Ethanol EROEI ... now pretty good

Discussion in 'Fuel' started by Carcus, May 29, 2019.

  1. Carcus

    Carcus Well-Known Member

    ... or has been .. for at least 3 years now. Who knew?

    "The report, authored by Iowa State University economist Paul Gallagher and others, showed that the entire U.S. ethanol industry had steadily improved its efficiency since the mid-1990s. Now, an average ethanol plant produces more than twice the energy than it consumes.

    But many Iowa plants, especially those in the western half of the state, are well above average. They have doubled that efficiency by producing four times the energy they consumed, the report found. These plants were at the top of the efficiency chart because they are close to ample corn supplies and livestock feeding operations, so it is efficient to market distillers grains for feed. The plants also have access to transportation infrastructure and end markets, especially along the I-35 and I-29 corridors.

    One contributor to ethanol efficiency has been the use of biotech corn called Enogen that was developed by Syngenta. Ethanol plants pay farmers a premium to raise the corn, which contains a transgene from a bacteria that produces alpha amylase, an enzyme that breaks down corn starch into sugar. That eliminates the need to add enzymes, as ethanol plants have traditional done.

    The Enogen technology was pioneered by Quad County Corn Processors in Galva and is now used in nearly 20 ethanol plants. Quad County has also adopted Cellerate, a collaboration between Syngenta and Cellulosic Ethanol Technologies process, which allows it to convert corn kernel fiber to ethanol and further increase efficiency.

    Corn oil extraction

    Another contributor to the efficiency gains has been the extraction of corn distillers oil by ethanol plants, according to Shaw and others. The oil, which takes relatively little energy to extract, can be sold as a feedstock for biodiesel.

    In addition, Shaw said, suppliers to the ethanol industry, such as yeast makers, have contributed to

    efficiency gains by developing specific products for ethanol makers.

    There is still plenty of room for the ethanol industry to increase efficiency and improve its energy balance, according to the USDA report. There is potential in using alternative fuel sources, such as biomass, and improved ways of marketing distillers grains to the livestock industry, the report said."
    Iowa’s ethanol plants consistently gaining in efficiency

    /4 to 1???!!!!! Remember back in the day? ... I thought about 1.3 to 1(Energy Returned On Energy Invested) was all they were going to get out of corn ethanol (or any liquid biofuel, for that matter)
    // EROEI of 4 to 1 --- that would be a bit of a game changer (if true) would it not?
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  2. Jay

    Jay Well-Known Member

    Consider the source of the claimed efficiency gains, the Iowa Farm Bureau; hardly an independent, unbiased source. The article completely overlooks the energy used to plant, grow, and harvest the grain. Cornell University's professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, David Pimentel, has a different view from the Iowa Farm Bureau:

    But even if the total energy balance of ethanol production from corn as a fuel was positive, how many of us would buy ethanol contaminated gasoline if we were given the choice? I'm thankful that in my area I have a choice and E0 is roughly the same price as E10, but many areas don't get the choice. It's the forcing of E10 and E10+ fuels on us that really rubs me raw. That, and the extremely underhanded way congress protected the gasoline companies from being sued by consumers for damages caused by the fuel.
  3. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    NOT ME !
  4. Carcus

    Carcus Well-Known Member

    Not true.

    From the USDA report referenced in the Iowa Farm Bureau article:

    "Farm Machinery

    We need estimates of the energy embodied in farm machinery for corn farming and corn stover collection. The corn farming estimate includes machinery for planting, spraying, harvesting, and storing corn–we arrived at 601,904 BTU/acre each year. For corn stover, the harvest equipment for mowing, raking, bailing, and handling was included–we arrived at 322,685 BTU/acre. Both estimates are taken directly from the GREET model. Next, corn energy use was adjusted by corn yield, 163.96 bu/acre and ethanol yield, 2.76 gal/bu for machinery-related energy use on a per gallon basis. The stover harvest energy estimate was adjusted by the stover yield, 2.72 tons/acre, and the stover quantity needed with 100 percent biomass power for a gallon of ethanol, 0.002126 tons stover/gallon, to arrive at the stover machinery energy needed for a gallon of ethanol production. For stover, we also included an allowance for fertilizer application to replace the fertilizer contained in the stover that was removed. Appendix Table C1 gives the details of these calculations. For corn, the weighted average machinery energy is 1,330 BTU/gallon. The machinery estimate accounts for the energy required to produce, maintain, and transport the farm machinery. The machinery energy estimate is somewhat higher because modern equipment is bigger and more powerful. For stover, 307 BTU/gallon are required for machinery energy."

    2015 Energy Balance for the Corn-Ethanol Industry

    United States Department of Agriculture
    Office of the Chief Economist
    Office of Energy Policy and New Uses
    February 2016
    Last edited: May 29, 2019
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  5. Carcus

    Carcus Well-Known Member

    I have seen some other "expert criticism" of the study that said the study was conducted in a dry year and didn't account for normal drying of the corn. And yet I see this in the study:

    "Estimation of Energy Balance

    Energy Consumption by Corn Producers
    Corn producers use most energy products (gasoline, diesel, natural gas, liquid petroleum gas, and electricity) directly in planting, harvesting, and drying their crop. There is also considerable energy embodied in the commercial fertilizers applied to enhance plant growth."

    I also see that the word "drying" is used no less than 27 times in the report ...

    so ....

    I would be leery of any "knee jerk hip-shot criticisms" of this report on United States ethanol EROEI, ... might be best to read the report on your own.
    Last edited: May 29, 2019
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  6. Carcus

    Carcus Well-Known Member

    While we're on the EROEI subject, .. a recent paper (25 Mar 2019) shows corn (maize) biogas EROEI ranging from 5 to 10 (vs. 2 to 4 ethanol EROEI in the above reference for corn ethanol).

