An Iowa-technology company released a report last week that is fueling debate over whether ethanol plants should be powered by coal or natural gas, or something else.
The Frontline BioEnergy study found that coal-powered ethanol plants release up to 92 percent more carbon dioxide than those powered by natural gas.
Frontline’s analysis of a plant that would produce 50 million gallons of ethanol a year show a coal-powered facility would release as much as 207,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year while a natural gas-powered plant would emit 108,000 tons.
Frontline’s mission, according to the company website, is “to lead the nation in biomass gasification solutions for energy and products.” The technology they advocate involves converting solid carbonaceous materials
directly into a synthesis gas or syngas that can be combusted like natural gas.
With further processing, syngas can be converted into ethanol and other products, providing bio-based alternatives for an array of petroleum-based chemicals. Gasification can provide advantages over conventional combustion technologies in conversion efficiencies, emissions and process flexibility.