Category Archives: Ethanol Research

Audi gets behind renewable gasoline made from sugar

Audi  sees renewable biofuel alternatives as an integral part of the future of motor fuels—in fact, according to a recent report from Wired, the automaker is investing in gasoline made from sugar. This sweet fuel can run in any gasoline-powered vehicle, without modification!

audi-inline-1

image: audi

Audi has partnered with Global Bioenergies, a French company creating bio-isooctane by fermenting sugar with specially engineered E. coli bacteria. This reduces production cost and increases efficiency.

“Bio-isooctane can be used as a direct replacement for gasoline, or blended with conventional gasoline much like ethanol. The company has demonstrated the process in a lab, and is in the process of building two production plants. The goal is to produce more than 100,000 liters of gasoline annually — a pittance from a global perspective, but the program is a working proof-of-concept, and that’s where Audi’s investment comes in.”

Bio-iooctane is not the only “drop-in” fuel headed to the pump. Renewable diesel made from tallow and other renewable oils is in production and ready to replace petroleum diesel in the near future. And it just so happens that Audi has several turbo diesel models on the roads and more on the way—looks like Audi is on board with renewable fuel and ready to offer drivers choice at the pump.

Read more from Wired.

Five surprising things that can be made into fuel for your car

You may be familiar with the most common feedstocks for renewable fuel, but there is a whole host of lesser-known products that can be made into fuel for your car. Below we’ve listed  a few of our favorites.

1. CHRISTMAS TREES!

Xmastrees_1227

Once January rolls around, un-tinseled and de-decorated Christmas trees line the sidewalks, waiting for garbage trucks headed to the dump. But in some cities, like San Francisco, California, discarded trees are turned into more than just landfill fodder. Instead, the trees are processed into biomass, which can be used as a renewable fuel feedstock.

Photo credit:  CINDY CHEW/S.F. EXAMINER

2. SUNFLOWERS

sunflower

Sunflowers, as it turns out, aren’t just for brightening up long stretches of rural highway or yielding seeds for snacking and spitting: they can also help power your diesel car. Those same seeds you seed scattered under the bleachers at the local Little League diamond have a high oil content that makes an ideal biodiesel feedstock. Next to solar-powered vehicles, it just might be the closest you’ll get to running on sunshine.

3. ALGAE

These little photosynthesis machines are masters of turning sunlight and CO2 into energy. Industrious producers, like the fermenting engineers at Solazyme, can capture the processing power of algae to create a super-efficient source of  renewable oil. Last year, in a successful month long pilot program, Propel Fuels and Solazyme partnered up to launch the nation’s first publicly available algae-derived biodiesel at Propel stations across the Bay Area. Hopefully, a full-scale launch is in the near future.

Photo credit:  National Algae Association

4. CORN COBS

Forget the kernel, just give me the cob! Ethanol producers are developing methods to use agricultural waste, like corns cobs and stalks, as feedstock for producing cellulosic ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel. In fact, “Project Liberty,” a 20-million-gallon cellulosic fuel plant operated by POET is slated to open this year, and the resulting fuel can be plugged right into today’s growing network of ethanol retail stations.

Photo credit:  Domestic Fuel

5. ANIMAL FATS

Mazda6-tallow

Turns out you can make biodiesel from pretty much any fatty oil including the leftovers from rendering plants a.k.a tallow a.k.a animal fats. In fact, the diesel Mazda6 NASCAR racer was loaded up with some “chicken guts, beef tallow and pork lard” biodiesel for the Rolex 24 Endurance Race in Daytona this past spring. Perhaps the bumper sticker, “My Car Eats Meat” is apt?

Ethanol proves to be a sweet opportunity for California farmers

Most of California’s sugar mills have closed up shop in recent years, leaving sugar beet farmers without a market for their crop. But now ethanol derived from sugar beets is providing a new opportunity for these farmers and their communities.

