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cessna

Transportation of ethanol

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Just read about transportation issues of the increased amount of ethanol. More railcars and locomotives are being built and where is it going to be needed. Too bad we're so political instead of practical---- if we'd just use 20-25% in all cars and E85 in more flex-fuel vehicles, we could use it close to the point of production.

Marty

 

 

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Ethanol Transport Needs Grow  02/22/07 08:12

 

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TUCSON, Ariz. (DTN) -- By some estimates, the U.S. ethanol industry could expand production capacity from about 5.4 billion gallons to about 11 billion gallons in the next couple of years. However, that success is expected to put a lot of stress on the ethanol transportation system.

 

Members of the Renewable Fuels Association Tuesday celebrated what industry leaders say was ethanol's most successful year to date in 2006, but one fuel transportation expert cautioned that it's the 2007 encore that could see problems develop in the ethanol transportation system.

 

Robert Reynolds, president of fuel transportation company Downstream Alternatives Inc., said the transportation sector will be scrambling to keep pace.

 

"There's still some concern about where all this product could go," he said. "... I know there's rail cars ordered, I know there's a bunch of locomotives ordered, barges and tow vessels ordered. But we don't know exactly where all the product's going to go. We don't know where the market's going to be. ... We can probably suppose that 2 billion will go to the south. But if you ask me where the other 4 billion is going to go, it might go to the Midwest, we might see an improvement in the California market where, if they start blending it at 10 percent instead of 6, that would demand more rail."

 

On the other hand, Reynolds said, "you might see more product maybe trying to go to Louisiana or Alabama and that would favor a barge movement. Nobody knows for sure right now if the right segment of the industry is gearing up."

 

As demand for more rail transportation is on the increase, he said, the lead time for ethanol plants to have rail-car orders filled is much longer.

 

Reynolds said it used to be a four-month lead time for rail cars, but it is "much more than that today.

 

"Every couple of plants that come on, that's like the equivalent of adding another unit train," he said. "So if all the plants that are under construction right now come on all at one time, I would suspect that we're going to have some challenges with rail capacity."

 

Some of the major rail carriers have added and have on order a number of locomotives, he said.

 

In addition, Reynolds said the ethanol industry continues to be hampered by a lock system on the upper Mississippi River and its tributaries that is "pretty pitiful."

 

"They have to basically break a barge tow in half because of the size of the tows, vs. the size of the locks," he said. "Even before all this growth, we were having trouble with delays because there's a lot of traffic on the river. And so clearly, if products continue to move through barge there's going to have to be some improvements. Basically the whole upper Midwest portion of the river, the locks are not in the best of shape."

 

While there will be transportation challenges, Reynolds said, "it's not as bad as it sounds.

 

"But still you're adding an increase to a system that is already strained," he said. "Same thing on the rail. It's a very small percentage of all the tankers that are shipped. And it's an even smaller percentage of all the cars originated. You're talking 1 or 2 percent."

 

Reynolds' company has conducted a number of studies for the U.S. Department of Energy, he said, including one that looked at how producing 5 billion and 10 billion gallons of ethanol would affect the transportation system.

 

"You really start to see the strain is around 9, 10 billion gallons," he said. "It starts to get kind of hectic because it becomes a much bigger percentage of the total at that point."

 

If the transportation system is unable to keep up, Reynolds said it will be important for the ethanol industry to bolster inventories on the East and West coasts where ethanol is delivered from the Midwest.

 

"Because of our modes of shipment we can't do just-in-time delivery, we have to have inventory," he said. "You'd like to have a minimum of 10 to 15 days of inventory in a given market collectively, and we're pretty much doing that."

 

Reynolds said the ethanol industry typically has about a month of production in storage at major delivery points in New York, New Jersey and California.

 

As the ethanol industry expands, he said there will be less corn being shipped by rail.

 

"On the other hand there will most likely be more DDG (dried distillers grain)," Reynolds said. "We're approaching the point where we're probably going to have to have more going into export market, because at 11 billion gallons that's a lot of dried distillers grains to move into the feed market."

 

Cars can sit in rail yards for days waiting for something to happen, he said. The trend in the industry is to go by unit train, where every car in the train has ethanol on it and is pulled by locomotive, he added. It leaves from its origination, delivers the ethanol to its destination and turns around and comes back.

 

Right now the focus is on adding tanker cars, improving logistic management and improving the rail yards, Reynolds said.

 

"I would suspect in the next decade we're going to have to see some track laid," Reynolds said. "We're adding thousands of tanker cars a year. Wait time on tanker cars right now is between six and 18 months. If you take that and you look at the production that's under construction that's going to be coming on at different points in the next 24 months, it appears to me that production is going to come on faster than the rail cars can be built. What I think will happen because of that, is that some ethanol will move to local markets, there may be a period time that the focus might be to market to the Midwest where you can deliver it by truck."

 

On barge tows, he said shipments of any product can face 12- to 18-hour delays in the Midwest portion of the Mississippi, as barges are too large to weave through the Corn Belt locks. He said if lock size was increased, "gerrymandering" to get around the locks could be eliminated.

 

Although rail cars and barges have been ordered by ethanol companies, he said, the next challenge is to figure out where new U.S. ethanol markets will develop. Reynolds said the Southeast is a likely the next developing ethanol market, as the product will eventually be moved down the river to truck transport.

