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2009-06-11 Science & Technology
Reinventing Cellulosic Ethanol Production
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Posted by g(r)omgoru 2009-06-11 02:50|| E-Mail|| Front Page|| [6514 views ]  Top

#1 Has anyone considered the cost of not producing alternative fuels? Giving up on nuclear power and banning everything else in the name of green leaves us all in the Stone Age.
Posted by Lumpy Elmoluck5091 2009-06-11 08:45||   2009-06-11 08:45|| Front Page Top

#2 This article mentions corn stover as a source of biomass. I checked Wikipedia articles on "corn Ethanol" and "Corn Stover".

Question for any experts on the Burg: If we can make ethanol out of the stalks, why are we using the grain? Here in Wisconsin, corn ethanol is big business, but the diversion of grain to fuel production is driving up food prices for everybody. Given the weird weather we're having here, we may be short of corn, period. So how do we encourage more sensible alternatives?
Posted by mom">mom  2009-06-11 09:56||   2009-06-11 09:56|| Front Page Top

#3 Just use switch grass instead of corn.
Posted by 3dc 2009-06-11 10:07||   2009-06-11 10:07|| Front Page Top

#4 We need to use Kudzu.
Posted by Formerly Dan 2009-06-11 10:23||   2009-06-11 10:23|| Front Page Top

#5 Mom,
High cost and low yields. There are 3 ways of breaking down cellulose:
1. Acid hydrolysys: Old (WW II tech)
2. Enzymatic: Like fermentation. New, still improving.
3. Gasification: Making syngas. High temp.

#1 requires expensive chemicals (wrt product price) with poor yields. The intermedate acid/sugars must be cleaned up (including toxic products, acids are not specific). This produces C5 and C6 sugars. Research ongoing to engineer yeast that can efficiently ferment both sugars.

#2 requires expensive enzymes, though effectiveness is going up and costs down. This also produces C5 and C6 sugars. Likely the future cellulosic ethanol path.

#3 heats cellulose w/ steam and produces syngas (CO + H) which can then be "fermented by bacteria or produce hydrocarbons (diesel and gasoline) via the Fischer-Tropsch process. High energy requirements.

Compare w/ grain/cane fermentation: Mash the stuff, add yeast, stir and wait, distill/filter the alcohol (the only high energy process). Use the yeast from the last batch to ferment the next.
Posted by ed 2009-06-11 10:51||   2009-06-11 10:51|| Front Page Top

#6 mom,

corn averaged about $4.70 a bushel in 2008
so far in 2009 about $4.10

total production keeps going up also; back in the early 90s, the national corn production was about 9 billion bushels/yr, the past 5 years have averaged about 11.5Bb/yr

in addition, the ethanol process has been averaging a 2-4% increase in efficiency (ethanol per bushel)per year for the past decade; although this will taper off there is still some more to go

Posted by lord garth 2009-06-11 16:37||   2009-06-11 16:37|| Front Page Top

#7 Lot of experimenting going on all over the place. Here in Colorado Springs, there are three or four experiments in process. One of them is substituting coal with sawdust (a sawmill byproduct with little commercial value). The mix can be anywhere from 10% to 15% per ton of coal, and produces an equivalent electric output of 92%, compared to pure coal. There's another entrepreneur who is working on a new filter process that not only cleans 99.9% of all particulates from the stack gases of coal-fired plants, but up to one-third of the CO2. What's even more exciting is that the NEW process costs about a third of the currently-used process, that "only" filters out 87% of all particulates.

If corn ethanol only does one thing, it will be a massive success for the American people. If it reduces or eliminates the use of high fructose corn syrup, I will shout for joy. I'm hypoglycemic, and can tolerate a maximum of about 10mg of sugar without a problem. It's hard as he$$ to find food that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup solids in it. I've found corn syrup in just about everything from canned spinich to off-brands of hot sauce (McIlhenny's hasn't added it to their famous Tabasco sauce yet...) .
Posted by Old Patriot">Old Patriot  2009-06-11 18:37|| http://oldpatriot.blogspot.com/]">[http://oldpatriot.blogspot.com/]  2009-06-11 18:37|| Front Page Top

#8 Thanks for the information.
Posted by mom 2009-06-11 22:34||   2009-06-11 22:34|| Front Page Top

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