Ethanol Pipeline Across Florida Nears Opening

central_florida.gifA pipeline that has carried gasoline the 104 miles from the Port of Tampa to the Orlando since the mid-1960s could soon be carrying ethanol across the Sunshine State.

This story posted on the St. Petersburg (FL) Times web site says the 16-inch pipeline owned by Kinder Morgan is going through some upgrades in preparation of becoming the nation’s first ethanol pipeline by the third quarter of this year:

The booming U.S. ethanol industry is watching the project closely. If successful, it could lead to a boom in ethanol pipeline projects nationwide, since shipping by pipeline is significantly cheaper than shipping by train, barge or truck.

“It’s a test for us, and everybody else, to see if we can make it work,” said Joe Hollier, spokesman for Kinder Morgan. “It will be a big advantage if we are able to move ethanol by pipeline, obviously.”

As you might remember from my February 20th, 2008 post, there’s also another ethanol pipeline in the works… a 1,700-mile venture from the Midwest to the East Coast. That project is still under study with the feasibility of such a pipeline to be determined, hopefully, by the middle of this year.

Brothers, 9 & 13, Create Biodiesel Symbol

biodiesel_logo.jpgThe two sons of a man who runs the green initiatives portion of a New York metro area company that rents out chillers, air conditioners, generators, electric heaters, oil-fired heaters, comfort cooling, air compressors, propane and natural gas heat, and portable air handlers have come up with what they hope becomes an international symbol for biodiesel (pictured left).

Alex and Austin Gere’s father, Joe Gere, is behind On Site Energy Co.’s biodiesel-fueled portion of the rental company. According to this press release, Gere wanted to find a way to promote the green option his company was offering:

Gere had gone looking for a generic symbol to place on the company’s rental equipment that would show they used Biodiesel fuel. He was shocked to find out that there was no universal symbol and turned to his two sons and along with local Freehold artist Gil Almogi crafted what they are hoping will become the new symbol for Biodiesel. The registered mark consists of a fuel nozzle dispensing a biodiesel droplet in the form of a “Green” earth. Alex & Austin were quoted together saying, “We learn about the environment in school and the effects of pollution and how it affects the globe and not just one country. We wanted to show the planet how it should look – all green and blue.” On Site Energy Co has been the first company to adopt the new symbol and they (the Gere brothers) have commitments from several others as well, their goal is to see their design around the world and hopefully it will allow people to see we can as individuals make a difference no matter how slight it may seem.

And you thought it’s something if your kids just make their beds! Good job, boys! Look forward to seeing your symbol make its way around the world… starting at just one web site at a time.

Ethanol-Powered Crop Dusters

A Brazilian aircraft maker is selling more ethanol-powered crop dusters these days.

Ethanol Crop DusterEmbraer is one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in the world, including commercial and corporate jets as well as defense systems. The company has a subsidiary called Neiva that specializes in smaller planes, like the Ipanema, a low-wing agricultural monoplane – or crop duster.

According to Wired, Neiva recently delivered its 50th ethanol-powered Ipanema.

Since 1973, Neiva has sold over 1,000 of the crop dusters, most of them in the Latin American market. The company began selling ethanol versions of the plane in 2002, which makes sense, considering that Brazil is one of the top ethanol producers in the world.

Embraer also has been selling ethanol conversion kits for earlier versions of the plane. According to the company, in addition to reducing fuel costs, converting an Impanema to ethanol cuts maintenance and operating costs by 20%.

The Ipanema was the first aircraft in the world certified for ethanol operations. Embraer is now reportedly spending $250 million to investigate alternative jet fuels made from babassu, jathopa and algae.

CleanTech Researches Waste to Ethanol

ctb1.jpgCellulosic ethanol is gaining ground… and CleanTech Biofuels is the next in line to research how to turn waste into fuel.

CleanTech Biofuels is pleased to announce that it has engaged Hazen Research, Inc to construct and operate the pre-commercial stages of our Municipal Solid Waste to Ethanol project at Hazen’s eight acre research facility in Golden, Colorado.

hazen2.gifIn late January of this year, CleanTech Biofuels purchased a reactor system from the Forest Products lab at the University of California at Berkeley and reassembled it at Hazen. This reactor system has successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of our HFTA cellulose conversion technology on wood waste feedstocks at Berkeley. Currently we are utilizing this reactor system at Hazen in the first phase of our project to optimize reaction conditions for our Process Engineered Fuel derived for municipal solid waste as well as other cellulosic feedstocks including corn stover, wood waste, and switch grass.

