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By Robert Rapier on Feb 9, 2011 with 37 responses

Butanol 101

This story was initially intended to cover a recent interview that I did with Cobalt Technologies CEO Rick Wilson. However, the introduction and background on butanol became long enough that I felt it was a standalone story. The interview with Rick Wilson will follow this story in a few days.

I have mentioned before that my first job out of college was with Celanese (at that time Hoechst Celanese). For most of my seven years with Celanese, I was a butanol engineer. I first spent two years developing computer models of the process, doing lab work, and providing engineering support to the Celanese plant in Bay City, Texas. I then transferred to Bay City and spent two years working as the process engineer in that plant (we did some major projects in the unit, including a large capacity expansion of the butanol unit and the conversion of our gasifiers from fuel oil to natural gas feed). Finally, I relocated to Germany and spent two years in Oberhausen working in the butanol unit there primarily as a production engineer, but also with a research and development role. (My last year at Celanese before joining ConocoPhillips was spent as a Six Sigma Black Belt working primarily on energy projects).

I received a patent for my work in Germany. The US version of the patent is number 7,087,795 — Method for the production of aldehydes. It was first granted in Germany (DE10160368), followed by the European Patent Office (EP1456162), South Africa (2004/3935), and it has been filed in multiple other countries. As an aside, German law required a German to be listed first on German patents, so even though it was my idea and I supervised all of the lab work to prove the concept, the Germans that were involved were named ahead of me on the patent. I just want to clarify that because sometimes people are named on patents who didn’t have a whole lot to do with the invention; in this case this was my baby.

So what is an aldehyde, and what does that have to do with butanol? While butanol was once produced commercially via the biological process denoted ABE, after the petrochemical process was discovered it put ABE out of business in the Western world. I have heard anecdotes that the ABE process is still practiced in China, but according to this link on the history of the process the last plant there closed in 2004. Small amounts of butanol can be produced via a syngas reaction to produce mixed alcohols, but butanol is a very small component relative to the methanol and ethanol that are produced. Butanol is not commercially produced anywhere directly from syngas; such a process would be a major breakthrough for butanol producers.

The petrochemical process involves three steps. First, synthesis gas is produced (usually from coal or natural gas, but could be produced from biomass) and is reacted with propylene (a product from oil refining and natural gas processing) to form normal-butyraldehyde (BuH) and iso-butyraldehyde in a hydroformylation reaction. Second, the butyraldehydes are hydrogenated to form n-butanol (BuOH) and i-butanol. In the final step n-butanol and i-butanol are separated in a distillation train. Major producers of butanol include BASF, Dow Chemical, Eastman Chemical, Celanese, and Shell — and butanol production in just the U.S. and Western Europe is around 1.4 million metric tons per year (3 billion pounds).

At the time I worked on it, butanol was mostly a boring chemical intermediate. It was used as a paint solvent and as an ingredient of brake fluid, but most of it went into producing higher value products like butyl acrylate or butyl acetate. In the past decade, however, butanol has gotten a lot of attention as a promising biofuel. The reasons are that it is more energy dense than ethanol and doesn’t absorb water to the extent that ethanol does, and is thus easier to use in existing infrastructure. Inventor David Ramey probably did more than anyone to bring awareness to butanol’s potential as a renewable fuel by driving his family car from Ohio to California on 100% butanol. You can hear Ramey tell that story at this YouTube link.

However, biological routes for butanol suffer some problems that must be overcome if biomass-based butanol is to be competitive with petrochemical-derived butanol. As I explained in The Problem with Biobutanol, the petrochemical process generally produces crude product with only 5-10% water. The biological processes, on the other hand, generally produce butanol with 95% or more water. Therefore, the energy requirements for purification are much lower for the petrochemical process. In fact, the energy requirements are so high for separating out a 3% butanol solution from water that in chemical plants this concentration is often considered a waste stream and is disposed of.

If butanol could be produced without having to purify it via such an energy-intensive distillation, the energy return would be much higher and the costs should be lower. If butanol was completely insoluble in water, for instance, it would float to the top as it was produced and it could just be skimmed off. However, n-butanol is about 8% soluble in water, which means it won’t start phasing until that concentration is reached. But for biological processes, butanol poisons the microorganisms that produce it well before the phasing concentration is reached. (The solubility of i-butanol is a bit higher at about 10%; further i-butanol is less toxic to microorganisms).

Some of the work in recent years has been in the development of microbes that are more tolerant to higher butanol concentrations, but the holy grail of tolerance at the phasing concentration has not been reached. One of the companies doing a lot of work in this area is Cobalt Technologies. In the next essay, I will post an interview with Cobalt CEO Rick Wilson about the work they are doing.

  1. By rrapier on February 17, 2011 at 10:13 am

    Kit P said:

    Well Optimist I think you are correct that the topic got hijacked. Here is where it got hijacked


    Given that I was responding to a query someone else posed, once again you show yourself unable to identify actual cause and effect. The irony is that a study a few years ago showed that people who are the most incompetent don’t know it; in fact they show great confidence. While it is clear to most here that you do show a great deal of confidence, it is also clear that it would be hard to call many of your posts competent giving the level of confused rambling and contradictions.

     

    I think Optimist you will find that the interesting part of discussion
    was already over when RR explained that as chemical process engineer he
    could not make it work as a transportation fuel and was skeptical that
    any one could. At that point is time to start bashing corn ethanol.

     

    Please take whatever meds you are on so your sentences make sense. I have’t the slightest idea what “it” even refers to above or what I was skeptical of. A reread of the posts (again, you are wasting my time) did not help clarify that. 

    Really, the interesting part of the discussion happened when your glaring contradications once again made an appearance. I think you had gone a good two posts without contradicting yourself at that point — quite possibly a record. Your ability to put on blinders and ignore all contradictory data while sticking to your narrative is something not too many people can pull off. On the other hand, it isn’t exactly something you want to identify as one of your strong points in a job interview.

    RR

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  2. By Kit P on February 16, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    “Maybe you need to create a separate page for Kit to comment on, to prevent him from hijacking worthwhile discussions with his IS!-Is NOT! style…”

    Well Optimist I think you are correct that the topic got hijacked. Here is where it got hijacked

    “Yeah, it is going to be hard to dislodge corn ethanol.”

    My response was short and easy to ignore by anyone who was interested co interested the main discussion. I think Optimist you will find that the interesting part of discussion was already over when RR explained that as chemical process engineer he could not make it work as a transportation fuel and was skeptical that any one could. At that point is time to start bashing corn ethanol.

    Just for the record, Optimist you can start a new topic any time you want, I will not be the first to change the subject.

