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Very interesting to read and listen to the NEC presentations. Much to learn about the aspects of the ethanol fuel. I have a better understanding of the complexity to work within petrol and automotive manufacturers to improve fuel supply for decreased emissions. The nature of oil refining to optimize equipment and processes to produce a wide array of products is the primary concern. The fuel industry is oil as well as a large part of the energy industry and to that extent the success of new fuel will only work if the oil industry agrees to the change and can manage to maintain its' margins and utilize the entire product stream cost effectively. The refiner has computer programs that simulate cost and product outputs with variables and constraints of those variable to achieve max ROI. The software reminds me of GW in that the warning of being able to front load the constraints or assumptions and achieve any outcome if dishonest. This need of petrol is indeed all important as this is the nature of oil energy production. The industry needs flexibility to achieve good results per cost of production. Also, to balance supply demand of product line. Toluene is a reformer product or from cracker (catalysis) of natural oil distillation stream. It's equivalent to ethanol for RVP and octane, but to date more expensive. As we know thisvpetrol product is carcinogenic, but that comment was never broached.

 

Auto manufacturers are desiring higher octane fuel per the easier path to achieve future CAFE standards. Their state of art internal combustion engine can not optimize E85 fuel, but testing of current production vehicles and the proof of them boosting engine efficiency 2% with ethanol blends is a good thing. The fuel industry is reviewing 100 RON octane as superior fuel for auto needs. The potential improvements include -30% carbon emissions, easy path to 54 mpg, and increase use of ethanol additive. The most important and valued fuel component for efficiency is octane. It may sound easy to achieve this such as blender pump sitting at the gas station, but nothing could be further from the truth. Think in terms of upheaval within the refinery outputs, blending standards, equipment compatibility, fuel availability, changeover, etc. It will take years; over a decade if the industry gets to work immediately. The flex vehicle is a tough future path per stringent EPA certifications and besides the vehicle can not be optimized for a wide fuel blend. The owner sees little benefit to make the purchase and manufacturers are losing incentives for the production. Nevertheless, the fuel producers have a big incentive to improve per the fuel cell and battery car technology breathing down their neck. The group talked of blending to octane and not per ethanol content. This would give a local ethanol process plant ability to utilize E40 blend with natural gas to meet spec. No refinery needed. Also, terminal blender would utilize much ethanol in summer and switch to more toluene in winter to utilize the oil product line. The topic of utilizing all the refinery product line and the difficulty that would present to them is ethanol took 40% of the gasoline market. Diesel fuel production would not meet demand. Interestingly a participant brought up the Cummings E85 truck engine as the solution to not enough diesel fuel.

 

All of this complication that ethanol industry has to live with and the status of being not an alternative fuel but of a additive, reminds me of Dan's arguments of not going down that path. Ethanol is an assistant to make gasoline less harmful. While a worthwhile endeavor, especially short term, the future of ethanol would be forever be attached at the hip. All of the constraints of ethanol are per the business, complexity, and emissions of oil. The competition will have a the upper hand per the fossil fuel image and emissions. In my opinion the best future of ethanol would be an optimized E85 or E100 engine such as Cummings developed. That is the break away path. The heavy duty truck market per diesel pollution is prime target as their emission above the light duty vehicles. This technology will eventually work its way into the car market if trucks provide the proof and benefits. We should be competing with diesel fuel instead of blending with gasoline.   

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Much of the throttle hold on ethanol benefits is the misguided application of historical benchmark of CAFE standards. The panel made the comment that ethanol with its lower Btu content is disadvantaged with the standard. The benchmark must be updated to fairly evaluate competing fuels by another standard, such as carbon efficiency, or emissions per mile. I will add the fallacy of evaluating electricity as a energy source within credits of BEV sales. Electricity is just another form of fuel and should be evaluated per emissions like the rest (life cycle). 

 

The heavy duty truck engine fuel path is particularly attractive to ethanol per the performance improvement (2x torque), loss of the  nasty emissions of diesel, and the ease of conversion. As compared to CNG conversion and infrastructure investment, ethanol is a piece of cake. If truck manufactures received incentives per the environmental improvement this conversion could proceed rather quickly as compared to the complexity of super premium gasoline. The merits of ethanol would stand on its own two feet and progress at optimum. The emissions of the truck fleet are more than light duty, so ethanol could make a huge contribution. Cummings optimal E85 engine had achieved operating costs of diesel. So, the environmental benefit would be the motivation. A incentive that goes unrewarded to date. Pollution control would be less complicated and utilize less expensive equipment. Weight savings of utilizing one half sized engines would be attractive, but probably lost per extra fuel storage. The initial design, probably spark plug ignition per Cummins technology. 

