedstock cleanly converted into MeOH for less than 25¢ per gallon in world-scale, large GTL facilities.  In comparison, EtOH, just one carbon atom longer/stronger than MeOH – was inefficiently batch fermented in a four-day porriage-cooking process using acidic enzymes, biobug yeasts and ethanol needed 90% water volumes to be expensively distilled out of every batch.  This process did and does produce a very valuable co-food product described as distillers dried grains commonly fed to cattle, chickens or hogs.  However, only the carbon content of corn starch is inefficiently converted into 2-carbon ethyl alcohol in a process which mimicks beverage alcohol fermentation and releases copious amounts of CO2 which I describe as carbonated beer fizz.

    Was there any mechanism to go back to the 24×7 continous methanol GTL chemistry set model and somehow get two methanol molecules to react upon each other and form a synthetic C2 ethanol molecule – chemically identical to beverage ethanol? 

    Turns out that there was a mechanism to accomplish this, it simply had not been commercialized (another story alltogether as to why) and this same steam-driven, thermal catalytic GTL mechanism would go further than mating just two C1 methanol molecules into a C2 ethanol.  This continuous thermal GTL catalytic process would also produce (n) normal, linear-chained, simple C3 propanol, C4 butanol, C5 pentanol, C6 heptanol, C7 hexanol, C8 octanol, C9 nananol and C10 decanol alcohols as well.  The primary GTL reaction herein is to mate methanol molecules in order to form about 50% volume quantities of synthetic C2 ethanol.  The C3 and higher alcohols are formed in a declining curve and ultimately represent about 35% of the total volume blend of simple, linear alcohols produced in this fashion.  The C1 simplest methanol molecule still remains at about 15%-17% weight volumes and is very, very key to the way that this whole blend of (much stronger) normal alcohols actually combusts.

    I’ve described these C1 methanol molecules at the beginning of this blend of alcohols as “the gun powder over the dynamite.”  Or I’ve also referred to the methanol portion of this synthetic, low cost blend of GTL alcohols “as the primer cap behind a pistol or rifle bullet cartridge.”

    Relative to spark ignition, C1 methanol is one Carbon Atom plus one key Oxygen atom and four little Hydrogen ions pretty much tagging along for the ride.  Hydrogen ions simply balance the magnetic valence of either hydrocarbon (oils/coals) or oxycarbon (alcohol) fuels.  Spark will FIRST ignite the simplest C1 methanol molecule containing 50% Oxygen concentration.  In micro-seconds, this C1 ignition passes further along the chain to ignite C2 through C8 or C10 alcohols which as a group are what are igniting and fully or nearly fully combusting the very complex set of tightly bonded hydrocarbon molecules making up gasoline, jet fuel and diesel.  The goal here is to get all or mostly all of these complex hydrocarbon molecules to ignite.  Then, the obvious results are more engine power, increased fuel economy and very, very impressive reductions in exhaust emissions.

    I’ve long been considering beginning a separate public blog to share specific information and discussion about what I’ve just described.  To me, higher mixed alcohols produced by well-known GTL synthesis becomes the long-awaited means for (chemical) methanol to become directly utilized in the transportation sector.  Going another step further, it is a basic 1923 methanization GTL process which is utilized (not reinventing the wheel here) yet there is a change of fixed-bed (rabbit pellet-type) catalysts and a change of temperatures, pressures and flow-rates of the intermediate syngas portion of this GTL fuel synthesis process which outputs a formerly C1 MeOH molecule now as a blend of C1-C6 or C1-C8 or C1-C10 longer, stronger BTU alcohols.  This blend of alcohols features 30 more octane points and 20% more BTU’s than C2 ethanol and also exhibits favorable differences in reid vapor pressure, solvency, combustion effiiciencies all coupled with vastly reduced costs to produce in the first place.

    Then back to carbon is carbon is carbon as feedstocks for any liquid fuel.  My focus is on society’s garbage and sewer sludge daily wastes, tire piles, any rank of coal, stranded methane, yes CO2 greenhouse gas, and beetle-killed pine trees as the building blocks for a new biodegradble fuel which finally allows methanol to enter into the transportation fuel markets as something new, stronger and even less expensive to produce per BTU output.