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  3. By carbonbridge on February 10, 2011 at 2:58 am

    RR: Said…

    Small amounts of butanol can be produced via a syngas reaction to produce mixed alcohols, but butanol is a very small component relative to the methanol and ethanol that are produced. Butanol is not commercially produced anywhere directly from syngas; such a process would be a major breakthrough for butanol producers.

    –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––

    RR:  I’m feeling that the next segment of your present essay might chemically be over the heads of most novices, politicans and investors.  But thankfully not nuclear engineers.  Kit P. presumably will comment next on my words herein…  Yet for the rest of your audience on this topic, I encourage you to go slow and carefully re-identify the differences between batch fermented (i) Butanol and (n) Butanol as you’ve illustrated in other essay lessons you’ve previously posted. 

    Herein, people need to assimilate that C4 Butanol is simply two C2 Ethanol molecules stacked together — AND that batch fermented Butanol utilizes different species of biobugs to convert and reassemble agri-grown/annually harvested/cornstarch carbon into longer and higher chained C4 alcohol molecules which also feature increased BTU’s. 

    Yet this same new shiny C4 Butanol fuel product is produced at significantly lower yield volumes per batch when compared to fermenting a batch of C2 corn Ethanol.  There are only so many base carbon atoms available for recombination by biobugs in every batch of cooked porridge.

    The tradeoff may be that the lesser volumes of batch fermented C4 Butanol exhibit greater BTU’s of combustion strength PLUS increased water tolerance as you’ve mentioned — when compared to increased volume yields of reduced BTU C2 Ethanol.

    Your statement which I’ve clipped above indicating that C4 Butanol is just a very small component of [higher] mixed alcohols [about 8% actual volume here] misses the non-obvious mark in your technology comparison.  When utilizing 24×7 continuous GTL methods of catalytic synthesis vs: batch cooking methods employing enzymes and biobugs to rearrange atoms within cooked porridge, — the continuous thermal GTL syngas route outputting C1-C8 higher mixed alcohols at the factory gate actually averages 3.9 carbons per mole.  Essentially this mixed alcohol blend stacks up like a C4 Butanol molecule while featuring other special benefits including reduced costs of production.

    So this “missing breakthrough” of continuous thermal syngas catalysis actually exists today while not being at all understood! 

    Perhaps a public demonstration where a blend of C1-C8 or C1-C10 synthetic GTL higher mixed alcohols are combusted in comparison to fermented (n) or (i) biobug versions of C4 Butanol or C2 corn Ethanol or C1 GTL Methanol would be welcomed?  I’ll ask the DOE to sponsor an hour-long documentry to be aired on PBS or the History Channel.

    DuPont recently announced a $6.3-B acquisition of private know-how and patents to begin producing batch fermented (i) Butanol in commercial quantities.  DuPont must think there is a great market for (i) Butanol which some scientists believe is inferior in combustion qualities when compared to (n) Butanol.

    In conclusion:  What if the average sized [C4 Butanol] [higher] mixed alcohol molecule produced by GTL catalytic synthesis was produced at only 1/4 or 1/8 the price per gallon of either batch fermented (n) or (i) Butanol?  Delving into this equation could consume a few essays all by itself. 

    Excuse me while I take advantage of this opening in your dialog presenting Butanol 101 to those unfamiliar.  Many readers may struggle to understand the difference between FlickYourBic liquified/pressurized Butane gas [a hydrocarbon] and (n) or (i) versions of Butanol liquid alcohol [a oxycarbon] combusted at ambient temps and pressures as a total substitute for gasoline [or as a much higher volume blendstock to gasoline].

    Changing direction:  The following two URLs are both topical wake up calls.  The first link should take you and others to a Wall Street News Article (subscription) featuring Range Fuels’ recent hype and failures summarized as a political ripoff to the U.S. taxpayer.  This WSJ article began circulating on the internet this evening at least six hours before its due-date release at midnight tonight.

    The second article below features commentary by author Robert Zubrin who indicates that C1 GTL Methanol should join with C2 Fermented Ethanol [he doesn't mention GTL higher mixed alcohols nor C4 Butanol] in first rolling back the volumes then depressing the price of global crude oil supplies to $50 per bbl.  As interesting as Zubrin’s article is [read systematic substitution of biodegradable fuel alcohols to displace crude oil]  — is the fact that this near-term strategy also begins the systematic and peaceful dismantling of the OPEC Oil Cartel.

    –Mark

     

    The Range Fuels Fiasco 

    A case study in the folly of politically directed investment.

    * REVIEW & OUTLOOK   The Wall Street Journal (subscription)    FEBRUARY 10, 2011

    http://online.wsj.com/article/…..lenews_wsj

    Comments to this article are worth a read…

    Alternative URL which cuts/pastes entire WSJ subscription article can be accessed at:

    http://www.orangepower.com/sho…..p?t=116239

     

     

    ZUBRIN: Don’t bet America’s future on Saudi stability

    Flex fuel can free us from the oil stranglehold

    The Washington Times   5:57 p.m., Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    http://www.washingtontimes.com…..stability/

    [link]      
  4. By moiety on February 10, 2011 at 4:15 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    If butanol could be produced without having to purify it via such an energy-intensive distillation, the energy return would be much higher and the costs should be lower. If butanol was completely insoluble in water, for instance, it would float to the top as it was produced and it could just be skimmed off. However, n-butanol is about 8% soluble in water, which means it won’t start phasing until that concentration is reached.


     

    The phase split is a useful goal but only if
    continuous or semi-continuous fermentation can be achieved. At just above 8% in
    the feed is that a small layer of butanol  will form on top of the fermentor mixture. This will
    contain say 80% butanol but only a small amount of the butanol produced
    (most will stay in the lower layer. If a higher concentration of butanol can be ‘crashed’ out of
    the fermentor mixture things change though for butanol
    recoveries above 50%, we would need around 15% butanol). The aim
    then will be to produce more butanol in the bottom phase to such a stage that a significant
    amount of the top layer can be taken off. Staging this in different fermentators may help.

    Aside from microbe and nutrient replenishment. I would have to ask how
    inhibitors that are developed are removed. I can imagine that furfural and salt
    concentration would increase unless all when out the top.

     

    Robert Rapier said

    The petrochemical process involves three steps. First, synthesis gas is produced (usually from coal or natural gas, but could be produced from biomass) and is reacted with propylene (a product from oil refining and natural gas processing) to form normal-butyraldehyde (BuH) and iso-butyraldehyde in a hydroformylation
    reaction. Second, the butyraldehydes are hydrogenated to form n-butanol
    (BuOH) and i-butanol. In the final step n-butanol and i-butanol are
    separated in a distillation train.

    I have always wondered about a combo of biomass gasification to syngas and the use of biodiesel process (Nexbtl or something similar, wishfully using glycerol) to create the propane and then propene (propylene).