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A lot of turmoil in fuel energy markets have over shadowed ethanol concerns. The big players including regulators appear not to concern themselves with helping ethanol even if the fuel can solve problems of car efficiency, CO2 emissions, and removal of unhealthy components of fuel. While the unsustainable low cost of fuel will end in near future, these trends have a habit of fifteen year cycle. Meaning, the $100/barrel cost a thing of the past. Market analysis have signaled diesel fuel will be in over supply condition for the future. Seems the petrol companies were betting on a large share of transportation converting to diesel per the CAFE standards. The standard is firmly in place as a measure of improvement, no matter the crap rating of the fuel. The emission regs have been positioned to make the fuel acceptable with some Engineering improvements. Ethanol is just an additive with some good attributes, but the fuel will be cornered, suppressed, and controlled to maintain to a side bar fuel status as a much needed outcome to make nice with the major players.

 

How, is ethanol (a mature industry) going about to sustain itself? Probably by not attempting any hard ball tactics and risk the loss of the RFS in which bestows on the industry an insurance security. They are being encouraged to put in place financial plans to shore up for future per the threat of, here to stay, low margins. The industry should not sit and wait hoping for the best. Not to milk the cash cow as long as possible, but to cooperate within the industry to buy, merge, and consolidate. This corporate restructuring is the most efficient path for companies to utilize best talent and magnify that talent through out multiple process plants. In addition their is more resources and more influence for success. Resources can best be utilized to turn around low performers for superior ROI.

 

It's a given that unleaded fueled vehicles will utilize higher octane fuels, but petrol is gearing up to make the provision. One would think regulators would be critical of fuel components, but in my opinion they are at a disadvantage since petrol is so powerful and influential. Meaning they have always met the challenge to power our economy and need latitude since the refinery science is so complex. You would need to go to them with hat in hand and ask if ethanol provided 40% of the gasoline sales how would that impact the industry? I'm guessing it wouldn't be good. Compare the black magic of petrol to simplicity of ethanol for informed regulations and emissions control. It would be good for the nation if ethanol could get out of the shadow of oil. EPA would only need to classify optimized E85 vehicles similar to battery car and stand back.

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It seems the work of changing the nations future fuel mix is strictly within the cooperation of petrol and auto manufactures. With inputs of EPA and ethanol, but the hard core component is what automotive needs and what petrol can provide. Since petrol is the supplier of fuel across the planet, they have to meet the challenge to invest in new equipment and processes. They have to be able to afford and accomplish the mission in concert with both industries. It appears the concern is octane and not ethanol. Ethanol may play a role, but the formulas limit the contribution to current levels of production.

 

This is a crucial period of time for ethanol, as forces of change are upon the fuel industry. The consuming public should have a voice. The need for decreased emissions should be priority number one as well as utilizing renewable fuel. There should be flexibility within the fuel supply to change fuel and empower competing fuels as adjustments to mixes of fuels. Petrol has a habit of over production or under, with the market manipulation.  We should avoid setting up a fuel supply that would subject the nation to be totally dependent on the savageries of oil markets. We should have in place an alternative plan of action that adjust to increase in ethanol production, loss of oil production, and adjustments per costs. Flexibility should be job number one.

 

A couple of examples:

 

1. Nothing to date is more flexible than a blender pump. It would serve the national interest to standardize on this fueling system. A low cost blend stock of gasoline standardized upon the industry needs served up to eliminate boutique blends or seasonal change over. Let the blender pump accomplish needs of EPA and octane demands of automotive. These blends could be approved and certified with strict quality control surpassing current industry standards. Ethanol has extremely accurate simple molecular character that drives quality control. The blender pump offers flexibility to get the job done. The fuel mix could flex to low cost option with the limit to always meet EPA guidelines. Automotive would gain access to a wide variety of octane numbers.

 

2. Flexibility improved with a flex vehicle. A different class of flex vehicle, one that is optimized to run on higher octane numbers, but nonetheless can operate on lower octane per fueling need. Automotive technology is up to the task, if EPA would allow tolerance in their emissions for non standard fueling conditions. Meaning the consumer would be at a disadvantage to fuel up on low octane fuel, this would naturally motivate the owner to fuel up correctly for increased power and mileage. No, expensive EPA control needed. Forget the costly entire range of fuel mix certification.  

 

3. Petrol could simplify and standardize their concerns to gasoline as well as ethanol to stand alone stature. A two tank solution to keep the industry honest. The nations fuel supply could naturally adjust to increase capacity of either component and adjust naturally to needs of EPA and automotive. The gasoline mix could change per changes in ethanol supply as well as the needs of refinery over or under supply. We may be in an era of not certifying a fuel blend, but a blending process. Change in fueling requirement would be on auto pilot market and emission sensitive.

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