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Farmers in the small community of Mendota, California are leading an effort to bring back the once widely-grown sugar beet crop. In 2008, Spreckels sugar plant was shuttered, leaving many residents without a job and farmers without a purchaser for their beets. In a stroke of ingenuity, the seed company suggested the community grow beets for ethanol. Thus, the Mendota Bioenergy company was formed!

field_beets

According to a recent report from California public radio, “Mendota Bioenergy has a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission – and the partnership of university experts from UC Davis and Fresno State – to complete the test site. It should be up and running this winter and, if all goes as planned, the company will then build the nation’s first commercial sugar beet biorefinery in Mendota by 2017.”

Mendota Bioenergy will not only produce a domestic alternative to petroleum gasoline, but the ethanol plant itself will also have a sustainable focus with measures in place to let nothing go to waste. Plus, beets grow well on marginal lands and require very little fresh water. Overall, ethanol produced from California-grown sugar beets and processed in the Mendota refinery will have a much lower carbon footprint than petroleum gasoline, lower even than typical corn-based ethanol. Now that sounds like a sweet deal.

Read more from The California Report.

New engines maximize ethanol’s power and MPGs

Most drivers like the power, price and renewable benefits of E85, but are looking for ways to increase MPGs. Engines designed with gasoline as the primary fuel are not maximizing ethanol’s potential, which can often lead to mileage penalties. However, new  technology from manufactures like Ricardo is geared toward running efficiently with ethanol’s higher octane rating.

In a recent interview with Fleet Owner magazine, Robert Kozak, president of Atlantic Biomass Conversions pointed out that, “Such engine designs tap into the positive ability of ethanol to resist early ignition, thus regaining much of the previous fuel economy loss,” Kozak explained. “Higher octane ethanol makes an internal combustion engine operate more efficiently – up in the 30% to even 40% range – while it’s also priced lower than gasoline, on the order of 10 to 15%, because of its lower Btu or energy content.”

The goal is to produce direct injection engines that perform equal to if not more efficiently than current gasoline engines. And this is what Ricardo engine product group has developed in their ethanol boosted direct injection platform.  According to Rod Beazley, director of Ricardo, Ethanol’s higher octane rating allows the fuel to withstand compression rates closer to that of diesel engines. The higher the compression rates the better an engine can translate energy into power.

These first steps toward boosting ethanol efficiency in heavy-duty engines opens the door for continued technology innovation and helps solidify ethanol as a desirable choice for drivers.

Read more from Fleet Owner.

Wired Magazine Debunks Top Five Ethanol Myths

We couldn’t help but repost this succinct and well-written piece from Wired Magazine’s Forrest Jehlik — guest contributor extraordinaire and mechanical engineer for the US Department of Energy Argonne National Laboratory’s Transportation Technology R&D Center.

While there is no single super-solution to all the world’s energy needs, ethanol-based Flex Fuel E85 is a domestically produced, sustainable fuel that is readily compatible with millions of vehicles on the road today, no conversion or modification required. (See a list of current Flex Fuel vehicles here.)

As Jehlik writes, he’s spent a lot of time at Argonne researching ethanol (though an editor’s note clarifies that he remains energy-neutral). In the article, Jehlik quickly debunks the following five ethanol myths, with legitimate sources to boot:

>> READ THE FULL ARTICLE FROM WIRED.COM

Myth #1: Ethanol requires more energy to make than it yields.
Myth #2: Ethanol production reduces our food supply.
Myth #3: Ethanol crops and production emit more greenhouse gases than gasoline.
Myth #4: Ethanol requires too much water to produce.
Myth #5: Cars get lower gas mileage with ethanol.
(Currently, there is some truth to this last one, but modern engineering could significantly improve fuel economy and further increase a cents-per-mile advantage for ethanol.)

Jehlik’s piece is a reminder that ethanol is an alternative fuel that can be readily used to help relieve our dependence on petroleum today – and next generation ethanol fuels will only increase in sustainability and energy efficiency.