    [link]      
  5. By Kit P on February 10, 2011 at 9:21 am

    “But thankfully not nuclear engineers.  Kit P. presumably will comment next on my words herein…”

     

    Read RR post last night and found it interesting and informative. Had not intended to until Mark suggested it.

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  6. By Scott Collins on February 10, 2011 at 10:08 am

    I’m not affiliated with them, but learned of the work of Dave Ramey a few years back. Curious if you’ve read his process’ results (http://butanol.com). -Scott

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  7. By sameer-kulkarni on February 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm

    The fermentation of Butanol has two major bottlenecks to be solved.

    Slow rate of production: Unlike ethanol which is a single step process, fermentation involves two. In the first step the microorganisms have sugars for lunch & release acids i.e butyric & acetic + a bonus Hydrogen gas. Then the same microorganisms dine on these acids for dinner & burp out butanol, acetone & ethanol at a ratio 6:3:1. This results in low productivities & high fermentation volumes.

    Next Butanol starts to kill the microorganisms as it’s concentration in solution reaches 2% further reducing the yields & results in a dilute fermentation broth. Ethanol fermenting microorganism can tolerate up to 15% concentration.

    However the Butanol producing microorganism consumes both hexose & pentose sugars unlike microorganism producing ethanol which consumes only hexose. 

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  8. By rrapier on February 10, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    CarbonBridge said:

    Your statement which I’ve clipped above indicating that C4 Butanol is just a very small component of [higher] mixed alcohols [about 8% actual volume here] misses the non-obvious mark in your technology comparison.  When utilizing 24×7 continuous GTL methods of catalytic synthesis vs: batch cooking methods employing enzymes and biobugs to rearrange atoms within cooked porridge, — the continuous thermal GTL syngas route outputting C1-C8 higher mixed alcohols at the factory gate actually averages 3.9 carbons per mole.  Essentially this mixed alcohol blend stacks up like a C4 Butanol molecule while featuring other special benefits including reduced costs of production.


     

    Mark,

    I have an NREL report in which they looked at Dow catalysts and also took data from SRI. I am attaching the table of alcohol composition below.

    Mixed Alcohol Composition

    I haven’t actually put my calculator to it, but just eye-balling it that looks much closer to an average composition of C2 than it does to C4.

    The Range Fuels Fiasco 

    A case study in the folly of politically directed investment.

    * REVIEW & OUTLOOK   The Wall Street Journal (subscription)    FEBRUARY 10, 2011

    http://online.wsj.com/article/…..lenews_wsj

    Comments to this article are worth a read…

    Alternative URL which cuts/pastes entire WSJ subscription article can be accessed at:

    http://www.orangepower.com/sho…..p?t=116239

    As someone said to me this morning, it looks like the WSJ covered exactly the same ground I have been covering here for two years. I recall the first time I wrote about Range, I asked where the media was in all of this. Turns out they were sound asleep until the wheels actually fell off. Instead of asking critical questions all along, they show up at the autopsy now to tsk, tsk. That’s fine, but next time they should do a bit more due diligence beforehand.

    RR

    [link]      
  9. By rrapier on February 10, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    Moiety said:

     

    I have always wondered about a combo of biomass gasification to syngas and the use of biodiesel process (Nexbtl or something similar, wishfully using glycerol) to create the propane and then propene (propylene).


     

    Could be done, but would be much more expensive. Propane is a byproduct of oil refining, so it is hard to beat the cost of producing propylene that way. Then, natural gas to syngas is much cheaper than biomass to syngas. So you would be looking at higher costs for both steps.

    RR

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  10. By rrapier on February 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Scott Collins said:

    I’m not affiliated with them, but learned of the work of Dave Ramey a few years back. Curious if you’ve read his process’ results (http://butanol.com). -Scott


     

    Hi Scott,

    From my previous article The Problem with Biobutanol:

    Finally, a number of people have written or commented that the work of
    David Ramey, who runs http://www.butanol.com, changes all of that. First of
    all, I certainly don’t want to denigrate Ramey’s work. It is a good
    contribution. However, it is clear to me that many people do not
    understand that what Ramey did gets us no closer to cracking the
    dilution problem. The big hurdle is not a problem of conversion rate or
    reaction speed. Those are the areas that Ramey addressed, and while
    those things are nice to have, there is a show-stopper that has not been
    addressed. That is, if you read Ramey’s patent (which I have done many
    times), he is still talking about butanol concentrations in the range of
    2.5%. That is the problem, not whether the conversion is 25% or 35%.

    [link]      
  11. By carbonbridge on February 10, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    I have an NREL report…[illustrative chart]


     


     

    RR:  We are getting way off the fermentive Butanol 101 discussion here: 

    There have been a number of research studies in this GTL area where the trick is to first produce C1 methanol via a GTL fixed bed methanization catalysis reactor (not to be confused with Fischer-Tropsch paraffin production) and THEN catalytically combine these first-formed C1 MeOH molecules into C2 EtOH molecules followed by a declining curve of C3+ higher alcohols.  All of these normal (n) linear alcohols originate from C1 MeOH molecules initially produced from the catalytic re-arrangement of CO & H2 synthesis gas intermediates.  This syngas was produced earlier on the front-end either from steam reformation of gasses or the gasification of solid carbon substrates.  Nothing as feedstock needs to be planted, fertilized, watered, weeded and annually havested by agri-methods.  These carbon building blocks can come much cheaper from methane, CO2, coal, garbage, sludge, ground tires, petroleum coke wastes or millions of acres of beetle-killed pine trees.  Oxygen for this process comes from H2O.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong here, but in the USA, most butanol (like ethanol) is fermented from corn kernels.

    The chart which you posted identifying wild fluctuations in experimental numbers represents this straightforward GTL syngas catalysis approach.  There are far more numbers and other wild product swings being experienced across the globe which this one simple example from a NREL chart does not illustrate at all.  Much of these fuel product results still remain proprietary to firms active in their own learning process and business modeling.

    The EPA Octimix Waiver currently specifies holding C1 MeOH at no more than 17.25% by weight (nearly the same factor by volume graphed here on my chart below) in this blend of six, eight or ten progressive and normal, linear alcohols.  Note that (n) Butanol is also produced in this declining chain and possibly in higher volumes than Butanol is normally fermented in batch processes. 

    Where the C2 EtOH and C3+ higher alcohols ultimately are formulated in this GTL methanization reaction isn’t of primary concern in achieving a marketable, EPA allowable, blend of higher alcohols to effectively replace fermented ethanol or butanol at drastically reduced cost.  Yet the balance of this progressive chain of multiple alcohols above C1 and C2 molecule strength is exactly where increased BTU’s, increased octane, changes in RVP plus several other elements affecting increased combustion efficiencies actually come from.  And this example shown below is what adds up to 3.9 carbons per mole average which I mentioned in my earlier post.

