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Why is ethanol a better fuel?

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Wow, the continuing analysis of fuel choices for the transportation fleet is turning. More articles and analysis that conventional wisdom is wrong. Just today two articles in Green car congress news. One from Rice University that had the conventional or plugin hybrid fueled with gasoline a much better choice as compared to natural gas fueled car. Dramatic benefits to utilize NG for power generation to offset coal. To utilize NG instead of oil heaters and even better than geo thermal heat pumps. That natural gas powered vehicles isn't much better than what we have now. 

 

Another article that Singapore emission analysis for the Tesla is double that of our EPA. When upstream pollutant of power generation included within the battery car; it's not that effective choice for emissions. This was the standard method or benchmark the Energy Department originally utilized, but EPA per their desires or biases took a most unrealistic rating. They did the same, but opposite tack upon beating up ethanol fuel choice. 

 

Look at the latest USDA 2015 corn ethanol balance doc and read the energy balance of three process plant configurations. Energy for growing corn is roughly 9,000 btu per bushel. Processing ethanol in our typical dry mill plant takes 38,000 btu. Isn't this a tad high? Sure it is and if knowing the industry an easy target to improve. Corn ethanol, currently, in its' common situation sits at 2.1 or 2.3 energy ratio. If the plant updated to 100% CHP processing equipment that ratio goes to 427. Non the lease the tremendous improvement upon utilizing waste heat from power generation, biomass, or wind and solar power. How about the growing popularity of bio digestor gas? Also, many plants are planning to introduce algae culture within the system per pure CO2 feed stock and waste water at which, also, provides farm soil amendments. Is the country gradually waking up to the power of ethanol fuel? What would the emission rating be, of an optimized ethanol vehicle with plug in hybrid technology? It would be a magnitude better and cheaper to manufacture than the current competition. 

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I was reading a Robert Rapier article on Forbs web site that made a statement that crude oil will always be cheaper as compared to  biofuel since nature has already produced the product. He has a point that nature works cheap, but nature is also, not very picky on what it produces. Meaning crude oil suffers from the same geologic poor quality as does coal. Crude has 100,000 various chemical compounds within the mix. Crude is not homogeneous nor consistent. Its' chemical makeup has geographical and well to well variances. Refineries have to continually adjust to produce product with only the roughest benchmarks for consistency. Specific refinery process plants have to be customized to enable ability the processing of a specific grade of oil. The yield varies as the makeup of the products. EPA has only has but a rough benchmark of quality and that is targeted to environmental harm, not human health. Quality of product varies from refinery and blender. It's akin to alchemy per the trade secrets and security to keep production up and minimize dirt available to concerned citizens who may desire to look over their shoulder. These self serving antics will always benefit the oil company at the cost of consumer's health, environment, and pocket book. Why would they act in any other way? This is especially so in the crude oil business given the wealth creation and closed door policy. 

 

​Compare the international oil company business to biofuel. All of the biofuel production to date is local and small business with easy access to information to operations, processes, inputs, and quality of product. The raw material is local and more frequently the distribution. The quality of ethanol is suburb given the simple molecular makeup and consistency of process control under one roof. Formulations of ethanol is exact since physical character is rock solid. Same for the ease of engineering optimized engines to the fuel given the rock solid consistent quality. Same for ease of control of emissions.

 

Just in the past few years we learn of the health harming PM2.5 particles that wreak havoc in our immune systems. The particles are so small, invisible, and can go directly to blood supply. This triggers our auto immune system to run afoul and is thought to be the foundation of just about all our long term ailments. This is much like the leaky gut syndrome we've read about only per the lung pathway. The latest health study claims we have a national emergency on our hands as the pollution is that bad. Cities are thinking of banning diesel engines as they produce the most. Biofuels produce just a small portion of PM2.5 as compared and I'm sure it won't be that hard to eliminate it all from an optimized engine with fuel that has no petrol. Could tobacco smoke be no different than let's say oak leaf smoke in that it is appearing the particles are the culprit. In haling particles a very unhealthy habit.

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Future of ethanol and ethanol transportation-

 

I was watching 60 Minutes last night on autonomous vehicle technology featuring Jay Leno thoughts on the subject. An automotive exec said within 5 years more change will occur within their industry than the anytime in the the industries history. Jay thought the traditional auto will become more like a snowmobile, utilized for sport. Auto insurance, but a small fraction of today's cost. Death rate probably drop to negative as the popularity to  procreate within the front seat. Body shops specialize with vehicle restoration instead of accident repair. Lawyers will need to attack a more lucrative profit center. They didn't say, but I would speculate that domestic air travel will drastically diminish. First per the shenanigans of federal union employees TSA. Thank you for federalizing airport security. I hear no fear mongering nowadays within media so, I guess they achieved what they desired. Instead, my guess, travelers will opt to utilize smart phone and call up a long haul RV type vehicle. They sleep safety and hit the road with no hassle from TSA. Actually, they may travel at high speed per the convey method to decrease wind drag. Buzzing down the road at comfortable 120 mph. And for goodness sake, stop your local politicians from spending valuable tax dollars on rail, light rail, and other forms of public transportation. This is the least desirable way to transport and the most expensive.  