Be sure to check out Jehlik’s full write-up at Wired.com, or for more information on ethanol as a fuel, visit the Argonne National Laboratory Transportation Technology R&D Center and the Renewable Fuels Association online.

Michigan Sheriff’s Fleet Saves with E85

Low price at the pump combined with limited MPG-loss combine for significant savings.

Huron County Sheriff’s Office began an experiment last March that had the department testing blends of Ethanol from E50 to E85. The goal: saving the county money through its fleet of 12 flex-fuel vehicles.

Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson found that as long as ethanol prices are less per gallon than the price at the pump for unleaded fuel, it would result in a significant cost savings. “As it turns out, our patrol fleet, which is mainly Chevrolet Impala cars, averaged between 1.5 miles to 2 miles less per gallon on E85 as opposed to unleaded,” said Hanson.

The Department also experimented with E50 and found that there was just about a one mile per gallon difference.

“When we basically went and took a pencil to it, it was determined that as long as pricing patterns remained the same, E85 would be the better choice,” he said. “Obviously, we are going to have to continuously monitor price differences in order for the county to benefit.”

If the price difference (with unleaded fuel costing significantly more) remains the same between E85 and unleaded, Hanson said the department stands to save nearly $1,000 per 25,000 miles.

“When you take into consideration our office puts on more than 400,000 patrol miles in a year, our county could benefit from the use of ethanol,” he said.

But access to the fuel can be an issue. Because Bad Axe and Harbor Beach do not have ethanol stations, Hanson said those patrols vehicles that start out of Bad Axe and Harbor Beach will frequently be forced to use unleaded fuel.

“Our deputies are being encouraged to purchase ethanol if they are in the vicinity of an ethanol station and their vehicle could use fuel,” said Hanson. “It would be pointless to specifically drive several miles in order to just buy ethanol.”

Full Story

From Moonshine to Fuel: Ethanol is an American Tradition

Clean, American ethanol is a part of our history! Click the images below to learn more.

Propel Featured in Ethanol Producer Magazine


Hot off the presses! The February issue of Ethanol Producer Magazine includes a spotlight article on Propel Fuels and the company’s mission to provide the retail infrastructure necessary to bring renewable fuels to the consumer, now and in the future.

In the article, author Kris Bevill details Propel’s unique business model – which includes fostering a symbiotic relationship where Propel leases space on which to build their Clean Fuel Points from existing fuel retailers  – as well as the funding, support and partnerships that CEO Matt Horton says are so elemental to Propel’s current and future success.

“Rebuilding the nation’s fueling infrastructure takes time, but we need to understand as an industry that it’s more than just making a pump available,” Horton is quoted as saying. “We need to treat this issue holistically and make sure we’re addressing all the key drivers for success.”

Today, Propel offers biodiesel at its stations in WA State and both E85 and biodiesel at its stations in CA. Additional plans to expand locations and product offerings in accordance with market demand are in the works.

For more info, check out the full article from Ethanol Producer Magazine
or visit Propel Fuels.

Propel Hosts First Stop of EcoTREK’s “Best of America Tour”

EcoTREK is driving 10,000 miles crosscountry in an American-made Flex Fuel vehicle, powered with cellulosic ethanol provided by POET — all with the goal of increasing awareness of the economic, environmental and national security benefits of domestically grown biofuels.

Tom Holm, Executive Director and intrepid driver for EcoTREK, made Propel’s Oakland Clean Fuel Point the tour’s first destination. Propel CEO, Matt Horton welcomed Tom to the station and shared his enthusiasm for EcoTREK’s goal. “Today we got a preview of ultra-low carbon fuels from non-food sources, representing the next level of sustainability for fuels that can run in our vehicles today. Propel, EcoTREK and POET each represent critical pieces to reducing our dependence on petroleum; widespread consumer access, advanced vehicle technologies, and the next generation of renewable fuels.”