 

 

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The answer is a diversity in Ethanol PLant Locations.. you cant have all the ethanol plants just in the midwest ..thats also not practical

 

I think we will reach a point where there is no need to "transport" ethanol from Iowa to Georgia for example..Georgia will have it's own ethanol plants able to sustain itself..

 

strategic location of ethanol plants will take care of the transport issue .. that will happen as we enter the biomass/cellulosic ethanol production  -georgia already is building a woochip ethanol plant

 

The biggest issue today is that ethanol is still a corn based fuel...which limits it's location to the midwest and forces the transport issue

 

 

 

 

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How hard is it to "de-water" ethanol that has been sent via pipeline?  That is the major excuse I have read about for not using pipelines.  My take on that is that if water is getting into our gasoline pipelines then fuel is probably getting OUT of the pipelines into out ground water.... but that is not the topic here....

 

Rather than building refineries everywhere, we should explore the possiblility of a pipeline style distribution system just like the one used for gasoline, that has a "mini refinery" at each distribution point for de-watering purposes.

 

Keith

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There is no need to dewater ethanol in a dedicated ethanol pipeline. The reason you do not ship ethanol in oil pipelines is because no one wants to deal with the mess the terminals will get the first time it is shipped. Ethanol is an excellent cleaning agent, pipelines are very dirty as are the storage tanks at the terminals. As an example- when I was in the oil business- we were always on the lookout for problem loads. One situation brought stringy material thru in diesel fuel- it turned out to be from years worth of corrosion inhibitor sluffing off the bends in the pipeline. More common was water/ black sediment/ bacteria from pipeline terminal tank bottoms. All this material becomes HAZMAT if you do not sell it as fuel. Many pipelines in use today were built in the '50s and 60's. The terminal storage tanks will contain water bottoms that would be unacceptable for ethanol. Who in their right mind would want to introduce a clean product like ethanol into that mess??

 

Lets face it- when cellulosic, sugar, and corn ethanol plants are in place all around the country the distribution by truck will be more efficient than pipeline. For all the talk about pipeline efficiency- if you look around the midwest there are far more ethanol plants than oil pipeline terminals and you still have to haul from the oil terminal to stations. What the ethanol industry lacks is ethanol tanks in every station hooked up to blender pumps so you do not have to haul ethanol to oil terminals for blending and back to stations (oil companies will resist this) but instead mix e10, e20, e85 at the consumers fingertips.

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1outlaw, My Farm Bureau Spokesman just came yesterday.  In the National Affairs Update part, info on a biofuels bill which  just passed the U.S. House, they approved 10 million dollars to study how to update infrastructure with research and demonstration projects. What's it going to take to get the lawmakers to come up to your place and see what works---for 2 years now I think? You could say---give me the $10 mil and I'll show what works. Until ethanol plants are located everywhere, we could have tank farms for ethanol every few hundred miles apart that the train could unload at easily and distribute by truck from there. One of my sorta friends is on the National Corn Growers board and I've made sure he knows about blender pumps but I think he's become such a politician that he'd rather lobby for laws instead of going to UL and grabbing the bull by the horns and making some practical changes. When I start thinking about this, my teeth start grinding and my chest gets tight, it infuriates me so.

Martin

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Cessna-

I told my Gilbarco pump rep to offer our blender pump that is at our first site to UL. We have no issues to date with this unmodified , out of the box dispenser over the past 22 months since it was installed. I also have had no trouble with meter creep (product giveaway) that supposedly could become an issue due to corrosion of the aluminum meter heads. It has metered approx. 700,000 gal. of ethanol and 1,000,000 gal. of NL gas. When I change filters- the aluminum filter base look brand new inside- no discoloration. I really would like to take one of these dispensers apart to see the copper lines, aluminum meters, and seals on the inside.

 

It will take Govt or independent (non-brand) to bring on ethanol blend pumps- major oil will not make this easy- they feel like they lose control over a station's and jobber's supply. Mark my words- It will be made to sound like quality control will be why it should not be done (a whole 'nuther topic).

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Fourdoor wrote     that has a "mini refinery" at each distribution point for de-watering purposes.

 

All that would be needed is a molecular sieve at the end. Not a whole refinery.

 

I was not sure what equipment would be required, and it sounds like from what 1outlaw said it would take a huge amount of filtration (at least at first) while all the crap that has built up over the years in the pipelines was washed out by the ethanol.

 

Keith

 

PS:  I agree 100% on the blender pumps.  Totally retarded to have to worry about different blends for winter and summer, and shipping ethanol and gasoline all over the place rather than a blender pump feeding from a pure ethanol tank, and a gasoline tank that the station can just flip a switch to adjust for spring, summer, winter, and fall blends as well as E-10

 

 

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Exactly.. The Midwest is a perfect Place to demonstrate the value of Blender Pumps for those very reasons ..and of course the move to blender pumps would spread the blenders credit around which can help finance the blender installs

 

 

Lets face it- when cellulosic, sugar, and corn ethanol plants are in place all around the country the distribution by truck will be more efficient than pipeline. For all the talk about pipeline efficiency- if you look around the midwest there are far more ethanol plants than oil pipeline terminals and you still have to haul from the oil terminal to stations. What the ethanol industry lacks is ethanol tanks in every station hooked up to blender pumps so you do not have to haul ethanol to oil terminals for blending and back to stations (oil companies will resist this) but instead mix e10, e20, e85 at the consumers fingertips.

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