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  • 1.  Ethanol

    Posted 08-09-2018 10:34


    I provided an opinion on this on the AIChE Engage site about six months ago.  In response to recent dialogue, including those who think farmers are only charity cases in regard to the ethanol subject, please think again. They provide food you eventually put on the table for loved ones.    The idea of farm subsidies to keep them from growing crops is inherently ridiculous and mal-productive. They should be using any creative means possible to increase production, reduce costs, and maintain quality for food and industrial purposes.   Use of crops to make ethanol and other products creates markets for farmers.  This will keep smaller farms in business and stimulate creativity.  This also helps avoid excessive dependence on a few large farms, a result that can be inherently dangerous and undesirable.

    The ethanol and farming industries have lobbies, as  does every business, including charities.  The American Petroleum Institute, and of course all industries use all sorts of means to promote and protect themselves.

    The petrochemical industry, the ethanol industry and the automobile industry should work together to conduct R&D on how gasoline and ethanol can be used in cars to improve fuel mpg efficiency and thereby counter differences in native energy content.  This can also impact on automobile design and operation.  Congress and President Bush enacted legislation to give the ethanol industry a chance to be successful.  There is a clear path to success. It is up to the ethanol industry to take steps to prove they can be successfully sustained in the long term through cooperative technical development.




    Walter E. Goldstein, Ph.D., PE

    Las Vegas, Nevada

  • 2.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-10-2018 09:32
    Dr. Goldstein,
    Once the government gets involved nothing is clear or simple.  Adding all the lobbying groups into the mix and the water gets even cloudier. 

    I have one simple request = provide ethanol free gasoline as an option at my local suburban gas station. This is a freedom I once had and want it back.

    Secondly = I want the AIChE to help me with this. I believe the PAIC committee is one that can help me.

    Finally = Do not make me out as an enemy of the environment just because I want ethanol free gas for my boat made readily available. I spent my entire professional career operating, maintaining, engineering, designing and developing ammonia plants so I want farmers to be successful.

  • 3.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-10-2018 10:47
    Richard, could you refresh our collective memories as to why you need ethanol free gasoline for your boat motor, please?  My memory isn't what it used to be.

    I am curious because of all the "success" I have had with E10 gasoline.  To wit, a 2013 Ford Taurus with 160,000 miles on it and whose first drink was E10 and all subsequent drinks and whose fuel storage and delivery system has been trouble free.  Ditto for my 1997 SVT Cobra Mustang with 60,000 miles on it, my lawnmower, etc.

    No politics, please, from anyone.  Just looking for what might be unique about a boat motor in this regard.

    John Sharland PE,FSFPE
    Bridgewater MA

  • 4.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-11-2018 11:36
    I can't answer for Rick, but I can speak to my experiences with my Dad with reformulated gasoline. We were avid fishermen in the bays and offshore areas around Houston.

    Boats, by definition, operate in a marine environment where all of the most difficult circumstances for ethanol exist. Moisture, open fuel storage systems, high corrosion environments, agitation, long storage times between use; all of these create difficulties for boat fuel systems that are exacerbated by ethanol in the fuel. For those of us that operate boats that stay in the water and are typically refueled at marinas, and you can also add in the effects of all of these on marine fuel docks.

    Steve Cutchen

  • 5.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-14-2018 11:17

    William Richards is correct.  It DOES take more energy to produce ethanol than can be derived from it.  But that is also true for oil-based petroleum fuels.  It's the inescapable second law of thermo at work. What we need to do is compare the relative efficiencies.  I have not done the calcs, but my guess is that the fossil fuels would win out.  It is the proclivity of politicians (the majority of whom are dishonest and corrupt) to manipulate and distort the economy at the behest of special interest lobby groups that is at the root of all our social problems.  The mantra that we have a free-market economy is a bald-faced deceptive lie – we DO NOT.


    Jimmy D Kumana

    Kumana & Associates

    Houston, Texas 77459

    Tel 281-437-5906, Cel 646-546-2484


  • 6.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-12-2018 12:00
    Back in the "olden days", when this issue was first wending its way through Congress, etc., it was quite widely accepted (maybe not as widely as I remember it) that it took more energy to produce the ethanol used in gasoline that the energy supplied by the ethanol.  Including, of course, all inputs of energy such as fuel to run the farming system that is involved in ethanol-related corn production and the costs to convert to ethanol.

    Is this process [still] subsidized?  If so, then it's an artificial demand which the taxpayers fund for the benefit for a subset of the electorate.

    I am open to rational comments, but color me skeptical.

    William Richards PE
    Patent Attorney
    The Richards Law Firm LLC
    New Albany OH

  • 7.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-14-2018 11:50
    Edited by Rebecca Ong 08-14-2018 14:05
    The methodology used in the assessment determines whether corn ethanol requires more energy to produce than it provides. The energy return on energy invested (EROI) is often used as a metric, where EROI = 1 represents equal energy inputs to energy outputs. For corn ethanol, most studies report an EROI >1, but with a range of 0.6 - 3.5 (Hall et al., 2011; Hall et al., 2014; Weißbach et al., 2013; Arodudu et al., 2017). This is on the same order as solar PV (EROI ~3) (Weißbach et al., 2013), tar sands (EROI ~ 3-8) (Wang et al., 2017; Hall et all, 2017), and shale oil (EROI ~1-2) (Cleveland and O'Connor, 2011; Hall et al., 2017).

