Archive for the ‘ethanol’ category

Greenhouse Gases – What you Don’t Know, Part 2

March 26, 2007

26 Mar 2007 – Significant GHG’s include water vapor, carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane.  Scientific data shows methane in our atmosphere has increased 149% over the past 250 years while CO2 increased 31%.  The methane is a direct result of human activity on our planet, emitting from landfills, feedlots, livestock manure, human and animal waste treatment facilities.  Efforts are underway to tap these significant sources of methane emission – for fuel.  Increased atmospheric concentrations of the GHG methane have paralleled but lagged the following human population explosion of the past 250 years.

Year vs. Human Population
1000  –  10 million
1800  –  1 Billion
1927  –  2 Billion
1960  –  3 Billion
1974  –  4 Billion
1987  –  5 Billion
1999  –  6 Billion
2010  –  ?

(It took millions of years to reach 3 Billion inhabitants; 39 years to get the second 3 Billion)

It is clear where CO2 emissions come from and what influences them, but most of us are unaware that we influence methane and water vapor emissions as well.  In a “GHG contributers” pie, CO2 is but one slice.

If severe greenhouse effects cause severe global warming, wouldn’t an intelligent solution involve reduction of ALL GHG’s, not just CO2?

For example, we can irrigate deserts.  The question is “should we?” – especially since more appropriate places exist where crops are not currently being cultivated.  Localized greenhouse effects due to increased water vapor levels in these normally arid zones contribute to planet heat gain.

In some cases, suggested solutions may not meet our scrutiny.

What percentage of the carbon in ethanol and other biofuels is pulled out of the atmosphere by plants, and what percentage is “mined” by them from the carbon-rich layers of the soil?  What percentage of additional CO2 emissions results from the fermentation process of ethanol?  How much water is “mined” from the ground to produce ethanol?  How much energy is consumed to pump and process the water?  How much fossil fuel is required to cook the plant material when making ethanol?  What additional percentage of CO2 comes from this source?  Is this sustainable, or could we actually reduce overall CO2 emissions by fueling with natural gas instead of ethanol?

For this reason, ethanol may only be a “Bandaid”, but yet help transition us to a multi-faceted, sustainable energy solution such as solar-produced hydrogen.

The effects of our human populations weigh heavily on our environment.  Elimination and reduction of unnecessary and wasteful consumption of resources and products are ways we, as individuals, can address the interconnected issues of environmental sustainability.  As long as we are willing to make the effort.  I will; will you?

Looking out for the planet,

– Lars

Read Part 1 of the article

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Greenhouse Gases – What You Don’t Know

March 2, 2007

2 Mar 2007 – How much do you really know about greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide?!  When supporting a particular approach or decision affecting our environment, one must back up their position with knowledge.  Test your knowledge on these three questions about greenhouse gases!

Which greenhouse gas is trapping more heat on Earth than all the others?  If you said “carbon dioxide” you would be wrong.  The correct answer is “water vapor”.  Water vapor contributes about double that from carbon dioxide!

Okay, second question:  Which greenhouse gas traps heat more effectively, methane or carbon dioxide?  If you said “methane” you would be correct.  In the atmosphere, methane traps heat over 20 times more effectively than carbon dioxide!

Well, let’s try a third, perhaps an easier one:  Which greenhouse gas has increased in Earth’s atmosphere more significantly over the past 250 years:  water vapor, carbon dioxide, or methane?  Let me give you a hint.  It’s not carbon dioxide.  Carbon dioxide only increased 31% while methane increased 149%.  As for water vapor, there is much debate as to the amount of accumulation.

Why then, are we so afraid of carbon dioxide?!  Well, here’s an inconvenient truth, a piece of the pie not yet served:  We are wasteful; and the world is running out of oil to power our motor vehicles; and what quicker way to transform our chosen energy paradigm, than to frighten us… AND (before you get entirely upset) carbon dioxide accumulation in the atmosphere IS increasing the greenhouse effect (our Earth is warming)… but remember:  accumulations of methane, water vapor, and others are also contributing significantly!!!

What can we blame for this global warming?  How about fossil fuels?  Okay.  So let’s eliminate all fossil fuels in 5 years.  That will fix the problem of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, right?  Well, no.  Renewable fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel have carbon in them.  What?!  Yes.  Very much so!  In fact, our old buddy “natural gas” is a lower emitter of carbon dioxide than ethanol.

And hydrogen won’t be ready to take over by then.  Besides, what also happens if we ban all fossil fuel in 5 years?  How will you feed yourself or your family when lights go out or businesses and industries shut down?  What happens to the world economy when money stops changing hands?  What happens to individuals?  (For time sake, this argument leaves a lot out.)  Saving the planet, only to lose human civilization by another method – is not a good option!

