Monsanto’s Processor Preferred Program

Chuck Zimmerman

Steve Peterson Getting InterviewedHello from the Farm Progress Show in Amana Colonies, IA. This is one of the biggest farm shows in the United States. Over 460 companies are on display out here in the middle of a corn field. The weather is not cooperating yet. It’s raining and muddy but I’m sure it will clear up over the next day or so.

I’m covering the event on our AgWired website and my coverage is sponsored by Monsanto. Before things got kicked off this morning I met Steve Peterson, Monsanto business manager for their Processor Preferred program. Steve’s pictured here during an interview with WITY in the media tent. In my interview with Steve he describes how this program has developed about 90 varieties of corn that are yielding up to 2 to 4 percent more ethanol per bushel than conventional hybrids. He says this helps corn growers get a premium for their crops.

You can listen to my interview with Steve here: Listen To MP3 Steve Peterson Interview (4 min MP3)

Agribusiness, Audio, Ethanol

Ernesto May Dampen Florida Biofuels Meeting

Cindy Zimmerman

Fickle Ernesto can’t seem to make up his mind where he plans to go, or even if he’s a hurricane or a tropical storm, so officials planning the Florida Farm to Fuel Summit in Orlando this week are nervously keeping an eye on the weather, just in case.

Several hundred participants from the state and federal government and private industry are planning to attend to discuss incentives and financing opportunities for alternative and renewable fuels in the Sunshine State as well as research, production and distribution programs.

The conference is scheduled for Thursday and Friday. The Florida Department of Agriculture officials say if the event is cancelled due to Hurricane Ernesto they will send out an advisory and post the information on the web site.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, Government

Another Record (yawn)

Cindy Zimmerman

RFA Gotta admit – it’s getting old. Every month is a new record with ethanol production. I mean, just how many times can we say that? But, it’s a good thing – we’ll worry when it starts going down!

The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) today announced that U.S. ethanol production increased in June to 318,000 barrels per day (b/d), an all-time record. That is an increase of 25,000 b/d from May and a rise of nearly 28% from June 2005.

Demand for ethanol also rose to record levels in June at 395,000 b/d. That represents a 46,000 b/d jump from May and an increase of more than 42% from the same period a year ago.


New Blog on the Block

Cindy Zimmerman

Fueling Station St. Petersburg Times reporters David Adams and Craig Pittman have started a new Florida-based biofuels blog called The Fueling Station.

They promise to “provide regular updates with news about your favorite energy source from renewables to nuclear.” On the site now are interviews with Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Dr. Jose Sifontes in Gainesville talking about “his waste transformation bioreactor system.”

Nice site – love the logo!

Biodiesel, Energy, Ethanol

Ethanol Efficiency Explained by Rocket Scientist

Cindy Zimmerman

Here’s an interesting commentary from the Providence (RI) Journal written by a “former rocket scientist and combustion specialist.”

Maurice Webb is his name and he explains the gasoline vs. ethanol mileage question as follows:

The fact is that higher fuel-heating values do not necessarily provide better engine performance (mileage). Engines equipped with carburetors do not perform well with ethanol because it has a higher density (more pounds per gallon) than gasoline, which means that the air-to-fuel ratio is no longer optimum.

If one makes the comparison with an older vehicle or lawn mowers that are equipped with carburetors, then it is probably true. However, almost all new vehicles have electronically controlled fuel injection and the performance should be the same for both fuels.

This was confirmed to me while traveling in Brazil three years ago, when fuel at gas stations was available with ethanol content varying from 10 percent to 90 percent. The drivers I spoke with preferred the higher ethanol content because it was less expensive and gave better mileage.

The reason for this equality in performance has to do with the composition of the two fuels. Gasoline has a much higher proportion of carbon to hydrogen than ethanol. Following combustion of the fuel in the engine, the exhaust gas contains 24 percent of carbon dioxide for gasoline and 16 percent for ethanol. The carbon dioxide requires more heat (energy) to raise its temperature than for other gases present.

Also, gasoline requires more air for combustion, and that means that there is more gas to be heated. The air-to-fuel ratio for complete combustion is 12 percent greater for gasoline. Complete combustion gives the maximum temperature, which also provides for maximum engine efficiency. The two fuels have almost identical maximum temperatures. So what happens to the extra heat for gasoline? It goes out the exhaust!

Webb also goes on to point out the other advantages of ethanol over gasoline, including less pollution, higher octane, and renewability. I just thought it was interesting.


Ethanolics Anonymous?