     

    Early research dating back to 1987 in Houston could only get 50% of the initial GTL C1 MeOH molecules to react and build upon themselves to produce C2 and C3+ higher mixed alcohol molecules.  In layman’s terms here, fractionalizing out 33% volumes of the total volumes coming out of the factory’s pipe while paying for this additional distillation process — made the reduced volume of a marketable Octimax blend of mixed alcohols out the factory gate too expensive — even though the isolated and distilled C1 MeOH portion of this blend of higher alcohols could immediately be recycled back around with more syngas into this exact same fixed bed GTL catalytic synthesis process once again.  Therein much early research which originated with Dow dating back to the mid-1970′s was scrapped downstream by other experimentors as being non-profitable when gasoline was selling in the $1.60 range.  And Dow’s original catalytic know-how still is not being reflected in much of today’s quiet work involving this particular biodegradable fuel synthesis process.

    Today, gasoline is selling for nearly twice this figure at home and over three times this price abroad.  And now, certain scientists can achieve this still non-commercialized GTL reaction to build into longer molecular chains.  The trick has always been to catalytically combine more of the C1 beginning MeOH volumes and grow taller into C2 EtOH plus a declining curve of C3+ higher alcohols.  Integrating a $1.01 RFS tax credit into this business development formula becomes something of a no-brainer here when as little as 5-6M BTU’s of methane gas or solid wastes can be very cleanly and continuously converted into 3.8M BTU’s (1 bbl) of product volume.

    Certain firms wishing to commercialize this syngas to alcohols production process can not achieve their output volumes anywhere near the Octimax curve I’m providing as an example.  So as an alternaive route, they set up two fixed bed GTL reactors in series and pursue a related, yet more expensive avenue to arrive at a marketable fuel blend still being intentionally mis-labeled by some as ‘lignocellulosic ethanol’ or ‘ethanol and other green chemicals’ which it is not. 

    Then, in a ‘limp-along’ GTL catalysis system, the first GTL reactor is used to produce C1 MeOH all by itself.  Then the second GTL fixed bed reactor is used to further highgrade the MeOH liquid into C2 EtOH plus higher alcohols in combination with additional syngas.  I’ll not identify anyone here – yet I point out that using two high pressure fixed-bed reactors in series is NOT the most profitable means to produce a blend of synthetic higher alcohols featuring more BTU’s, higher octane, cheaper to produce per unit volume, etc., on a 24×7 continuous thermal production basis.

    However, even this ‘limp along’ two reactor GTL synthesis methodology still flies in the face of batch fermentation employing acid enzymes and biobug yeasts.  Your blog has touched upon those experimenting with genetically-modified organisms to improve ethanol yields in the batch to batch to batch cooking/fermenting/separating/distilling/mole-sieving/cleaning/sterlizing/marketing DDGS/marketing EtOH (or Butanol) process which figuratively may return to its roots in producing only beverage alcohols once again.

    NREL and a handful or two of other researchers remain very active in this arena.  And the bottom line here all adds up to ‘what efficiencies’ producing ‘what curves’ of stronger BTU, higher octane, less expensive higher mixed alcohol outputs before even considering breaking formulations apart in an attempt to avoid potential I.P. infringements.  It actually gets quite a bit more complicated than I’m willing to discuss on a public blog.

    In conclusion:  I’m anxious to learn more about Butanol 101 batch fermentation processes.  Sam’s summary just above in this column kinda hits the nail right upon its head.

    –Mark

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  12. By Russ on February 11, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I came to this blog to find a news commentary on another energy topic, but as Mr. Rapier’s writing is so good I found myself reading this one on a topic previously of no interest to me – and pretty far over my head: I’m guessing the answer to the question at the beginning of paragraph 4 regarding aldehyde is obvious to most everyone here, but I missed it; and I’m not one hundred percent sure if butanol’s “boring” characterization means that it was uninteresting.

    Anyway, it all certainly is interesting from the perspective of someone who, in the course of a bread-baking hobby, sometimes detects exotic vapors from the sourdough starter not foretold in the how-tos.

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  13. By Optimist on February 11, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    As I explained in The Problem with Biobutanol, the petrochemical process generally produces crude product with only 5-10% water. The biological processes, on the other hand, generally produce butanol with 95% or more water.

    IMHO, that put the nail in the coffin for fermentative butanol. How on earth are they going to compete with that difference? Why would you try to produce pure anything for fuel? Hint: you’re just going to burn it for its energy content. Thermodynamics gives mixed fuels (like gasoline and diesel) a significant advantage.

    Sounds to me like the question that needs to be asked is: what is the cheapest way to liquiefy syngas? Who gives a #$%^&@ what the exact chemical make up of the product is? As long as you can reproduce the properties…

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  14. By Wendell Mercantile on February 11, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    My question about butanol:

    If there was a big breakthrough and butanol and/or mixed alcohols became viable and economical, could they even compete with ethanol when the playing field is so far tipped in ethanol’s favor because of subsidies and political clout?

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  15. By paul-n on February 12, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Wendell, the (supposed) advantage of butanol fermentation is that it can handle cellulosic feedstocks – unlike yeast, the clostridium bacterium can digest cellulose directly.

    Then, the fact that butanol is drop in fuel,can be transported in existing pipelines, does not absorb water etc etc make it operationally a much better fuel.  I would bet that if it can be commercialised, you would see the oil companies actively getting into butanol, and the only way ethanol could continue is by mandate.  Even then, eventually, the government and public would have ask why continue with ethanol when butanol is available.

    All this, of course, assumes that it can be commercialised, but, like algae fuel, it remains a glittering jewel that is beyond our reach – ethanol is the only biofuel actually being produced today.

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  16. By rrapier on February 12, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Russ said:

    I came to this blog to find a news commentary on another energy topic, but as Mr. Rapier’s writing is so good I found myself reading this one on a topic previously of no interest to me – and pretty far over my head: I’m guessing the answer to the question at the beginning of paragraph 4 regarding aldehyde is obvious to most everyone here, but I missed it; and I’m not one hundred percent sure if butanol’s “boring” characterization means that it was uninteresting.

    Anyway, it all certainly is interesting from the perspective of someone who, in the course of a bread-baking hobby, sometimes detects exotic vapors from the sourdough starter not foretold in the how-tos.


     

    Hi Russ, and thank you for your comments. The question I posed – “What is an aldehyde?” – I didn’t really adequately answer. Butyraldehyde is a C4 oxygenation hydrocarbon, similar to butanol except where butanol has an ‘OH’ group (the alcohol group) an aldehyde has a double-bonded oxygen. It is a precursor to butanol; in the chemical industry butyraldehyde is first made from raw materials and then that is hydrogenated to butanol. But butryaldehyde is also used as a raw material for other things; the safety liner within windshields is made from a butyraldehyde starting material.