    A bit on the techno side; methanol synthesis needs 10-12 high pressure recycle passes for CO, H2, H2 syngas to be reconfigured into CH3OH liquid C1 alcohol.  A specific change of proprietary catalysts, then adjustments to reactor pressures and a few other operating parameters reduces recyle of CO and H2 syngas (same CO & H2 syngas recipe as which gasifiers produce) down to 2.5 recycles.  Chemical engineers who are familiar with methanization or even Fischer-Tropsch paraffinic oils post hydrocracking will understand what I’m saying here regarding increases in catalytic efficiency which dovetail directly into the bottom line profits of 1923-version methanol GTL fuel synthesis facilities.  The other net result is that a blend of higher mixed alcohols averages about 3.9 to 4 carbon atoms per mole – so the BTU carbon content of this blend is more like C4 butanol but features a whole host of other combustion characteristics than does C4 butanol or ibutanol which are both produced by batch fermentation methods.

    I do feel that the end of petroleum’s global dominance is at hand, if not because of the accuracy of Peak Oil graphs which have been illustrated on these pages (graphs compiled by the EIA with Military concurrence) then because of the advent of BP’s Gulf OIL Gusher presently wreaking havoc in oceanic, land and evaporative tenents.  I cannot begin to predict the seriousness of this calamity to global food chains and ecosystems as a result of this runaway oil spill into the U.S.A.’s southern ocean.  Only time will tell.  Investors and publics alike are looking for fuel alternatives which exist yet which have not made mainstream news headlines nor are they even remotely understood.  Instead next-gen hydrogen hallucinations about green algae OILs or the next genetically-modified biobug are what tend to dominate biofuels pages written by editors who themselves don’t understand the differences between a float-on-water oil and a water soluble, biodegradble fuel alcohol.

    Discussions of instigating and funding a new ’roundtable’ to possibly connect some of the entanglements separating MeOH and grain EtOH lobbies is worth further and serious discussion.  I have every reason to support such a new and publically-open Think Tank yet I don’t personally possess the financial wherewithal to fund it.  Could/would Methanex, the U.S. Methanol trade association, RFA, Growth Energy and ADM willingly come to the table?  Should a NEW table or Think Tank be proposed instead to explore and publicize alternatives for public and Congressional review?  Me?  I’m Always open to participate with new ideas especially when it is someone or some entity willing to open a wallet which he/she/it has been sitting on during this acute recession.

    Mark Radosevich

    [link]      
  56. By Walt on July 14, 2010 at 6:33 pm

    CarbonBridge said:

    Discussions of instigating and funding a new ’roundtable’ to possibly connect some of the entanglements separating MeOH and grain EtOH lobbies is worth further and serious discussion.  I have every reason to support such a new and publically-open Think Tank yet I don’t personally possess the financial wherewithal to fund it.  Could/would Methanex, the U.S. Methanol trade association, RFA, Growth Energy and ADM willingly come to the table?  Should a NEW table or Think Tank be proposed instead to explore and publicize alternatives for public and Congressional review?  Me?  I’m Always open to participate with new ideas especially when it is someone or some entity willing to open a wallet which he/she/it has been sitting on during this acute recession.

     


     

    Mark, you know my position on this per our past discussions.  In the oil & gas industry, I have learned the importance of competitors coming together to join their technologies and investment to reduce and mitigate risks.  This is not common in the biofuels or algae movements, as the more we looked deeper into seeking collaboration and cooperation the more we found a firm wall of separation.  Everyone in that sector has been focused on money from the government to change the world, or a blessing from a small group of VC money who are ready to hit it out of the park.

    If some of us (call them competitors if you like) could come together and present a new message on green fuels and chemicals, I think tossing in a few best of breed technologies, some really smart people and some money everyone should see results which are not going to come from Exxon, Methanex or ADM.  There is zero incentive for these large companies to change their policy statements on integrating methanol into the fuel system, and my discussions with Exxon before I refused to sign their unreasonable NDA to share our technologies, was the MTG process would be focused in China initially.  They did announce a coal-to-MTG project, but trying to build anything in America on a jumbo scale, and get it approved in Washington is very unlikely.  The only thing that is possible is smaller/mid-sized plants, and those will require technology advances to scale down rather than scale up using economies of scale.  There is a sweet spot, and most in the GTL or methanol space need high crude prices to make the economics work…and that is what is likely to happen.  Maybe their wish will come soon enough over the next 5 years.  Carbon taxes will be the driver at the pumps in my estimation, and Exxon (along with other IOC’s) are in support of these taxes coming soon.