Hazen Research has an experienced and competent staff supported by the laboratory and pilot plant facilities necessary to apply the most appropriate technology to evaluate any industrial, commercial, and environmental issues we may encounter as our project moves from development to commercialization. They maintain all permits, governmental (Federal, State and Local) permits, licenses, and other approvals necessary to complete this project.

NorthStar Fleet Goes Biodiesel

n.gifNorthStar Moving says its trucks might be red on the outside, but they’re now green on the inside. The moving and storage company is operating its truck fleet on biodiesel fuel.

NorthStar Moving Corporation has announced that they have converted all of their trucks to biodiesel fuel. NorthStar Moving continues to find new ways to lighten its carbon footprint, now powering its vehicles with cleaner burning fuel made from natural renewable sources such as vegetable oils.

Diesel fuel emits harmful toxins into our air and is responsible for the majority of California’s known cancer risk from outdoor air pollutants, according to the California Air Resources Board. Diesel particulate matter also contributes to more than 2,000 premature deaths, asthma attacks, and other respiratory problems each year. These problems are exacerbated when large vehicles are left idling. NorthStar Moving hopes other moving companies will follow their lead and convert their fleets to biodiesel as well.

NorthStar Moving not only took the radical step of eradicating all diesel fuel from its fleet, but also installed battery-powered lift gates on all of its trucks so that the vehicles could be turned off while the lift gates are still in use. This alleviates any need to leave vehicles idling.

Alltech Plans “Greenest Generation” Biofuels

The latest company to get into the cellulosic biofuels race is Alltech of Lexington, Kentucky. The company was awarded a grant last week by the US Department of Energy to begin work on a $70 million plant in Springfield, Ky.

Dr. Mark LyonsThe head of that project is Dr. Mark Lyons, son of Alltech president Dr. Pearse Lyons. This young man has inherited the business and scientific intelligence of his father and already has experience that will help him make this plant a reality in short order, having been in charge of international projects for the company, including the largest yeast plant in the world located in Brazil.

Mark Lyons says the $30 million DOE grant will make the project much easier to accomplish. “This gives us the possibility to think much bigger than we would have been forced to,” he said in an interview. “And that means that the time frame to get where we want to will be that much shorter.”

The facility Alltech is planning will be a commercial cellulosic ethanol plant. “I think the fact that Alltech is positioned so strongly in the animal feed and the animal health business and that we have this background and knowledge of the ethanol business, we’re really in a unique position,” said Lyons. “We have a very definite plan, we’re very confident, and essentially this is an idea that we actually had 30 years ago.”

This week Alltech has been hosting an international symposium, appropriately titled for an Earth Day theme “The Greenest Generation,” which has focused on a variety of issues important to agriculture, the environment and the world. Some 1700 participants from all over the world have been attending.

“We have to take this challenge,” Lyons said with regard to the theme. “We want more energy globally, more food, and we have to do that with less impact on the environment.”

You can listen to an interview with Mark Lyons from the Alltech Symposium here:

Cows Helping Make Ethanol

cowmicrobe.jpgA study by researchers at Michigan State University says that an enzyme from a microbe that lives in cows’ stomachs could help get more ethanol out of corn.

This story from Science Daily says scientists have figured out how to grow corn with the enzyme already in the grain… keeping lots of cows’ guts out of the picture:

The enzyme that allows a cow to digest grasses and other plant fibers can be used to turn other plant fibers into simple sugars. These simple sugars can be used to produce ethanol to power cars and trucks.

MSU scientists have discovered a way to grow corn plants that contain this enzyme. They have inserted a gene from a bacterium that lives in a cow’s stomach into a corn plant. Now, the sugars locked up in the plant’s leaves and stalk can be converted into usable sugar without expensive synthetic chemicals.

“The fact that we can take a gene that makes an enzyme in the stomach of a cow and put it into a plant cell means that we can convert what was junk before into biofuel,” said Mariam Sticklen, MSU professor of crop and soil science.

The new corn variety, called Spartan Corn III, is still in the testing stage. No word when it will be available for commercial production.