    There are also no subsidies provided for the corn ethanol industry. The last of these was eliminated in 2011. The RFS is often reported as a subsidy, but it is not. It does not provide any government funding to the corn ethanol industry and only provides targets to oil companies for renewable fuel blending with gasoline and diesel.

    The corn ethanol industry is surviving, not because it is propped up by government support, but because it has diversified its product streams. For many years corn ethanol plants have generated dried distillers' grains and solubles (DDGS), which are sold as an animal feed. When the drought hit the Midwest in 2012, many ethanol plants shut down, but the ones who survived had previously expanded operations to generate corn oil. Most corn ethanol plants currently in operation generate those three co-products: ethanol, DDGS, and corn oil.

    (Side info: If one were to shut down corn ethanol plants entirely, 60% of the land used for corn ethanol would be required to grow corn and soy to replace DDGS as animal feed, freeing up only 40% for other purposes.)

    Note: I made changes to the post. Initially I inaccurately represented a negative energy return as a negative EROI, however for a negative energy return EROI<1. This has been corrected and I apologize for the mistake. 


    Arodudu OT, Helming K, Voinov A, Wiggering H (2017) Integrating agronomic factors into energy efficiency assessment of agro-bioenergy production – A case study of ethanol and biogas production from maize feedstock. Applied Energy, 198, 426-439.

    Hall CAS, Dale BE, Pimentel D (2011) Seeking to Understand the Reasons for Different Energy Return on Investment (EROI) Estimates for Biofuels. Sustainability, 3, 2413-2432.

    Hall CAS, Lambert JG, Balogh SB (2014) EROI of different fuels and the implications for society. Energy Policy, 64, 141-152.

    Hall CAS (2017) Will EROI be the Primary Determinant of Our Economic Future? The View of the Natural Scientist versus the Economist. Joule, 1, 635-638.

    Wang K, Vredenburg H, Wang J, Xiong Y, Feng L (2017) Energy Return on Investment of Canadian Oil Sands Extraction from 2009 to 2015. Energies, 10, 614.

    Weißbach D, Ruprecht G, Huke A, Czerski K, Gottlieb S, Hussein A (2013) Energy intensities, EROIs (energy returned on invested), and energy payback times of electricity generating power plants. Energy, 52, 210-221.

    Rebecca Ong
    Assistant Professor
    Michigan Technological University
    Houghton MI

  • 8.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-15-2018 14:23
    Thanks to Dr. Ong for this analysis.  It'll take some time to digest, but it is definitely food for thought.

    William B. Richards, Esq.
    Patent Attorney
    The Richards Law Firm LLC
    614/939-1488 (o)
    614/939-1489 (f)

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  • 9.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-16-2018 00:10
    Ethanol is not the answer at this point. However, I still think that research should continue for some kind of renewable fuel. Oil and gas will eventually disappear, not in my lifetime but for future generations.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 10.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-14-2018 15:04
    To all = Have you ever bought E85? if u reply in the positive I am guessing you are from a corn producing region.

    Thank you to all who think this topic is important enough to reply.

    Steve Cutchen 
    = u r spot on about why ethanol in gasoline is bad for boats, lawn mowers etc.

    John Sharland 
    = your success with E10 is commendable, in spite of having ethanol in your gasoline. I have to wonder if it would have been even better if you used E zero.

    William Richards (attorney)
    = Ethanol in gasoline is 100% political.
    = My freedom to chose at the pump has been taken away. Exxon, Shell and all might want to provide a pump at each service station that provides pure gasoline E zero, but then they would not meet their quota of renewable fuels.
    = I would buy E zero for my SUV because I would get better gas mileage.And of course for my lawn mower and boat.
    = Where is the first primary = Iowa. The center of the corn belt.  Who wants corn ethanol most = Iowans.
    = Hope remains because even the "swamp dwellers" have see the science and agreed to slow the growth of renewable fuels from food.

  • 11.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-15-2018 10:53
    I live near the biggest swamp in Massachusetts.

    E85 is available locally, but my car is not Flex Fuel.

    Still wondering what the octane enhancer for E-zero would be.

    John Sharland PE,FSFPE
    Bridgewater MA

  • 12.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-16-2018 00:35
    "Still wondering what the octane enhancer for E-zero would be."



    Steve Cutchen

  • 13.  RE: Ethanol

    Posted 08-17-2018 10:56
    I was in the middle of responding to Steve's question when my screen went blank and then reverted to the answer screen.  if the original message was sent and this is a repeat, so sorry.  I will try again.

    Steve, the way to increase the octane number is to increase the number of side chains on hydrocarbons.  That is why refineries have reformers.  Also, I have seen some cuts from an FCCU with an octane number as high as 102.  So why don't refineries produce more high octane gasoline?  It's a matter of economics.  What are they to do with the low octane cuts?  Yes, they may be able to run more material through a reformer, but then that would increase the cost of your fuel.  Refineries are set up to work with the material they have available and to process given cuts through their processing units.  To increase the octane number without additives is possible, but then the refineries may not be able to produce as much gasoline as they do now, and it would require a significant investment to do so.  I remember when premium gasoline had an octane of 98, but tetraethyllead was in use then.  Some people have used toluene to increase their octane number.  (I have talked to some who add it to their gas tanks.)  I am sure there are added issues that could be mentioned here, but hopefully this will give you some idea of what can be done to get higher octane fuels without additives.
    Bob Clay

    Robert Clay, PhD, MBA, PE
    Sr. Associate Engineer
    ECI, Inc.
    Lenexa, Kansas