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FutureStarrGrowers Turning to Technology and Ethanol in Fuel Saves
Despite the industry's history of confusion, fear, and misinformation, some technological visionaries believe that cellulosic ethanol can be made with an energy balance similar to gasoline's.
Farmers could save a bundle at the pump and significantly reduce carbon emissions. Furthermore, ethanol with higher octane ratings can enhance vehicle engine efficiency and performance.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from corn, sugar cane or grain that has been fermented to extract sugars. It can be used as an alternative for fossil fuels as it has less of an environmental footprint than gasoline while being cheaper to purchase and produced around the world.
In the US, ethanol is often blended with gasoline in fixed ratios to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions. This blending takes place at marketing terminals and depots as well as inside vehicles.
Many drivers find that using a blend with higher ethanol content improves their vehicle's performance and allows them to use less gas. This is especially beneficial for drivers of Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs), who can benefit from higher ethanol-to-gasoline blends than gasoline-only cars.
However, drivers of such vehicles should be aware that certain models are more vulnerable to issues when running on E85 than others. For instance, some engines can experience overheating or stalling when running on E85; however, newer engines come equipped with sensors which automatically adjust the air/fuel ratio, so this problem may be less of an issue than in years past.
Another concern with using ethanol-blended fuel is that it attracts water, leading to fouling of filters and injectors. This is especially true for engine parts in lawnmowers, chainsaws and other off-road equipment.
One way to help avoid such issues is by checking the pump label for maximum ethanol content recommended by your vehicle's automaker. Some older models, such as those with model year 2000 or earlier engines, cannot accommodate higher ethanol blends.
According to EPA regulations, pumps that dispense a high-ethanol content blend must be labeled. Customers must read this label so they know how much ethanol will be in their vehicle's fuel tank.
Ethanol-blended fuel not only offers better mileage and savings money, but it can also contribute to environmental sustainability. By cutting our dependence on fossil fuels, we are helping the country reach its targets for cutting carbon emissions.
Ethanol plants are the backbone of America's biofuel industry, producing ethanol from various plant products. Compared to other fuel sources, ethanol burns more efficiently and emits fewer greenhouse gases. Furthermore, it's renewable and biodegradable - making it an environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline.
An ethanol plant typically processes corn or other starch-based crops to create ethanol and coproducts such as distillers grains and carbon dioxide. These facilities typically employ dry mill processing, which is more energy efficient than wet milling.
Many ethanol plants are located in the Midwest, where agriculture is a major industry and corn is an essential food. These facilities have significant economic benefits for communities by creating jobs and raising local income.
The ethanol industry continues to innovate and achieve greater yields from the same volume of feedstock with less energy use. In addition to corn, scientists are exploring ways to incorporate other plant products such as wood waste into the process for increased efficiency and higher outputs.
One promising line of research involves spraying a chemical and enzyme mixture on corn stover before it's bound up into bales. This pretreatment reduces the need for chemicals, fertilizers and other expensive inputs.
Researchers are exploring new methods to transform plant materials such as corn into fuels. This is particularly important since most of Earth's land surface is currently being utilized for growing these crops.
Cellulosic ethanol can be made from a variety of plant materials, such as rice straw and corn stalks. This type of ethanol is more economically produced and offers higher yields than traditional starch-based ethanol sources.
Though this technology is still developing, it holds great promise. It can produce fuels with high CI scores that could command a green premium and replace other fossil-fuel derived liquids.
Another emerging technology involves breaking down cellulose into ketones that can be fermented into ethylene - a chemical commonly used in industrial processes. According to Cooper, this can save significant energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
American ethanol plants are continuously striving to enhance their efficiency, producing more gallons of fuel with the same feedstock with less energy use. Furthermore, they use lower levels of ethanol which has a lessening effect on the environment.
Ethanol in fuel not only reduces environmental effects, but it also saves you energy costs when driving your car. It is more efficient than gasoline and can be used in vehicles designed for flexible blends of ethanol.
Ethanol can be produced from a variety of plants, such as corn, grasses and woody agricultural waste materials like straw. The first generation ethanol process utilizes enzymes and yeast fermentation to break down plant cellulose into fermentable sugars. A second generation ethanol process utilizes pyrolysis which converts plant cellulose into liquid bio-oil or syngas.
Some of these processes are still under development, but they could be much more eco-friendly than current ethanol production. Not only would this help ethanol meet RFS requirements but it would reduce the amount of grain farmers need to grow.
Cellulosic ethanol, produced from cellulose-rich biomass like wheat straw or sugarcane bagasse, has the potential to be an especially carbon efficient method of making fuel. Unfortunately, start-up issues and government resistance have hindered progress on this technology.
Recently, two companies collaborated to develop low-carbon ethanol at an Emmetsburg, Iowa production project. Poet and DSM were developing a cellulose-based technology that had the potential to produce 95 million L of ethanol annually from corn stover.
Recently, researchers from UC Berkeley conducted a review of the ethanol industry and discovered it to be an efficient fuel with a carbon intensity score about 10 percent higher than gasoline. However, they note that land used for production plays an important role in this score's calculation.
Thus, planting new corn releases a considerable amount of carbon into the atmosphere during its lifecycle. Therefore, the ethanol industry needs to do a better job at estimating emissions associated with both its activities and those of farming in general.
Ethanol, a biofuel made from corn or other plant matter, is blended into gasoline to reduce emissions of toxic and ozone-forming pollutants as well as greenhouse gases. Furthermore, it increases octane level which improves fuel economy.
Policymakers often consider ethanol a solution to high oil and gas prices, the need for more renewable energy sources, and climate change. In certain cases, policies related to ethanol can offer economic benefits to feedstock producers as well as complementary industries that support rural development.
In Pennsylvania, farmers who sell their corn to an ethanol plant receive a premium over commodity rates. This provides economic benefits for farmers and creates jobs within the agriculture sector.
However, ethanol does not come without negative consequences for growers. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requires a substantial portion of US corn to be converted to ethanol, creating economic distortions and increasing world food prices at the same time.
To mitigate these potential negative consequences, ethanol advocates have advocated for loosening restrictions on the percentage of ethanol that can be used in gasoline. They contend that ethanol is cheaper than petroleum and adding more of it will lower gasoline prices.
According to two sources familiar with the plans, the Biden administration may reduce the 2022 ethanol blending mandate below the proposed 15 billion gallons despite opposition from oil refining lobby and unions.
Opponents of the policy contend it would put undue stress on food prices and could depress prices for other goods, such as clothing and furniture. They further argue that producing ethanol isn't a wise investment since it does not yield as much profit as other fuels like natural gas or gasoline do.
Ethanol can be used to replace expensive additives in gasoline, such as MTBE and benzene. This reduces costs associated with refueling while decreasing fuel use and pollution.
Ethanol also helps extend gasoline stocks by replacing some components in the fuel supply. Furthermore, it reduces the use of fossil fuels in power plants, thus decreasing carbon emissions.