 

I see Walmart is currently experimenting with home delivery via Uber drivers.

 

One can take it for granted that BEV will take over the metro zone personal transportation market since the technology can maximize the expensive auto benefits and usefulness with the added benefit of transferring pollution out of town. 

 

You've read the news that a biomass supplier is combining efforts with Trestle Energy to supply and convert ethanol processing plants boilers to lower the processing plant carbon rating 30%. The carbon rating of ethanol continues to rapidly decrease as cellulosic fuel production continues to improve. The fuel is approaching the top contender for GW solutions at an attractive low cost with most convenience and least disruption. 

 

The R&D efforts for conventional ICE continues to payoff and provide increased engine efficiency . Especially attractive for high octane ethanol, the lean burn and HCCI technology should make the fuel a better choice. The rock solid and physical character of the fuel is proving to make these difficult to control operations, easier. Also, the traditional engine is benefiting mightily from hybrid technology.  

 

I read major players such as Korea, Japan, and France are pushing the hydrogen fuel cell vehicle.

 

We all understand drones will have major impact within mobile solutions technology,

 

Well, to me it appears the GNP of U.S. is poised to rapidly expand if we can hold back the federal government's destructive influence. That investors should be long term U.S. invested in stocks as no other country in international community can invent better ways to utilize and commercially exploit new technology. I think the ethanol solution will continue to increase as a player per owning the lowest cost energy fuel with the best carbon footprint that is utilized in the most cost effective long haul and or high torque vehicles. I don't think any one energy source will rapidly dominate despite the wind and solar high growth per very low volumes. Natural gas will probably gain the most, coal will lose the most. Gasoline and diesel will continue to supply the majority of fuel, but my guess they will not be able to control the market and earn outrageous incomes. They will just ride the cash cow as long as possible and manage a decreasing market share as long and profitable as possible. 

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    • Interesting tidbit from a search engine that describes how to offset our carbon fuel CO2 emissions.

      "t’s a known fact that trees are only temporarily carbon sequesters and that by the time they start to rot, all the nasty material gets transmitted back into the atmosphere again. So why not prevent this? Thus far we’ve been held back from doing so because intervening into the natural cycle somehow doesn’t feel right. But if we only tidied up one sixth of all the tree wastage lying around on the forest floors, we’d be nearing the carbon levels emitted by burning fossil fuels.

      That’s quite a compelling idea. Climatologist Ning Zeng who works at the University of Maryland, published a paper describing the impact of clearing up forests on a the Carbon Balance and Management Journal website recently.

      Zeng’s says that to relieve forests of some of their excess debris, could lead to a recurring carbon sequestering of 10 gigatons of carbon a year. Trees and plants are believed to scrub the air free of some 60 gigatons of carbon a year. Most of that gets emitted back into the atmosphere when living organisms decompose.

      Removing one sixth of the debris before it sets out to rot away might be a hugely efficient way to prevent greenhouse gas emissions, says Zeng. So long as enough woody debris is left on the forest floors to feed new cycles and to maintain bio systems, this is a feasible solution. "

       

      How would GW emissions be affected by Energy Departments 1 billion ton biomass project? The ethanol production capability within? Consider the job creation. The minimizing of fire risk, tree disease, and bug infestion to our national forests and the ability to maximize tree growth for increased efficiency per acre of CO2 conversion. Farmland would be rated a few notches above forests per the land use efficincy and low cost harvesting techniques. Biomass feed stocks are poised to dramactically increase tonnage per acre as compared to forestland. Think of the low till and cover crop efficicency per water use and carbon sequestration. How about bio char use locking up huge sums of carbon for thousands of years and magnifying farm land fertility. Finally, that farm inputs can be acheived per renewable power and done so very efficienctly.  Much promising work on hydrogen production as base feed stock for fertilizer is one example. A farm can work within the parameters of wind power production much easier than typical grid needs.  There is no reason to believe that farm tractors won't switch to E85 fuel in future. Ethanol process plants are just starting to maximise energy efficiency. For example the CHP processing equipment will drastically cut down their energy needs. They are starting to make the switch from natural gas to biomass boilers that will offer 30% carbon improvment.     

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Green Car Congress reported that Ricardo is working on development of a isothermal compression engine utilizing cryogenic injection of nitrogen. Engine efficiency reported at 60%. A prior company in the '90s used water injection to achieve a thermal efficiency in excess of 60% in comparison with around 43% for a current state-of-the-art on-highway heavy duty diesel engine. The key is cooling compression gases by water or nitrogen during this cycle. This greatly reduces pressure and energy waste during compression phase, but upon full compression the heat is transferred back into compression gas. To minimize the destructive explosive combustion and to minimize NOx, fuel is pulsed into combustion chamber to lower pressures and heat. The water injection design was abandoned per the complexity of water storage and resupply requirements. 