POET’s cellulosic ethanol is produced from corn cobs and light stover (leaves, husks, some stalk) at a pilot pant in Scotland, South Dakota. Work is underway at Project LIBERTY, POET’s planned 25 million-gallon-per-year cellulosic ethanol plant, which will be built in Emmetsburg, Iowa.

Read more about EcoTREK’s Propel visit.

Follow Tom’s journey on the EcoTREK blog.

EcoTREK in Oakland

Music: Quiet Life hailing from Portland, OR. Check out their music.

Check out new 2011 Flex Fuel Vehicle models

Find out if you can drive E85 Flex Fuel! Propel Fuels has updated our website with the current list of Flex Fuel-compatible vehicles, including new 2011 models — and your car, truck, van, crossover or SUV could make a difference. Made in America from renewable resources such as corn, switch grass and agricultural  waste, E85 Flex Fuel helps to:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Support American jobs and farmers
  • Decrease the need for imported oil
  • Strengthen the domestic economy

Check our Flex Fuel Vehicle List today to see if you can help drive America’s future with clean, E85 Flex Fuel — or, for more information on E85, visit www.PropelFuels.com.

A sampling of 2011′s new Flex Fuel vehicle offerings:

Ford Fusion
Take advantage of versatile size & surprising power with the Fusion’s Flex Fuel-compatible 3.0L Duratech V6.

Ford Super Duty F250
One of the most clean fuel-friendly vehicles on the market, the 2011 F250 is available with either a Flex Fuel-compatible gas engine OR a burly diesel engine that can accommodate biodiesel blends of up to 20%!

Dodge Challenger
What’s more American than classic, American muscle? American muscle FLEXing its power with clean, renewable, American fuel!

Dodge Charger
Higher-octance Flex Fuel E85 feels right at home with the Charger’s track-inspired styling.


Innovative design & E85 capability wins Automotive X Prize

The ultra-light, E85-powered Edison2 vehicle getting 102 miles per gallon won the top award in the automotive X Prize.

Out of 111 competing teams, the Edison2 car was chosen as the winner of the Mainstream Class, 4-passenger, 4-wheel vehicles. The “Very Light Car #98″ weighing about 830 pounds,  boasts a 250cc engine fueled by high-octane E85.

The Edison2 team will use the $5 million prize to help bring the vehicle to market in a more consumer-ready version.

Read more the Automotive X Prize.

Ford’s new police Interceptor E85 compatible

Ford’s new offering to the police force comes equipped with an E85-compatible 3.5L V6 engine that boasts  280 horsepower.

The Interceptor SUV and sedan will both be built at a Chicago Assembly Plant–American-built vehicles that can use American-made fuel.

Read more about the Ford Police Interceptor.

Air Force Base adds Freedom to its Fuel

Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst is helping to create independence from imported oil, providing security to our nation in a whole new way. The base has announced the addition of E85 Flex Fuel, a change that positively affects our economy, our environment and our security.

Government Flex Fuel vehicles are required to use E85 to help meet Federal renewable fuel goals. An executive order states that federal agencies need to reduce energy intensity by 3 percent each year, leading to a reduction of 30 percent by the end of 2015.

“Ethanol is a much safer source of fuel for our environment,” said 1st Lt. Delwyn Campo, 87th Logistics Readiness Squadron, fuels management flight commander. “Along with implementing biodiesel in 2003, E85 is just another great step JB MDL is making toward a long-term environmental change.”

The joint base has two E85 fuel tanks – a 12,000-gallon tank at McGuire and a 10,000-gallon tank at Lakehurst – that are available for flex-fuel government vehicles. There are currently 261 vehicles at McGuire and 43 vehicles at Lakehurst that are E85 capable.

“It’s important for us as a country to start moving away from our dependence on petroleum-based fuels,” said Col. Gina Grosso, JB MDL commander. “This is a big step in that direction, and the joint base is now a model for this initiative.”