    At the time I worked on it, butanol certainly wasn’t being discusses as a biofuel. I actually considered whether butanol could be fuel, but the raw materials are petroleum that are then significantly processed, and therefore the cost per unit of energy tends to be higher than gasoline (presently butanol is selling for about $7 per gallon).

    RR

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  17. By rrapier on February 12, 2011 at 11:52 am

    Optimist said:

    As I explained in The Problem with Biobutanol, the petrochemical process generally produces crude product with only 5-10% water. The biological processes, on the other hand, generally produce butanol with 95% or more water.

    IMHO, that put the nail in the coffin for fermentative butanol. How on earth are they going to compete with that difference? Why would you try to produce pure anything for fuel? Hint: you’re just going to burn it for its energy content. Thermodynamics gives mixed fuels (like gasoline and diesel) a significant advantage.

    Sounds to me like the question that needs to be asked is: what is the cheapest way to liquiefy syngas? Who gives a #$%^&@ what the exact chemical make up of the product is? As long as you can reproduce the properties…


     

    I have always said that water is the grave enemy of the fermentation processes, and ultimately why I am not so bullish on them as is Mr. Khosla. There are ways of dealing with water; in the next installment I will detail how Cobalt is trying to do it. But bear in mind that major companies have been trying to circumvent this issue for many years, and any sort of breakthrough would ripple throughout the chemical industry. If someone invented a cheaper way to separate chemicals, they could just license that and make a fortune.

    The cheapest way to liquify syngas? Methanol. That’s why it sells for about $1/gallon, unsubsidized.

    RR

    [link]      
  18. By rrapier on February 12, 2011 at 11:55 am

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    My question about butanol:

    If there was a big breakthrough and butanol and/or mixed alcohols became viable and economical, could they even compete with ethanol when the playing field is so far tipped in ethanol’s favor because of subsidies and political clout?


     

    Yeah, it is going to be hard to dislodge corn ethanol. Even if the public completely sours on it, the politicians know better than us what is good for us. I saw that firsthand when Conoco developed their hydrotreating process for making green diesel. The biodiesel guys had a fit, and so this hydrotreating process that is far superior in terms of economics and quality of product was denied the same subsidy that biodiesel received. Those are the sort of politics that screw up our energy policy.

    RR

    [link]      
  19. By Kit P on February 12, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    “Yeah, it is going to be hard to dislodge corn ethanol.”

     

    That because corn ethanol works so well.

     

    “Conoco”

     

    Maybe the petroleum industry should barrow some folks from the nuclear industry to teach them how to do effective root cause evaluations.

    [link]      
  20. By rrapier on February 12, 2011 at 3:25 pm

    Kit P said:

    “Yeah, it is going to be hard to dislodge corn ethanol.”

     

    That because corn ethanol works so well.

     


     

    Maybe you should do a root cause analysis of why that is. When you understand that, you understand why even something that works better will have a hard time disloding corn ethanol.

    “Conoco”

    Maybe the petroleum industry should barrow some folks from the
    nuclear industry to teach them how to do effective root cause
    evaluations.

     

    You say some of the oddest things. Why would the petroleum industry “barrow” folks who don’t know the first thing about the petroleum industry? Or for that matter, why would you think the nuclear industry is more competent to do a root cause analysis? The petroleum industry is much larger and much more complex than the nuclear industry. I can assure you that within the petroleum industry is more than enough competence to do root cause analyses. The methodology isn’t that difficult to grasp; heck you might even be able to grasp it and then understand how politics killed that Conoco project. Or the reason that ethanol “works so well” is that we are forced to use it.

    RR

    [link]      
  21. By carbonbridge on February 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm

     

    Robert Rapier said:


    The cheapest way to liquify syngas? Methanol. That’s why it sells for about $1/gallon, unsubsidized.

     


     

    Then out of Pandora’s Box comes a [KISS] fixed-bed catalyst which is loaded into a 90 yr. old basic C1 GTL methanol plant.  This proprietary catalyst then builds this simple C1 MeOH molecule back onto itself to form six, eight or ten higher, normal linear alcohols into a combined blend of synthetically-produced, [formula and usage patented] higher mixed alcohols mimicking C4 butanol yet continuous via GTL — not via any sort of batch fermented process.  And this century-old original GTL [chemical] MeOH production process is now outputting at twice its previous thermal efficiency in converting midstream CO & H2 syngas into MeOH. 

    Wholesale price today of such decentralized new liquid fuel substitute for FFV gasoline, [not a chemical now] is $2.25/gallon unsubsidized.  And within a year on the market this rack price will climb another 20% to reach ‘fair market value’ for the higher BTU’s and 30 points higher octane which it provides in comparison to batch fermented corn ethanol.  $7 butanol using petroleum or corn kernels as feedstock doesn’t compare.

    A certain Russian [former Gazprom official, now RIP] once told me “that the first green is the money.  The second green will become the near-term environmental benefits” coupled with new jobs creation in the steel, construction, municipal solid waste recycling, plus seamless fuel product movement married to petroleum liquids, traditional marketing of premium varieties and end-use-combustion-without-engine/turbine adjustments — within both land and air transportation arenas.  Need I mention floating plantships producing direct volumes for Military combustion in areas of theatre operations?

    What profitable new (biodegradable) liquid fuel is going to seamlessly fill this cavernous white space behind the peak denoted in this graph?  Any guesses post BP Gulf Gusher (media remains stone cold silent now) regarding this past summer’s giant oil spill?

    –Mark

    [link]      
  22. By Kit P on February 12, 2011 at 4:50 pm

    “Maybe you should do a root cause analysis of why that is.”

     

    Well actually I did, I found a systematic approach to producing energy. Thinking that drilling for oil is more complex than making electricity sounds like an excuse.

    From DEEPWATER page 50, an event in 2006.

    “Investigations later revealed that a valve in the bilge and ballast system had been installed backward, allowing seawater to move into the hull, a failure exacerbated by electrical pathways that were not watertight. Had BP not arrived when it did, the structure might have been lost.”

    From DEEPWATER page 55

    “Nineteen days after the rig sank, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced his intention to strip MMS’s safety and environmental enforcement responsibilities away from its leasing, revenue collection, and permitting functions, and to place the former within a “separate and independent” entity. A week later, he announced MMS would be reorganized into three separate entities with distinct missions: a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; a Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement; and an Office of Natural Resources Revenue.”

     

    Who knew that promoting technologies and enforcing safety regulation should be different organizations. These days the NRC regulates both commercial nuke plants and DOE.

    Pg 67,

    “The root problem has instead been that political leaders within both the Executive Branch and Congress have failed to ensure that agency regulators have had the resources necessary to exercise that authority, including personnel and technical expertise, and, no less important, the political autonomy needed to overcome the powerful commercial interests that have opposed more stringent safety regulation.”