    It will not take us trying to push these super tanker majors around to the left or right to change their policy, but working more at the local and state level can create some positive momentum even if those in Washington and Houston and Detroit will resist.  I think what is needed is some smart people who understand the science and economics, and can rebrand the image that is really ugly right now.  This will not happen from the top down…and I am not interested to waste anymore time trying to convince these giants.  Most middle managers are hoping to keep their jobs and pension (rightfully so) and in a discussion I had today with one of America’s largest utilities on a subject…we both agreed everyone right now is focused on 2010 bonus targets, and anything in the way of that (long-term planning) is not likely to motivate anyone.  The economy is not as bright as what is being reported on telepromters out of Washington!  The focus is 2010 bonuses and job preservation.

    Once we get the entrepeneurial spirit back (with waves of more layoffs and unemployment benefits being withheld) people will start looking at more practical and low cost fuel options converting what they have…and not running out to spend $20K on electric cars…just yet.

    I sent this out today to my private email list…since we know we all should follow the money!

    ******************

    Dear friends and colleagues,

    I saw this definition today after
    a Michigan company was given $23.5 million for some engineering work and
    working capital to fund their technology development.  The investors
    are the biggest names in the world…so should be taken serious.

    ——————————–
    http://www.ecoseed.org/en/gree…..ricas/7588

    EcoMotors
    International received a huge boost for its
    revolutionary low-cost engine from two technology giants, after it
    acquired $23.5 million in a Series B funding round, reported the
    Detroit
    Free Press.

    Venture capital firm Khosla
    Ventures
    and Microsoft
    chairman Bill
    Gates
    were the exclusive investors in the
    financing round. Both Mr. Gates and Vinod Khosla of Khosla Ventures were

    confident in the potential of the EcoMotors’ Opoc engine technology
    to penetrate the global market and lessen transportation emissions.

    “The only truly disruptive technologies are those that can provide
    not only payback in months but also economic and carbon benefits to
    large segments of the world’s population without the need for subsidies
    or massive infrastructure investments,” said Mr. Khosla.

    …The engine can
    be
    powered by different fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and ethanol,
    and has lower exhaust emissions than
    conventional models.

    ——————————–

    Now that we know the
    definition of “truly disruptive technologies”…I think we can
    make the grade!  Actually, I know we can, as chemicals and fuels do
    not grow on trees…and will be required to move that
    “disruptive” engine forward…without a doubt.
    ******************

    Until that great new engine is installed cheaply in all new cars…we will have to work with what we have…and blended fuels is a good start.  But, it will take changing the message and bringing together some new technologies ignored because it is an alcohol based fuel.

    [link]      
  57. By Walt on July 14, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    By the way, I give up on trying to cut & paste text into this blog…I claim the world record for the most consistent inability to do it correctly!  Sorry.

    [link]      
  58. By paul-n on July 14, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Mark,  

     

    Thanks for your insight here.  Given what you have said about the mixed alcohols I am very much looking forward to RR’s 2nd part post about the MixAlco process.

    I have read before about separate flames happening for combustion of H and C, I like the “gunpowder over dynamite” analogy.

    I have also read somewhere (can;t find the link now) that methanol will spontaneously disassociate in the cylinder under high compression

     

    One question, about using neat methanol, is that you have the option of steam reforming the methanol using the exhaust heat, for a 17% increase in fuel energy.  some studies have been done on this;

    http://tris.trb.org/view.aspx?id=208598

    methanol is the only alcohol or hydrocarbon that will do this at the <600C temperature of the exhaust.

    For steady state operation, this would seem to offer a distinct advantage , though it sounds like your mixed alcohols do too.

    More alcohol, less hydrocarbon certainly looks to be the way to go!

    [link]      
  59. By Walt on July 15, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Has anyone been following the Open Fuel Standard Act?

    http://actforamerica.com/index…..andard-act

    Here is an up-to-the minute coalition discussing the subject:

    http://setamericafree.org/

    http://www.washingtontimes.com…..auto-fuel/

    [link]      
  60. By paul-n on July 15, 2010 at 2:44 am

    Walt, I like the W. Times link, a good summary situation.  I have advocated previously for mandating flex fuels.  What I don;t understand with that bill, is how do you enforce the 50% and 80% levels?  which cars are exempt?  if the first 50% sold are all non flex fuel, does that mean that only FlexFuel can be sold for the rest of that year?  Would it not be better simply to name a year and say ALL vehicles sold must be FF, as was the case with unleaded gasoline.  A line in the sand gets everyone focused, rather than trying to be in the 50 or 20% that can be non-flex-fuel.