    "Depending on the soil type, ERoEI and NEV values for maize ranged from 5.05 and 188,945 MJ ha−1 (light soil), obtained at the level of 120 kg N ha−1 to 9.76 obtained at the level of 80 kg N ha−1 and 433 263 MJ ha−1 obtained at the level of 120 kg N ha−1 (good soil)"

    The Influence of Plant Cultivation Conditions on Biogas Production: Energy Efficiency
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  7. RedylC94

    RedylC94 Well-Known Member

    OK, how 'bout this slightly different hypothetical question: What if you got to choose between between 0.9x gallons of E0 or, for the same price, 0.1x gallons of E100 mixed with 0.9x gallons of E0 to make 1.0x gallons of E10? Which would you buy? Assume this is for your car, not a 1-cylinder engine.
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  8. 08EscapeHybrid

    08EscapeHybrid Moderator

    I'd buy the ethanol free every time.
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  9. Carcus

    Carcus Well-Known Member

    2 1/2 years of record keeping on 1.5t(turbocharged) '17 Civic, .. average mpg by fuel type:

    87 E0: 45.0 mpg (54 fills)
    87 E10: 42.4 mpg (6 fills)
    91 E10: 44.3 mpg (8 fills)

    If the mix raised the octane from 87 to 91 then I would probably buy the mix. Price being the same .. I would sacrifice 1.5% mpg for the convenience of not having to chase down E0. So now I'm going to have to seriously look at the prices on 91 E10.**

    For my under-utilized motorcycles and lawnmowers .. I'll stick with E0

    /** bonus -- 10% (or is that 8.5%?) of my civic fuel purchase going forward could then be counted as 'green (yellow?)' biofuel 'eco' participation.

    //add -- I will have to do some further testing. I'm pretty sure I tend to drive easier on 87 E10 to try and make up some of the mpg difference. I 'think' it's kind of the opposite with the 91 E10 as I tend to drive it a little harder -- playing with the increased torque available.
    Last edited: May 29, 2019
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  10. rossbro

    rossbro Well-Known Member

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  11. rossbro

    rossbro Well-Known Member

    Corn is FOOD, not fuel. When forced on us in the Philly area, my mileage went from 18 to 12 in a '88 Toyota pickup. ALL gas should be 'E-0'.
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  12. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    Same price ? E0 , every time ! Sadly , it's not an option around here.
    Unless I want to drive 75-100 miles in a direction I never need to go.
    I have not experimented with higher octane fuel. Around here , you might pay $.50/gallon more to jump up to 89 octane.
    Fuel around here ( Aurora IL ) was $3.259 for 87 E10 this morning , May 30.
  13. Carcus

    Carcus Well-Known Member

    I honestly don't have a solid opinion on ethanol ... my past (more negative) lean was largely based on that I thought EROEI was bad (i.e. 1.3 to 1), ... now if it's true that they are reaching 4 to 1 and improving, then I might have to reconsider ...

    Worth the read:

    Fuel Ethanol: Hero or Villain?

    Problems with Ethanol
    Fuel energy
    Fuel contaminants
    Seals and hoses
    Fuel-air ratio
    Increased competition for crops

    "....It is interesting to note that food prices worldwide are more closely correlated to petroleum prices than to ethanol production. The following graph shows that as petroleum prices go up, food prices go up. By the same token, as petroleum prices go down, food prices go down. If we care about keeping food affordable, it follows that we need to find ways to keep fuels affordable...."

    Benefits of Ethanol
    Boosts octane
    Ethanol is Renewable
    Supports domestic agriculture

  14. litesong

    litesong litesong

    45/42.4 =1.061 ratio, indicating E0 over E10 has 6.1% more MPG. Yeah, over a decade plus, my last five low compression ratio, non-turbo, 87 octane gasoline engines have 8%, 8%, 7%-8%, 7%, & 5% better MPG, 87 octane E0 over 87 octane E10.
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  15. litesong

    litesong litesong

    Yeah, several E0 stations surround your area, with the nearest E0 to you in Waterman & that is 91 octane. I expect its $1.50(+?) per gallon more costly than 87 octane E10. Once, I tried 90 octane E0 in my 87 octane low compression ratio gasoline engine. It ran my engine well & gave 40MPG in my Elantra, about what I expected for 87 octane E0 & more than E10 would have given me.
  16. EdwinTheMagnificent

    EdwinTheMagnificent Legend In His Mind

    Hey , Waterman is not extremely far. Maybe 25 miles. My car has not had any E0 in it ever (91K miles) , so it would be nice to try at least ONE tank.
  17. litesong

    litesong litesong

    The 91 octane E0 source in Waterman is Casey's General Store - CASEY'S
    9779 Us Hwy 30, Waterman IL....815-264-3233. A few reports indicate that Casey's is a good place. I'd call them first.
  18. priusCpilot

    priusCpilot George

    I use top tier 5x additive Costco E10 91 fuel. Keeps the motor clean and get good MPG with 91 with the added timing as mentioned by Carcus.

    The one thing I'm curious about how the formulation is with octane from 87 to 91 with E10. Ethanol is amazing for anti knock. Let say E10 91 vs E0 91. Does the E0 have less conventional octane boosters used since the Ethanol is raising octane/ knock resistance?
  19. Trollbait

    Trollbait Well-Known Member

    Are you asking if the base base gasoline in E10 is lower octane than the corresponding ethanol free octane rating?
    It most likely is, as the petroleum base octane boosters, like xylene and toluene, have value on their own.
  20. priusCpilot

    priusCpilot George

    Thanks for mentioning the octane boosters. Here is what im wondering. Does E0 87 have the same amount of xylene and toluene as E10 87 since the ethanol boosts octane?

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