    Okay, the US government failed to provide any where near adequate oversight.

    What about the role of industry.

     

    “In March 1980, the Alexander Kielland—built as a drilling rig but under lease to Phillips Petroleum Company to house offshore workers at the Ekofisk Field in the Norwegian North Sea—capsized, killing 123 of the 212 people on board the “flotel.” …

    Ocean Ranger semisubmersible drilling the Hibernia field for Mobil Oil of Canada, sank off the coast

    of Newfoundland; all 84 crew members were lost in the freezing-cold waters. …Piper Alpha production platform … exploded and sank, killing 167 people,”

     

    I think the industry should worry less about politics and more about the safety of its employees.

    [link]      
  23. By rrapier on February 12, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    Kit P said:

    “Maybe you should do a root cause analysis of why that is.”

    Well actually I did, I found a systematic approach to producing energy.


     

    Then you obviously don’t know what a root cause analysis actually is. Just another buzz phrase you like to toss around like LCA. I am trained to lead root cause investigations, so I am qualified to render that opinion. Further, your response is disconnected from what you are responding to.

     

    I think the industry should worry less about politics and more about the safety of its employees.

    Good advice from the industry that gave us Chernobyl. Oh, but that’s different. That was in Russia, unlike those you cited, which, come to think of it were all either foreign or involved foreign companies. But that is irrelevant anyway.

    Give it a rest. The nuclear industry is not moving flammable liquids throughout infrastructure all over the world, and operating in very hostile environments. That has everything to do with why you read about accidents in the oil industry — not because you are better than anyone else. In fact, from what I have seen here you are much worse.

    There is no comparison between the complexity of finding and drilling for oil, moving it to a refinery, fractionating and reforming it into products, and moving that into the market — and using a nuclear reaction to heat up water to spin a turbine. Heck, most big oil refineries have their own power plants, but not too many power plants have their own oil refinery.

    RR

    [link]      
  24. By Kit P on February 13, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    “Good advice from the industry that gave us Chernobyl. Oh, but that’s different. That was in Russia, unlike those you cited, which, come to think of it were all either foreign or involved foreign companies. But that is irrelevant anyway.”

     

    I work for the industry that gave us TMI. At both TMI and Chernobyl the core was damaged releasing fission products. US regulation require that the public, employees, and the environment be protected in event of an accident. The design at TMI protected the public, employees, and the environment. No one was hurt at TMI. I work for a multinational company. The safety culture is universal. Our employees are just as valuable in the poorest African mining operation as it is in the home office.

    From DEEPWATER page 217,

    “The Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, and oil spill did not have to happen.”

     

    RR writes,

    “The nuclear industry is not moving flammable liquids throughout infrastructure all over the world, and operating in very hostile environments. ”

     

    Actually we do, we just do it in a way not kill our workers. RR is that temporary trailers for workers destroyed in the picture?

    From DEEPWATER page 219 & 220,

    “The Texas City refinery explosion: a deficient safety culture. On March 23, 2005, a blast at BP’s Texas City refinery—the third largest refinery in the United States—killed 15 people and injured more than 170.”

     

    So what about the rig itself 5 years later,

    “Some 46 percent of crew members surveyed felt that some of the workforce feared reprisals for reporting unsafe situations, and 15 percent felt that there were not always enough people available to carry out work safely.”

     

    Before RR was born,

    “Civil aviation and nuclear-fueled electric power are two good examples of industries that have had to manage the risk of catastrophic failures and losses. In the public sector, the United States Navy also faced the challenge of improving safety in its nuclear-power vessels—and did so.”

     

    Shortly before KitP got out of the navy,

    “Two months later, in December 1979, the nuclear power industry created the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), a nonprofit organization with the ambitious mission “to promote the highest levels of safety and reliability—to promote excellence—in the operation of commercial nuclear power plants.”

     

    I encourage everyone to read DEEPWATER. When I look at the corn ethanol industry, I see a better way of producing energy. It is not politics, it is performance.

    [link]      
  25. By rrapier on February 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Kit P said:

    “Good advice from the industry that gave us Chernobyl. Oh, but that’s different. That was in Russia, unlike those you cited, which, come to think of it were all either foreign or involved foreign companies. But that is irrelevant anyway.”

     

    I work for the industry that gave us TMI. At both TMI and Chernobyl the core was damaged releasing fission products. US regulation require that the public, employees, and the environment be protected in event of an accident. The design at TMI protected the public, employees, and the environment. No one was hurt at TMI. I work for a multinational company. The safety culture is universal. Our employees are just as valuable in the poorest African mining operation as it is in the home office.


     

    You have a knack for cutting and pasting an awful lot without saying much of value. Within the oil industry, most companies have universal safety cultures. But here you go to great lengths to catalog incidents with BP as an indictment over the safety culture of the entire oil industry. At the same time, you want to deny Chernobyl as an indictment of the entire nuclear industry. As always, your arguments are hypocritical and inconsistent.

    From DEEPWATER page 217,

    “The Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, and oil spill did not have to happen.”

    Well, duh. An amazing insight that probably hasn’t occured to most people.

    RR writes,

    “The nuclear industry is not moving flammable liquids throughout infrastructure all over the world, and operating in very hostile environments. ”

    Actually we do, we just do it in a way not kill our workers. 

    No, you don’t. Wishful thinking doesn’t make it so; in fact as I show below your industry has a higher fatality rate from moving electricity around the country. But as always, your way of countering an argument is just to say things — no support required. In this case, everyone but you can see that what the oil industry does is inherently more dangerous than what the nuclear industry does. Keeping nuclear reactions contained is not rocket science — although you may think it is. Taking petroleum from a mile under the ocean to your gas tank is.

    RR is that temporary trailers for workers destroyed in the picture?

    And without pointing fingers directly, most people in the oil industry know of companies that have a reputation for having a deficient safety culture. Most companies would never house temporary workers in a process unit. You probably don’t understand the difference, but BP isn’t the entire oil industry. You should understand that, since you don’t seem to feel that Chernobyl is the entire nuclear industry.

    Before RR was born,

    Not sure when you think I was born. I tracked down your link, and I don’t see a date referenced on that particular passage. But I was born more than a decade before TMI.

    I encourage everyone to read DEEPWATER. When I look at the corn ethanol industry, I see a better way of producing energy. It is not politics, it is performance.

    LOL! The ethanol industry is entirely dependent upon the petroleum industry. When the ethanol industry starts producing their own fuel for their needs, let’s talk. Right now,the ethanol industry needs the gas that BP was after in the gulf. So check you hypocrisy at the door. And if it was about performance and not politics, there would be no need for mandates. Period.