Read More

Run faster, cleaner? Use E85.

The old rules of racing are being challenged as cleaner and more efficient automotive fuels find their way to the track. Project Green, a group of researchers from the Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory has found that modern fuel-injected engines powered by E-85, outperform the same engine with a carburetor and leaded racing fuel. The cleaner burning fuel injection engines have been replacing carburetors since the 80s, except on the track.

“The testing disproves two widely and firmly held beliefs in the circle track racing community: that carbureted engines are inherently more powerful than engines equipped with a fuel injection system; and that E-85, which is less expensive than leaded racing fuel, is not well-suited as a fuel for race cars”, says Forrest Jehlik, principal mechanical engineer at Argonne’s Center for Transportation Technology.

Read more http://www.anl.gov/Media_Center/News/2010/news100707.html

This 4th of July, Declare your Independence at the Pump

The Clean Air Choice Team, lead by the American Lung Association in North Dakota, encourages drivers to choose American-made fuel this Independence Day weekend.

E85 Flex Fuel is a new option at the pump for most drivers. The goal of the Clean Air Choice Team is to educate consumers about E85 fuel and its compatibility with flexible fuel vehicles.

Robert Moffitt, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association in North Dakota, said, “we calculate that if a single flex fuel vehicle is fueled with E85 instead of gasoline for a year, it prevents 4 tons of emissions from entering our air.”

The Clean Air Choice team has launch a North Dakota campaign encouraging drivers to fill tanks with E85 over the 4th of July weekend. Every trip to the pump is an opportunity to choose cleaner burning, domestically produced fuel.

Celebrate your freedom to choose what type of fuel to put in your car, truck or van. Find out if your vehicle can use Flex Fuel E85.

Can’t recycle that soiled cardboard? Try fuel.

Of all the tons of corrugated cardboard recycled by the Cedar Rapids paper mill in Iowa, 5 percent of fibers from old containers cannot be recycled, which equates to about 50,000 tons of paper waste ending up in a landfill every year. Fiberight LLC plans to change this.

Fiberight has partnered with International Paper Cedar River to convert waste paper into cellulosic ethanol fuel. The clean tech company converted a first-generation corn ethanol plant in Blairstown, Iowa into a cellulosic ethanol production facility.

According to Todd Olstad, the paper mill’s operations manager, “through Fiberight’s new facility, we can now be assured that whatever recycled fiber can’t be made into new packaging can be used to create green energy, while helping us offset our disposal cost.”

By 2011, Fiberight’s facility will reach a final commercial production capacity of about 6 million gallons of cellulosic fuel per year.

Read more about Fiberight’s cellulosic fuel plant.

Next generation biorefinery breaks ground in Boardman, OR

With production expected to begin next year, Colorado-based ZeaChem has broke ground on a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery in Boardman, OR. The plant will use ZeaChem’s core technology, to produce ethyl acetate, a salable chemical intermediate that can turn poplar tree waste into cellulosic ethanol. The biorefinery is expected to produce up to 250,000 gallons per year.

“Breaking ground on ZeaChem’s biorefinery in Boardman is a significant milestone,” said Jim Imbler, president and chief executive officer of ZeaChem. “As a leader in this industry, ZeaChem is committed to producing economical and sustainable advanced biofuels and bio-based chemicals, creating jobs, and being a good neighbor in the community.”

ZeaChem is receiving $25 million in stimulus money for the plant that will create 300 direct and indirect jobs.

Read Press Release.

Advanced fuel test crops flourish in California

UC Davis test plot yields for advanced biofuel crops prove fruitful.

Findings from a three year switchgrass trial have shown increasing yields, from twelve to eighteen tons per acre depending on the site. Several switchgrass varieties were tested at facilities in El Centro & at UC Davis. Switchgrass has the potential to be a whole-plant cellulosic ethanol feedstock and is considered an important crop for the future of renewable fuels. The hardy grass begins its annual growth in the spring and can grow 4-7 feet tall. Leaves measure 30-90 centimeters in length.