Click & Clack Search for Ideal Hybrid

clickandclack.jpgI don’t recommend a lot of TV shows on this blog (you’re too busy reading Domestic Fuel, right?), but I did catch an episode of Nova on PBS tonight that I thought would be of interest here. In honor of Earth Day today, the show, “Car of the Future,” looked at the various alternative energy vehicles out there.

Leading the search for the ideal hybrid were the irrepressible Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers of National Public Radio’s famed Car Talk. While Tom and Ray Magliozzi (their real names) went from an overpowered rollerskate of a car that ran on gasoline (which they asked if the alternative was safety) to a high-powered sports car called the Tesla which drives like a REAL sports car… only on electricity.

Tom and Ray were their crazy, funny selves as they looked at ethanol, biodiesel, hydrogen power and electric-powered cars and how those technologies are used. Funny… and informative.

If you missed the episode, you can catch it online by clicking here. There’s also lots of information to read at PBS.org. Check it out! I think it is worth a look.

Ethanol for Earth Day

If every car in America would use a ten percent blend of ethanol for one week, the amount of greenhouse gases produced in the U.S. would be reduced by nearly 1.3 billion pounds.

That is according to calculations done by life sciences researcher Nathan Danielson, president of BioCognito.

BioCognito“What we did was take some fairly complex modeling that was done by Argonne National Laboratory and distill it down to where it would mean something to the average consumer,” said Danielson. “We considered if you took E-10, E-85 and cellulosic ethanol and put it in a typical gas tank, what would the impact on the environment be.”

Assuming a car with a 20 gallon gasoline tank, Danielson found that filling up with E10 can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 9.5 pounds per tank.

“Ethanol is just a very good fuel for reducing overall carbon foot print,” Danielson said. “The story gets better if we go to E85. If we get to E85, all the sudden you are sitting at about 90 pounds of carbon dioxide that you’ve removed from the atmosphere by using ethanol instead of gasoline.” Everyone filling their tanks with E85, he says, would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 12.4 billion pounds in one week.

Better still, Danielson says that the same situation using ethanol derived from cellulose could reduce greenhouse gases by 282 pounds per car per week, or 38.5 billion pounds a week if used by every car on the road. He thinks that cellulosic ethanol will be “ready for prime time” within the next 5-7 years.

Joanna Schroeder with the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council says most average consumers can make a difference today by filling up with either E10, which can be used in virtually every gasoline powered car engine in America, or E85 in one of the 6.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road today, according to

“The great thing about using ethanol is you don’t have to wait to make an environmental impact,” Schroeder said. “Every single time you fill your tank with an ethanol-enriched fuel, you’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Ethanol Saves Missouri Motorists Money

A study released Monday shows that Missouri drivers are saving money at the pump thanks to ethanol.

John Urbanchuk at Missouri CapitolAccording to research results announced at a press conference in the State Capitol, drivers in Missouri are expected to save an average of 9.8 cents per gallon this year due to the 10 percent ethanol standard that went into effect Jan. 1, 2008.

The study, “Impact of Ethanol on Retail Gasoline Prices in Missouri,” was performed by John Urbanchuk with the economic consulting service LECG and paid for by the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council.

“The mandate went into effect in 2008, but last year 70 percent of the gasoline was voluntarily blended with ethanol,” said Urbanchuk. “So, using actual data for 2007, we calculated that the savings for Missouri was roughly 7.8 cents a gallon. Works out to about $156 million for consumers.”

“Then we looked at 2008 moving forward using current information for prices and projections by the Energy Information Administration,” he continued. “And we concluded that for 2008 the savings are about 9.8 cents a gallon, which works out to about $73 for every driver in Missouri.”

The study does not factor in the increasing use of biofuels like ethanol that are helping to extend gasoline supplies and hold retail pump prices down. According to Merrill Lynch commodity strategist Francisco Blanch, U.S. gas prices would be 15 percent higher without the increasing effect of biofuels. Without ethanol, the price at the pump would be $3.70 a gallon instead of the recent average price of $3.25 a gallon.

Listen to an interview with Urbanchuk about the study here.

A pdf file of the study report is available here.

The State of Cellulosic Ethanol

Cellulosic ethanol is no longer a pipe dream. It’s real and it is being produced today.

That was the message Tom Slunecka, Vice President of Business Development for KL Process Design Group of South Dakota, gave at the 2008 Agri-Marketing Conference in Kansas City last week. Slunecka provided a detailed overview of the state of cellulosic ethanol to agri-marketers during a conference breakout session that included just what cellulosic is and what the future holds.