    Further, do you have any idea how many farming accidents take place each year? Really? You must be one of the most ill-informed people — yet ironically self-confident — that I have ever come across.

    America’s Most Dangerous Jobs

     

    5. Farmers and ranchers

    Fatality rate: 39.5

    6. Refuse and recyclable material collectors

    Fatality rate:: 36.8

    7. Roofers

    Fatality rate: 34.4

    8. Electrical power line installers and repairers

    Fatality rate: 29.8

    What’s this? Farming at 5th? The electrical industry at 8th? But, but, but — I thought you did a root cause analysis on safe power generation? How could you have missed such a thing? (Hint: You don’t even know the first thing about a root cause analysis). I also don’t think you understand the concept of a fatality rate. Because the oil industry is so huge, it can have a lot more incidents even with a much lower incident rate. The total employment in the U.S. nuclear industry is around 70,000. Total employment in the U.S. oil industry is over 2 million. That might — but I doubt it — help you to get a grip on the issue.

    For the record, the oil industry doesn’t make the top 10 in fatality rates. The ethanol industry does at 5th. Your own industry has a place at 8th. QED. But by all means, please continue to bury your foot further into your mouth. Why don’t you cite a few more oil accidents, while downplaying the role that farmers play in the ethanol industry or that line installers play in yours? Hey, you could even have a new motto: Electricity — We only kill the line workers.

    Of course the ethanol folks do count corn farmers among the jobs they create and given the incident rate it is a safe assumption that if ethanol was providing as much energy to the public as fossil fuels, there would be a whole lot more fatalities than at present.

    You know what’s funny? Some people have a hard time believing that you are even real. They can imagine me posting as an alter-ego and throwing up all of these ludicrous arguments that you do in order to shoot them down with ease and make myself look smart. But no, I assure them that you are actually real.

    RR

     

    [link]      
  26. By Russ on February 13, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Robert: I appreciate your taking the time to explain the aldehyde process with smaller steps. It was the organic portion of the college chemistry course I took 30 years ago that killed my A.

    With regard to corn ethanol, I get a sense that it has performed well in contributing to weight loss. Even so, I would like to see its use restricted to fueling agricultural machinery, if that is possible, and if it is, having its production fueled by burning corn stalks.

    Trucking ethanol to far flung locations is unwise in light of the need for the last half of the planet’s oil supply to be increasingly supplemented by a well balanced set of sources that, to be effective, must be applied appropriately.

    [link]      
  27. By Wendell Mercantile on February 13, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Even so, I would like to see its use restricted to fueling agricultural machinery, if that is possible, and if it is, having its production fueled by burning corn stalks.

    Well said Russ. The NCGA, Big Ag, and corn ethanol industry first needs to show they can use ethanol to power their ag equipment before they try convincing the EPA and state legislatures into foisting higher blends and mandates off on us.

    Once they’ve saturated the agricultural equipment market in the Corn Belt, then we can talk about expanding its further use in automobiles. The NCGA and ethanol industry need to apply the old cliché, “Walk the talk.” to themselves.

    [link]      
  28. By Optimist on February 14, 2011 at 2:06 am

    The cheapest way to liquify syngas? Methanol. That’s why it sells for about $1/gallon, unsubsidized.

    Methanol it is, then.

    Then out of Pandora’s Box comes a [KISS] fixed-bed catalyst which is loaded into a 90 yr. old basic C1 GTL methanol plant. This proprietary catalyst then builds this simple C1 MeOH molecule back onto itself to form six, eight or ten higher, normal linear alcohols into a combined blend of synthetically-produced, [formula and usage patented] higher mixed alcohols mimicking C4 butanol yet continuous via GTL — not via any sort of batch fermented process. And this century-old original GTL [chemical] MeOH production process is now outputting at twice its previous thermal efficiency in converting midstream CO & H2 syngas into MeOH.

    Nice writing. You got a link explaining all that good stuff?

    Before RR was born,

    Kit was already proving himself to be the stubborn dimwit we all know and try to tolerate…

    [link]      
  29. By Kit P on February 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm

    “Not sure when you think I was born. I tracked down your link, and I don’t see a date referenced on that particular passage. But I was born more than a decade before TMI.”

    Predating the birth of RR was:

    “Civil aviation and nuclear-fueled electric power are two good examples of industries that have had to manage the risk of catastrophic failures and losses. In the public sector, the United States Navy also faced the challenge of improving safety in its nuclear-power vessels—and did so.”

    The point here is that the methodology to manage risk is not new and that the oil industry failed to adopt such measures.

    “The total employment in the U.S. nuclear industry is around 70,000.”

    This industrial segment has one of the best accident rates and not one catastrophic failure that harmed a person or the environment in the 40 years that I have been associated with the industry. The rate is 0.05 which includes all accidents and I am not aware of fatalities in 2009.

    http://www.nei.org/resourcesan…..identrate/

    Here is the source for the AOL article:

    http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/c…..2009hb.pdf

    Utilities – 1.8

    Oil and gas extraction – 21.6

    “Kit was already proving himself to be the stubborn dimwit we all know and try to tolerate…”

    Hang in there Optimist maybe you will learn something, yes I am stubborn but the message is important. The safety concepts predate my entry into nuclear power. Shortly before I entered the navy a fire on an aircraft carrier killed some pilots and nukes. The sad thing is that emergency escape routes and breathing apparatus was available but nukes and pilots were not trained in firefighting. A catastrophic loss occurred doing dangerous war time operations. The navy learned the lessons and made sure people like me were trained properly.

    The DEEPWATER report is not saying that a blowout preventer failed despite being properly designed and tested for the more extreme conditions, the report is saying that the oil industry did not bother to learn the lessons of near misses.

    I suspect that RR is correct when he states that some companies have a good safety culture but there is no INPO to insist on excellence.

    [link]      
  30. By rrapier on February 15, 2011 at 12:17 am

    Kit P said:

    The point here is that the methodology to manage risk is not new and that the oil industry failed to adopt such measures.


     

    You know, you can repeat that all you want and it still doesn’t make it true. You don’t have a clue as to what measures the oil industry has adopted, because you are simply a casual observer. You don’t work in the oil industry, yet you think you can judge from a distance what they have and have not failed to adopt. You don’t have the first clue as to how much safety training goes on inside the oil industry, you are just flapping your jaws.

    Here is the source for the AOL article:

    http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/c…..2009hb.pdf

    Utilities – 1.8

    Oil and gas extraction – 21.6

    And you are the king of cherry-picking data and wasting other people’s time. The extraction segment is only one part of a much larger industry, it is the segment with the highest fatality rate in the oil sector, and yet still comes in much lower than farming, line workers, or coal mining. (Ironically, the number of fatalities reported in the utility and oil and gas extraction sectors was exactly the same: 17 fatalities). The refining sector has a fatality rate much more like what you reported for utilities; in fact it doesn’t seem that refining has been broken out separately but chemical manufacture is listed at 1.4.