Cindy Zimmerman

ISU Research There’s a saying in the ethanol world – “drink the best and burn the rest” – but a couple of Iowa State University researchers are out to turn that saying on its head.

ISU researchers Hans van Leeuwen and Jacek Koziel are working on a process to quickly and cheaply convert fuel ethanol into the purer alcohol used in cocktails – as well as in mouth washes and cough or cold remedies, according to an ISU press release.

Technically, 100 percent ethanol is drinkable – and inebriating (see previous post). That’s why the fuel is denatured, or rendered unfit for human consumption, before it leaves the plant, so you can’t pump ethanol out of the gas tank and drink it.

However, even before denaturing, the ethanol being produced for fuel is not pure enough for beverage or medicinal use. According to Van Leeuwen, the fuel produced by those plants and the alcohol produced for the beverage industry are very similar. But alcohol produced for fuel isn’t made with the same care and purity as alcohol for consumption, he said. The multiple distillations required to make food-grade alcohol raise production costs to about 50 cents per gallon more than it costs to produce fuel ethanol.

Van Leeuwen said the researchers are working to develop technologies that can purify fuel into beverage alcohol for less than an additional penny per gallon.

The project is partially supported by a $79,900 grant from the Grow Iowa Values Fund and at least “one large producer of ethanol and food-grade alcohol interested in the research project.”

Ethanol, Research

Ethanol-Powered Car Sets New Speed Record

Cindy Zimmerman

EcotecGM Performance Division’s Ecotec-powered Bonneville Student Project Chevy Cobalt SS set a 172.680 mph land speed record this month at the Bonneville Salt Flats in its final run using E85 ethanol.

The car was converted to run on E85 by three female engineering student interns – 19-year-old Heather Chemistruck from Virginia Tech University, 21-year-old Lauren Zimmer from Purdue University and 21-year-old Sandra Saldivar of New Mexico State University.

Running only on E85, the Student Project Cobalt broke the previous 19-year-old record of 152.626 mph set by Doc Jeffries in 1987, and then upped that record twice using E85 combined with nitrous oxide to its final mark of 172.680 mph in the G/FCC class, according to a release on the GM website.


Andretti Makes History

Cindy Zimmerman

Infineon Mario Andretti sure was proud Sunday as his 19-year-old son Marco won his first Indy race in Sonoma, California on the Infineon Raceway.

That was race number 13 of the season, just one more to go this year on ten percent ethanol before the big switch to 100 percent next year.

Meanwhile, Team Ethanol can be proud of Sunday’s race. Number 17 car driver Jeff Simmons was running in third place at one point during the race and finished the day in seventh – tying his top Indy Car Series finish this season in Nashville.

Last race of the season coming up on September 10 at Chicagoland Speedway.

EPIC, Ethanol, Indy Racing, Racing

Growing Fuel In Trees

Cindy Zimmerman

Fuel Tree A tree that can reach 90 feet in six years and be grown as a row crop on fallow farmland could provide an additional feedstock for biofuels production.

According to a Purdue University release, researchers Clint Chapple and Rick Meilan (pictured with trees) are using genetic tools in an effort to design trees that readily and inexpensively can yield the substances needed to produce alternative transportation fuel. The scientists are focused on a compound in cell walls called lignin that contributes to plants’ structural strength, but which hinders extraction of cellulose. Cellulose is the sugar-containing component needed to make the alternative fuel ethanol.

Chapple and Meilan want to genetically modify a hybrid poplar tree so that lignin will not impede the release of cellulose for degradation into fermentable sugars, which then can be converted to ethanol. The changed lignin also may be useable either in fuel or other products, they said.

Ethanol, Research

Purdue Energy Summit

Cindy Zimmerman

Dick Lugar Next week, Purdue University and U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar will host an energy summit to discuss industry and policy perspectives on how our nation can significantly reduce its dependence on foreign oil.

Richard G. Lugar-Purdue Summit on Energy Security will bring more than 600 leaders to the Purdue campus in West Lafayette, Ind. to discuss national energy issues and policy. Among those joining Lugar, R-Ind. for the daylong event include Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, Purdue President Martin C. Jischke and U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind.

The Aug. 29 invitation-only summit includes a panel discussion, “Implementing Strategies to Reduce Foreign Oil Dependence.” Panelists include Sue Cischke, Ford Motor Co. vice president; Carol Battershell, vice president for alternative energy for BP Inc.; and Amy Myers Jaffe, Wallace S. Wilson Fellow in Energy Studies at the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University. Brian Lamb, president and CEO of C-SPAN, will serve as panel moderator.

Biodiesel, Ethanol, Government