Tom Slunecka at NAMA 08KL Process Design Group was the first company to get a small-scale cellulosic ethanol plant on-line using waste-wood material to produce about 1.5 million gallons of ethanol a year. The company is currently providing teams in the American LeMans Series with an 85 percent cellulosic ethanol racing fuel.

“Currently there are three different teams, four different cars running,” said Slunecka. “We have two Corvettes, we have a prototype car and we have an Aston Martin, all running on E85R cellulosic race fuel.”

Slunecka explained that there are several different processes that can be used to convert biomass into biofuels. “Our process is a heat and mechanical pre-treatment process. There is a biochemical process, there is a syngas process, and then there are combinations of all the above,” he said. “There is no silver bullet. We’re gonna need them all to produce the amount of fuel that is needed.”

And that would be the amount of cellulosic ethanol required under the energy bill passed by Congress last year. “The Renewable Fuels Standard does require that we have over 21 billion gallons of renewable fuels created from biomass over the next ten years,” said Slunecka, a goal he says is a high hurdle, but does provide incentive for investors to put money into the development of these fuels.

Slunecka also talked about the potential for the type of small-scale plant his company has designed to be created by adding a wood processing component on to the front end of a traditional corn ethanol plant, or adding a traditional corn ethanol-type component on to the back end of an existing wood processing plant.

In addition, Slunecka says one of the unique factors in KL’s process design is that it creates two different by-products that have very high value. “One is a very high protein syrup that can be used as a feed supplement or can be burned in biomass burners,” he said. “The other is a product called lignin, which is leftover from plants after the sugar has been removed.” Lignin has a variety of uses, from burning for energy to a basis for paints and cosmetics.

Listen to an interview with Tom Slunecka here:

Ultrasonic Horns Could Help Produce More Biodiesel & Ethanol

sonomechanics.jpgA Canadian company says it has technology that will help shake loose more sugars from corn to make more ethanol and more oil from feedstocks, in particular algae, to make more biodiesel.

An e-mail to Domestic Fuel from Industrial Sonomechanics says the company has made ultrasonic technology on an industrial scale that would be perfect for biofuel production. Now while lots of companies claim all sorts of benefits for biofuels, Industrial Sonomechanics offers this article from research at Iowa State on how this technology would work:

There are considerable amounts of residual starch in the whole stillage, which are not easily accessible by enzymes during liquefaction. However, generation of additional ethanol necessitates some form of pretreatment or use of an improved enzyme. One strategy to improve ethanol production is to integrate a high-power ultrasound into existing dry milling ethanol plants. We hypothesize that retrofitting a high-powered ultrasonic unit in existing ethanol plants will yield more ethanol.

Background: We have investigated such a possible improvement, the use of ultrasound in dry corn milling, that would have a significant impact on the long-term sustainability of bioenergy industries. Ultrasound pretreatment generates cavitation in the aqueous phase resulting in strong hydrodynamic shear forces. The shear forces facilitate the disintegration of corn slurry into fine particles, thereby exposing a much larger surface area to enzymes during liquefaction / saccharification. As a result, the enzymatic activity will be greatly enhanced.

The company also offers a chance to see how these ultrasonic vibrations can help get more oil from algae. I don’t have any indpendent confirmation how well this process really works, but it is worth reading at the Industrial Sonomechanics web site.

Hybrid Cars Take Off Dramatically

rlpolk.gifA new report from R.L. Polk & Co. says sales of hybrid vehicles rose 38 percent in 2007, compared to the previous year. The report also points out that better technologies and infrastructure are needed for ethanol- and biodiesel-powered vehicles to live up to their sales potential.

This press release from the automotive marketing and research company says the economical Toyota Prius, which runs on gas and charges batteries as it drives, still leads the pack with just more than 50 percent of all hybrid sales:

“Auto buyers are benefiting from new hybrid launches, and fleecing of old models that didn’t work. There is a lot of excitement being generated within the industry as manufacturers adjust plans to adapt to consumer demand,” said Lonnie Miller, director of Industry Analysis at Polk. “While the Toyota Prius has a stronghold on the midsize car hybrid segment, the Toyota Highlander and Ford Escape share leadership positions in the SUV hybrid segment. As hybrid buyers migrate within a brand, manufacturers have to be prepared to meet their expectations for offerings if they want consumers to remain loyal.”