     

    Certainly, the more omnivorous the engine, the better.

    Here is the most omnivorous engine of all – being re-invented.  

    [link]      
  61. By Walt on July 15, 2010 at 3:41 am

    Paul N said:

    Walt, I like the W. Times link, a good summary situation.  I have advocated previously for mandating flex fuels.  What I don;t understand with that bill, is how do you enforce the 50% and 80% levels?  which cars are exempt?  if the first 50% sold are all non flex fuel, does that mean that only FlexFuel can be sold for the rest of that year?  Would it not be better simply to name a year and say ALL vehicles sold must be FF, as was the case with unleaded gasoline.  A line in the sand gets everyone focused, rather than trying to be in the 50 or 20% that can be non-flex-fuel.

     

    Certainly, the more omnivorous the engine, the better.

    Here is the most omnivorous engine of all – being re-invented.  


     

    That indeed is an interesting engine.  Implementation will be key for getting those into the global auto pool.

    I found this “The Alcohol Standard” by Zubrin who wrote the W. Times article.

    http://www.setamericafree.org/zubrin.pdf

    [link]      
  62. By Walt on July 15, 2010 at 9:29 am

    Legal concerns with EPA emissions and cars….has anyone any more current information on the issue I found posted on Aubrin’s article:

    —————————–

    While I appreciate and support Mr. Zurbin’s desire to offer alternatives to oil, I believe he approaches the problem in the wrong way. As several other posts here have alluded, government mandates and regulations are the opposite of what the flex fuel market needs.

    First, my qualifications. I am a degreed engineer. I have spent the last 10 years working in the automotive arena. My experiences include converting and developing many vehicles primarily production based race cars) to run on non-standard fuels including methanol, ethanol, nitromethane.

    In my opinion, the real problem resides in existing government regulation. For example, virtually any modern fuel injected car can be converted to run on a variety of ethanol mixtures, from E20 (20% ethanol/80% gasoline) to E100 with little difficulty (I prefer sugar ethanol over corn ethanol). At worst, a new fuel pump and fuel injectors are needed, and perhaps a new fuel line here or there. Once those components, if needed, are in place, all that remains is to recalibrate the Engine Control Unit (ECU) to adjust for the different requirements of ethanol. This recalibration can be done with relatively cheap software (sometimes free), and there are thousands of technically competent vendors across the country that can do so.

    The problem with this approach? It’s completely illegal according to the letter of the law. By tampering with the ECU, you’re altering the emissions control system and that’s against the law for a licensed on road vehicle. Never mind that the vehicle will pass annual emissions tests with better than new results. Unless someone spends huge sums of money going through a recertification procedure (at costs orders of magnitude larger than the conversion cost itself), the vehicle can be deemed not road legal, and in some states, even seized for emissions violations.

    The solution? Eliminate the restrictive regulations that only allow large companies or OEM automakers to easily implement new technologies on modern vehicles. Doing so does not imply increasing emissions, as I fully support regular, thorough emissions testing. In fact, I have converted one of my personal vehicles to run on E85. It has passed several regular state emissions inspections with fewer tailpipe emissions at 10 years old and 100k miles than it had when new. But I only escape problems because no emissions inspector is capable of identifying my fuel system changes without tearing the car apart. Still, my car is not road legal by law.

    In summary, Mr. Zubrin should seek to reduce restrictive regulation on vehicle modifications. Endpoint testing of emissions as performed in many states eliminates the need for laborious restrictions on changes to vehicle systems. As long as a vehicle passes the tailpipe test, the means by which it does so should be largely irrelevant.

    http://www.washingtontimes.com…..auto-fuel/

    [link]      
  63. By Tim Mahagin on July 15, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    It’s all about operating cost per gallon in my book, Robert.  Biofuels Digest has the best list of players (and probably some posers too), 82 strong. 

    http://biofuelsdigest.com/bdig…..ls-digest/

    Soon to be 81, with Verenium selling out to BP, of all

    Never live pro forma.

     

    [link]      
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