Let’s join in bringing about the eventual end of human-initiated greenhouse gas emissions that have increased the global warming.  And let’s do it in a controlled, multi-faceted fashion with parallel solutions that will not create a different problem – that brings about the destruction of human society!

I have a saying that is appropriate.

“Believe half of what you see, and None of what you hear.”

Check out these facts for yourself.  Be responsible.  Make additional comments that help clarify.

Reduce, reuse, recycle, and switch to a new energy source… and be good,

– Lars

Global Demand for Renewable Energy Increasing

February 20, 2007

19 Feb 2007 – Remote generation is emerging as a trend in energy.  Whether it be from wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, biofuel, digester methane, biofuel, or thermal heat recovery – it looks to become a significant factor in energy production.

Now Johnson Controls, in a news release from their website today has announced an expansion in their business in designing, installing, and servicing these types of renewable energy sources.

Johnson Controls is just one example, but many more companies are expected to shift and expand business directions in order to take advantage of the emerging renewable market.

U.S. Moving Away from Corn-based Ethanol Support

February 8, 2007

7 Feb 2007 – The United States Department of Agriculture is directing more funds instead toward research and development activities  to improve conversion technologies for cellulosic ethanol.

$28 million is slated for research into higher efficiency and conversion of the cell walls of energy crops and crop residues into biofuels.  Another $10 million will support conversion of agricultural and forestry biomass into renewable fuels.  Read the USDA FY 2008 Ag Budget News Release for more info.

Food or Fuel blog entry.

Food or Fuel

February 5, 2007

Missouri River, Feb 4, 2007.  The United States is diverting ever-increasing portions of their foodstocks to motor vehicle fuel production.  Will there be enough food left to feed the rest of the world?

Divide the United States in half along the Missouri River.  If you look east you will see primarily biodiesel plants.  Look west and you see mostly corn-based ethanol facilities.

Current Biodiesel plants:  580 million gallons

According to the U.S. National Biodiesel Board, there are currently 86 biodiesel plants operating in the United States.  Seventy percent of these facilities are east of the Missouri River.  These eighty-six facilities have the capacity to produce 580 million gallons of biodiesel fuel per year.

Under Construction:  1400 million gallons

Interestingly, there are 78 biodiesel plants under construction or expansion, and two-thirds of them will be built east of the Missouri River.  Newer facilities are typically larger than existing facilities.  Annual production capacity for plants under construction or expansion is 1.4 Billion gallons per year, so demand for biodiesel raw materials will triple when these go online.

Raw Materials

Just what do these biodiesel plants use for raw materials?  The larger plants historically have used soybean oil.  But in April 2007 in Velva, ND a large, 85 million gallon plant using canola oil – is slated to go online.  Some biodiesel production facilities can use multiple feedstocks such as soybean or canola oil, recycled cooking oil, poultry fat, trap grease, cottonseed oil, or tallow.

E Diesel

E diesel is similar to biodiesel, in that it is a blended fuel product made from diesel fuel and up to 15% added ethanol.  It has been shown to burn cleaner and reduce particulate emissions.  Check it out for yourself on the E Diesel page of the official Government website for the Nebraska Ethanol Board.

In the United States, ethanol production facilities use enormous amounts of corn as feedstock.  A future article will discuss ethanol production facilities in the United States.

Ethanol Production without Fossil Fuels

January 25, 2007

Jan. 24, 2007 Mead, Nebraska – This $75 million E3 BioFuels plant is the first of its kind in the world.  It operates a patented, closed loop process, eliminating the need for fossil fuels in producing ethanol.

It comes as no surprise that this 24 million gallon per year corn-based ethanol refinery is located in the heart of the cornbelt:  Nebraska, the home of the Cornhuskers, and the second leading state in ethanol production.

What makes this facility special is its closed-loop, self-sufficient operation.  8 million bushels of corn per year is transported to the biorefinery and fed into the ethanol-making process.  A high-protein byproduct, wet distillers grain, is fed to the 28,000 beef cattle in the on-site feedlot.  228,000 tons of cattle manure per year is transported to an anaerobic digester where it decomposes, generating methane.  This methane is captured and burned as fuel to cook the corn in the ethanol process.

The entire operation is environmentally friendly and efficient.  As a standalone process, a feedlot would run the risk of polluting watersheds.  But not here.  Likewise, methane gas from manure normally just drifts up into the atmosphere.  As a greenhouse gas though, methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Typically, additional energy would be spent drying wet distillers grain to prevent spoilage and to facilitate transportation.  But with cattle just next door, this energy can also be conserved.  Overall, E3’s synergistic design turns each potential cost or hazard into an environmental and economic opportunity.

Click here to see the plant layout:

 http://www.e3biofuels.com/quickfacts.html

E3 BioFuels plans to build 15 plants within the next 5 years.