While most of the market continues to see hybrid models enabled by various forms of gas-electric powertrains, the entire hybrid segment will evolve as other technologies are developed and tested. With the end-goal of providing more fuel-efficient vehicles, future offerings will expand beyond the current generation of hybrid models.

“Hybrids are a great foray into the world of fuel-efficiency for many buyers,” said Miller. “Unfortunately, we still have an uphill battle for diesel and ethanol adoption given the need for more consumer education and improvements with filling station infrastructure. It will be interesting to see how more advanced technologies progress this whole category, but they can’t come soon enough.”

Ironically, oil-rich Oklahoma had the largest increase in hybrid sales… up 148 percent! In addition, high gas prices seem to be pushing the hybrid markets in places such as Los Angeles and San Francisco where drivers are putting up with some of the highest prices in the country. Those markets combined make up nearly 20 percent of all hybrid sales.

Rock Port, MO First to be 100% Wind Powered

loesshillswindfarm.jpgElectric meters are running backwards as Rock Port, Missouri became the first town in the country to run on 100 percent wind power.

This article in the Maryville (MO) Daily Forum says the meters started moving in the other direction after this weekend when the four wind turbines (pictured on the right) on a hill just above the town started producing more electricity than residents were using:

windcapitalgroup.gif“Rock Port officially declared its energy independence today,” said Tom Carnahan, president of the St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group that brought the Loess Hills Wind Farm to fruition.

Opening the official ceremonies celebrating the launch of the five-megawatt alternative energy system, Eric Chamberlain, project manager for Wind Capital’s Rock Port project, told the gathered crowd of several hundred residents, students and interested parties that the city’s wind turbines were not only generating the energy “Rock Port is using at this time, there is enough for another community this size.”

After remarks by Chamberlain, Rock Port Mayor Helen Jo Stevens, Carnahan, Missouri 6th District U.S. Rep. Sam Graves and Martin Wilkinson of John Deere Credit USA, the ceremony’s organizers brought out an oversized light switch — complete with a green toggle — and symbolically made Rock Port the nation’s first community to draw100 per cent of its electric energy requirements from a renewable source.

“We are now the No. 1 community for our percentage of renewable energy,” according to Chamberlain.

“Government, industry and private citizens all worked together to make Loess Hills,” Chamberlain said. He cited the Missouri Department of Natural Resources for its help in rebuilding an electrical substation at Rock Port and also the benefits derived from federal tax credits for alternative energy sources.

“But John Deere turned the possibility into reality,” Chamberlain said. The company signed on with Wind Capital Group to develop the 50.4-megawatt Cow Branch Wind Farm between Rock Port and Tarkio but had nixed early ideas for a smaller project to serve Rock Port only. When a new request for power bids that included language allowing consideration of alternative energy sources was distributed by the Rock Port City Council, that thinking changed.

This is the second of four wind projects Wind Capital Group has completed in Northwest Missouri. Carnahan says his company will need two important components to finish the other two: long-term renewal of the federal wind-energy tax credit and voter approval of a ballot measure this November in Missouri that will require the state to get a certain percentage of its energy from renewable sources.

Ethanol Getting Greener

Argonne A new analysis of America’s ethanol industry shows dramatic efficiency gains in ethanol production have been made in the last five years.

According to an analysis conducted by the Argonne National Laboratory, American ethanol facilities are using less energy and water than just five years ago while producing more ethanol. Water consumption is down 26.6 percent, grid electricity use down almost 16 percent and total energy use almost 22 percent lower.

The Argonne analysis compares ethanol industry data from 2001 to 2006. In 2001, U.S. ethanol production was 1.77 billion gallons. In 2006, U.S. ethanol production was 4.9 billion gallons, an increase of 276%.

RFA“This is not your father’s ethanol industry anymore,” said Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dinneen. “As the industry has grown over the past several years, we have adopted new technologies, we are looking at new feedstocks, we are becoming more efficient every day. The ethanol industry takes its responsibility as stewards of the environment very seriously.”

The Argonne analysis also found key trends that are making ethanol more efficient and environmentally friendly. Nearly 25% of ethanol producers today are capturing their carbon dioxide emissions for use in dry ice production and carbonated beverage bottling. In addition, 37% of distillers grains – the high protein livestock feed co-product of ethanol production – are now sold in the wet form, reducing the energy needed to dry and transport the product.

Read the full report from Argonne in pdf form here.