    Of course oil extraction would be the sector that actually moves oil from the ground into the refinery. Much like the power lines that move electricity from the utlility is one segment of the electrical industry — albeit with a recent fatality rate of 34.8 one that I am sure you wish to pretend doesn’t exist. How about the coal that is used to run those coal-fired power plants that you like so much? This is one that you have also chosen to ignore any time there is a coal-related accident. Fatality rate for coal miners: 49.5. But Kit ignores those sorts of inconvenient facts when he choses to argue that the oil industry — with a much lower fatality rate — is unsafe while he makes up excuses for the coal mining industry.

    Further, the report shows the rate from crop production at 30.6 — yet you wish to boast about how safe it is to produce ethanol.

    You are simply a person who made their mind up about something and then cherry picks data to try to support your point. Everyone here can see right through you.

    The DEEPWATER report is not saying that a blowout preventer failed
    despite being properly designed and tested for the more extreme
    conditions, the report is saying that the oil industry did not bother to
    learn the lessons of near misses.

    One more time, BP is not the oil industry. BP is a company within the oil industry. The mistakes from Deepwater belong to them, not everyone in the oil industry. In the same way you might insist that Chernobyl is not an indictment of the entire nuclear industry. Just more inconsistent arguments from you.

    Let’s review:

    Oil extraction fatality rate: 21.6. Kit’s verdict: Even though this is only one sector, Kit judges the oil industry as unsafe.

    Coal mining: 49.5. Kit’s verdict: Can’t see a problem.

    Farming, which supports ethanol: 30.6. Kit’s verdict: Ethanol is a safe way to produce energy, unlike oil. No problems here.

    Line workers that support the transport of electricity from the utility: 34.8. Kit just ignores this one as if it is totally removed from bringing electricity into people’s homes.

    Your arguments are laughably inconsistent. You have no objective criteria for any of your opinions. By your own links, the segments both upstream and downstream of your utility are more dangerous than any segment of the oil industry, yet you only see problems with the oil industry. Wow. (I promise you, readers, Kit is a real person and not a foil I have constructed for your amusement).

    RR

    [link]      
  31. By rrapier on February 15, 2011 at 2:34 am

    Just for the record, and to show how laughably inconsistent he is, here is what Kit had to say in the wake of the Massey coal disaster that killed 25 people:

    The coal mining industry has a very good safety record. You may want to wait for the root cause before suggesting executives are the blame. The CEO of Massey Coal gave an interview on the condition that it not be edited.

    You can’t make this stuff up. Kit criticizes the safety record of the oil industry, but acts as an apologist for the coal mining industry which has more than double the rate of fatalities of the worst sector within the oil industry!

    RR

    [link]      
  32. By Kit P on February 15, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    “One more time, BP is not the oil industry.”

    The DEEPWATER is a report about the oil industry. It is the authors of that report that suggested that the oil industry look at the US nuclear industry as a model of good safety performance.

    “Kit’s verdict: Even though this is only one sector, Kit judges the oil industry as unsafe.”

    Kit provided no verdict. Kit provided a source of the information. It is up to other readers to note that RR does not understand the difference between construction workers and utility workers. Further it is not about ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ it is about better ways to protect workers, the public, and the environment.

    “Just for the record, and to show how laughably inconsistent he is, here is what Kit had to say in the wake of the Massey coal disaster that killed 25 people:”

    Kit is not reading a report on an investigation to that event. If RR provides a report on it I will e happy to read it and comment.

    [link]      
  33. By rrapier on February 15, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Kit P said:

    “One more time, BP is not the oil industry.”

    The DEEPWATER is a report about the oil industry. It is the authors of that report that suggested that the oil industry look at the US nuclear industry as a model of good safety performance.


     

    You know the old saying “Whenever you find yourself in a hole, stop digging?” That’s a lesson you never learned. You seem to think that when you are as wrong as you are here, you can just filibuster until people forget just how wrong you were. The Deepwater report is about one slice of one segment of the oil industry: Deepwater drilling. Maybe you should have caught that from the title. Yet you have used that as a a proxy for the entire oil industry. At the same time, you wish to disown the fatality rate of the coal industry as being unrelated to electrical power production and the fatality rate of farmers as being unrelated to ethanol production – both of which you have deemed as safer than the oil industry.

    “Kit’s verdict: Even though this is only one sector, Kit judges the oil industry as unsafe.”

    Kit provided no verdict. Kit provided a source of the information.

    You certainly have. You have told us all about the lessons that the oil industry hasn’t learned, and you have told us that ethanol is a better way of making energy. All you do is provide verdicts steeped in ignorance.

    It is up to other readers to note that RR does not understand the difference between construction workers and utility workers.

    I think readers have already noted the fact that both upstream and downstream of the utility, the fatality rates are higher than in any sector of the oil industry. I think we can also note that perhaps you don’t know that utility workers actually work on power lines, and the fatality rate of that sector is higher than the fatality rate of the oil extraction sector. Thus, by your own arguments, delivering electricity is inherently unsafe, and perhaps your industry could invite some folks in from the oil industry to tell you how to lower your fatality rate.

    Kit is not reading a report on an investigation to that event. If RR provides a report on it I will be happy to read it and comment.

    That’s odd. If you are going to declare the coal industry safe and the oil industry unsafe — even though the former has over double the fatality rate — I would think maybe you are the one that should spend some time reading. Your contradictions are glaring. But then what else is new? Data analysis and interpretation has never been a strong point of yours. Digging into a position and cherry-picking data in support of that position is. That, more than anything else, probably explains why you are a make-believe engineer.

    Let me hand the shovel back to you. I am sure you want to dig some more.

    RR

    [link]      
  34. By JN2 on February 15, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    RR v Kit P:
    Just so you know, I skip all comments from Kit P. Also any reply from RR to Kit P. Life’s too short.

    [link]      
  35. By mft on February 16, 2011 at 1:52 am

    just recently i met someone from china who confirmed that there were indeed 5 plants in china with the ABE process… i’m not so sure they were stopped. anyway, it doesn’t change anything, it’s not worth/efficient…

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  36. By Optimist on February 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Maybe you need to create a separate page for Kit to comment on, to prevent him from hijacking worthwhile discussions with his IS!-Is NOT! style…

    [link]      
  37. By Optimist on February 17, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Your ability to put on blinders and ignore all contradictory data while sticking to your narrative is something not too many people can pull off. On the other hand, it isn’t exactly something you want to identify as one of your strong points in a job interview.

    The guy will make a great politician, though. In fact, he’ll fit right in with the crowd in the capital. Sadly.

    [link]      
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