Switchgrass uses C4 carbon fixation which means it is fairly efficient in the photosynthesis process and tolerates drought and high temperatures. The grass has low fertilizer requirements and grows well on marginal land.

Many of these hearty crops can grow on marginal lands and have the potential to produce biodiesel and cellulosic ethanol, and provide a new revenue source for American framers.

Read more about advanced feedstock research from Western Farm Press.

Buick Regal joins 2011 Flex Fuel Vehicle lineup

Add another flex fuel capable model to the list. All 2011 Buick Regals will be flex fuel ready starting this fall. The retooled 2.0-liter direct injected turbo engine is designed with alternative fuel in mind. The new design will increase fuel efficiency while using Flex Fuel E85.

As technology continues to improve, future engines will maintain the same level of fuel efficiency whether using flex fuel or petroleum gasoline.

Read more from autoblog.com.

See a list of all Flex Fuel Vehicle models.

Just in time for BBQ season . . . grill with ethanol

Trade in your charcoal barbaque for a cleaner burning alternative–grill with ethanol using FlameDisk®. Sologear, a Wisconsin-based company, developed FlameDisk® technology to create a new, more ecofriendly heat source for existing grills. The grilling technology uses solidified ethanol, it lights quickly and is ready to cook right away.

Sologear describes FlameDisk® as  “much more eco-friendly than charcoal and lighter fluid because it features renewable ethanol. Ethanol is extremely clean burning and generates 90% fewer pollutants than charcoal. The FlameDisk®’s aluminum casing is also recyclable.”

More about FlameDisk®.

Why Wait? New Lamborghini is E85 compatible

No news on the price tag, but Lamborghini aims to make its new generation more efficient, meet a 35 percent CO2 reduction goal and add E85 fuel compatibility.

A post from Car and Driver reports that Lamborghini is working on “stop/start capability to thrift fuel in urban settings, cylinder deactivation—so that both the V-10 and the V-12 can operate on half as many cylinders—E85 compatibility, and possibly even a mild-hybrid solution.”

Lamborghini will also utilize carbon fiber to reduce the weight of the vehicle and offset any weight-gain from incorporating a hybrid system. Lamborghini collaborated with the University of Washington and Boeing to create the Automobili Lamborghini Composite Structures Laboratory (ACSL). Look for further developments in this field as carbon fiber costs are predicted to decline by 2012 – 2014.

Read more about Lamborghini from Car and Driver.

Engine maker increases fuel economy for E85

Engine technology is beginning to catch up with alternative fuels. How an engine is designed can directly improve fuel economy for alternative fuels like E85, and Ricardo is making great strides in this direction with their Ethanol Boosted Direct Injection (EBDI) technology. Ricardo estimates that an E85 fuel economy improvement of up to 30 percent is possible with no loss of power or performance, using their EBDI engine in place of currently available gasoline power train. That makes E85 more efficient then gasoline.

So the testing begins. Two demonstrator vehicles are to be produced incorporating Ricardo’s EBDI engine technology showing that extreme optimization of ethanol combustion can enable engine downsizing of the order of 50 percent and still deliver substantial fuel economy and CO2 emission improvements from a cost-effective, high performance, inherently low emission power train. The project will use Ricardo’s EBDI flex fuel engine, developed from a production V6 gasoline engine, to repower two GMC Sierra 3500 HD pickup trucks, each with a curb weight of 6,000 pounds. Ricardo and partner Growth Energy have announced the project aims to show the market-readiness of Ricardo’s EBDI technology, which optimizes flex-fuel vehicles to burn ethanol with consumer value, horsepower and fuel economy comparable to gasoline. All that and independence from foreign oil. We wish them luck!

Read more.