 

So, all this R&D work makes me think that benefits of hydrous ethanol. First water storage is a natural. Second the fuel is superior for cooling compression. Third the fuel does not easily ignite per compression ignition. So, all in all my thinking is this fuel would be a natural for high efficiency high torque engines. The fuel will allow more latitude within the parameter such as higher pressures for compression ignition and rock solid fuel ignition parameters. Same for ignition event with spark. For example a lean air fuel mix for compression cooling with a injector squirt at spark plug to start ignition and ensuing pulses of fuel to complete the burn. This engine would be a greatly simplified version of what Ricardo is attempting. Utilizing cryogenic injection of nitrogen sounds a bit foreboding.  All I can say there must be a ton of money for these engineering companies to develop diesel fuel solutions. They can't attract much money with developing the competitor's efficiency.   

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Mahle is a large international corporation supporting auto technology. They have a new igniter for ICE that consists of a small combustion chamber, fuel injector, and spark plug.This igniter receives a small fuel charge and is ignited by spark. The ensuing heat and pressure produces a very hot jet stream to the engines combustion chamber. The ignition energy released to the chamber is magnitudes above spark ignition. This will allow lean burn technology, decrease Nox emissions, and reduce PMs. Efficiency to increase up to 20% or above the 40% level.  So, if you have been following the ethanol fuel discussion on this board you know the cold start handicap ethanol has to deal with. That spark plug selection is very important. E85 fuel mix was established per the needs of cold start operation. This igniter is a game changer for ethanol fuel. The technology is supposedly easy to adapt to per normal mounting and spark ignition. It solves some of the problems for DI PM emissions, but the real kicker is if a E100 fuel or hydrous ethanol fuel were utilized the PM emissions would be but a fraction and the DI valve problems would not occur since carbon build up is gone. Hydrous ethanol probably a attractive fuel per the cooling of compression cycle (below comment). The attractive part of this, is this solution is reliable adaption of in use proven technology. That it easy for car companies to utilize and or change to.  I would guess, the igniter would utilize the same fuel as engine. The small igniter combustion chamber to receive rich fuel ratio and since it is a static size combustion chamber, pressure and temperature would be very high as the fuel burns. Meaning if just a few molecules within the spark are actually ignited the chain reaction producing heat and high pressure will be successful, hence E100 fuel not a problem. The engine would operate at diesel efficiency. Especially if operated on E100 fuel, the car would need less robust pollution control, the fuel cost per mile would decrease, the car would not need expensive high pressure fuel injection system of diesel engine and the expensive diesel pollution control equipment. Also, sooting within the combustion is gone with E100 fuel, thus PMs drop. I read the E10 and E15 fuel doesn't impact sooting. That starting with E20 does the engine produce less.   

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The headline for the albedo study reads as if scientists have discovered yet anther negative impact of ethanol fuel. You read the article and realize the headline should read something like, " Scientist put ethanol rating under the microscope to find Miscanthus cellulosic a negative carbon fuel." I do believe the carbon rating methodology of ethanol leaves no stone upturned, to arrive at the most accurate rating, whereas the competition is never studied to such length. The assumptions and indirect penalties, mostly go to favor the competition. The CAFE ratings, regulations, and story line only concern themselves with the urgency to improve the grid for transposition needs. It's very popular within our environmental group to skip past the ethanol solution. 

 

Not much buzz out there in favor of scientific evaluations, that claim the hybrid vehicle a better choice for environment. Note, in such studies they will never evaluate the most efficient hybrid operating on E85 fuel. They choose to utilize natural gas instead. So, in my book if a natural gas hybrid vehicle is such a intelligent choice wouldn't a high level ethanol vehicle be a home run? If Miscanthus already rated at negative carbon fuel, how could the grid improve upon that? It appears the scientific community is putting ethanol under the microscope to discover some hidden reason not to use the fuel? Meanwhile, proponents of battery car, will quickly dismiss the infrastructure cost of improving the grid as merely as a skip and jump away.  While improving the grid is a worthy venture, they want to utilize the improvement for light duty transportation, wherein in reality the conventional vehicle technology is already rapidly improving. Meaning, the grid has enough challenge to improve itself and the rate of improvement best left to improve traditional grid needs. 

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Developing a variety of feedstock for ethanol production is a good thing.  That has to work hand in hand with the creation of new ethanol production facilities and the support of government officials and policies.   Why is this so difficult to put into play?  Money?

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Farmers like to feed their families, too. University studies of profitable ethanol approaches are welcome before fields are committed to particular crops. Miscanthus is a non-native plant and needs to be considered regarding impact of local flora and fauna. Cellulosic ethanol production from biomass requires investment in more specialized harvesting equipment and methods to determine the optimum amount of corn stover or wheat chaff captured from a field. These types of research assure healthy crops and healthy income for the current and future seasons

Edited by storky

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