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hardnox604008
Advisor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

Hi idalivered,

 

Lol. Yes, if the congress allocated a billion bucks to create a perpetual motion machine the labs of the universities and privates would be humming with folks producing competitive grants and trying everything under the sun. And their PR wings would be issueing press releases about positive developments.

 

The problem with cellulosic ethanol from any semi-conventional form of fermentation is that the brew that you end up with has a lower alcohol content than Bud Lite. Which means that even though you can do it the amount of energy required to distill off the 95% H2O puts it in a deep hole from a net energy viewpoint. That is even before you account for the collection of the feedstock and other operations.

 

There is, and I'm not kidding, a video on the Purdue Ag website where they show how they're using a rocket engine, and I don't mean a model rocket engine, I mean a real honest to goodness one, to elevate temps to 20,000 degrees to study how to change cellulose with ultra high temps. It is a cool Mr. Science thing but fails to note that it would require an improvement of efficiency on an order of like 10 to a power of 20 before it would be economical.

 

BTW, everyone who watches Fox News is constantly up in arms over Solyndra. I haven't seen them mentioning Range Fuels which got huge bucks from USDA and DOE (the Bush Administration) to convert wood waste to ETOH and recently went bust. At least it was for good 'ol farmers instead of those California solar greenies.

 

The schedule was that we were to be producing a couple billion gallons of cellulosic by 2012 and so far there hasn't been a single qualifying gallon. It is a bust, time to move on. If private money wants to play and cracks it then good for them but it isn't fertile ground to be spending public money on. There are areas with more potential to make public investment into research on but I think scientists should drive that decision, not politcians.

 

It did make a nice cover story for corn ethanol, though. The story was that corn ethanol was admittedly so-so but it was only the beginning of a massive ethanol industry that would revolutionize our energy future.

 

Don't worry guys, the crime has been committed, the perps got away and the tracks are covered. Corn ethanol is here to stay for the forseeable future and even I will admit that once we've misdirected a not insignificant portion of our national capital into it we might as well make use of the capacity.

 

It is not unlike Golden Rice- the cover story about the marvelous things that biotech was going to do for mankind that were floated as legislation enabling GMOs was being debated. 15 years later, no golden rice but a lot of money has been shifted around with very modest actual benefit.

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adfrom in
Contributor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

Natural gas is now cheaper than coal on a BtU basis.  Ethanol and unleaded gasoline are the most expensive of the energy commodities by the same measure.  The minute that Congress decides to quit shovine ethanol via mandate, it is DOA.  Producers have a great political risk to their land values and crop returns.

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hardnox604008
Advisor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

The only risk I see to the present ethanol capacity is if we blow a crop up before we get some stocks rebuilt. I'll handicap that at nothing alarmist- it may happen but odds favor a trend crop and decent acreage. However we need a couple of those back to back, or one superboomer (which occur about as frequently as busts).

 

I do think the ethanol thing has seen its high water mark, though. Prices have been pushed for five years by the very aggressive mandate schedule but it is a very big thing that we are merely getting to the destination. The goalposts are going to stop moving away from our opponent's (the bear, I guess) kicking team.

 

But I wonder what corn is worth with a 1.5 bb carryout and the prospects for relatively flat demand in the next year?  A lot of variables there but all things being equal I'd say substantially less than $6.

 

BTW, just ran a quick crop budget on Farmdoc and with $4 corn and $250 rent and it came in at breakeven on Corn after Soy with $64/acre return to operator.  So there is still a lot of flex in the system.

 

But putting out $800 per acre to try to get return to labor isn't a real exciting prospect but I guess I've lived through worse.

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booked
Veteran Contributor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

Adfrom in

 Is my memory wrong but I thought you were an ethanol plant worker or operator. Excuse me if I have you mixed up with someone else. Read to many forums.

 

You wrote "The minute that Congress decides to quit shoving ethanol via mandate, it is DOA." 

 

You don't seem to have much faith in your own industry.

 

I have read on another totally unrelated forum that ethanol is quite valuable to the oil industry. In that it allows them to run there crude cracking towers more efficiently. They make lower quality gas which gets them more gallons out of a barrel more cheaply. Then they add that lowly ethanol and shazzam their crap quality gas is usable. Now don't get me wrong I see nothing wrong with this if it is true but. Just think how short we would be if Congress would just **bleep** can ethanol. The ethanol plants shut down that would leave no ethanol to get the crap gas up to useable quality levels. That would make the refinery have to readjust there refining to a better gas quality which would cost more per gallon and further reduce out put. What do you think might happen to the price of gas...................... My guess is there isn't enough refining capacity to satisfy fuel demand.

Unless congress makes ethanol illegal to make and use as fuel all that would happen is the ethanol plants would end up being bought up by the hundreds by oil company's like Valero and then all we would hear about ethanol is how great it is as a renewable fuel extender and green environmental save the earth fuel.

 

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rayjenkins
Veteran Advisor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

Friday news articles about Poet putting their ethanol pipeline plans on hold....their partner, Magellan, had dropped out earlier, and federal loan guarantees looked more improbable as time went on...

 

If you read his comments, it appears to be saying a few things

 

1) Getting ethanol blends past E-10 may be challenging

2) A reasonably good distribution system is in place for current ethanol supply

3) ** not said, but you wonder if this is also a hint that getting cellulosic ethanol ramped up is going to be a big problem

 

With US gasoline consumption in decline, ethanol exports are going to be very important....Brazil ethanol production won't be stagnant forever and they are the low cost producer

 

** tried to add couple of links but unsuccessful....sorry

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adfrom in
Contributor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

You have me confused.  I have no connection to the ethanol industry.  I would like to see some support for your statements - they do not appear to have much validity with my limited knowledge of basic chemistry.

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booked
Veteran Contributor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

OK thought I might, Like I said I read to many forums and find it hard to keep all the posters straight.

 

But I still think that when big oil gets a hold of the lions share of ethanol production it will suddenly be the best stuff since sliced bread. The bad weather road bumps in corn production have definatly hurt ethanol.

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Palouser
Senior Advisor

The key is designer enzymes

If the correct enzymes are discovered wood is MUCH denser than grain and is described as sticks of sugar candy if the lignin can be stripped. Nature does it and some scientists believe it is simply a matter of time until the right organic chemistry is found. If this is correct it is said wood of the same weight as a bu of corn would give more than twice as much ethanol.

 

We wait for the Holy Grail I guess.

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roarintiger1
Honored Advisor

Re: The key is designer enzymes

Will the enviromentalists allow cutting down more trees?   I can't believe they are not all over bringing the CRP ground back into production.

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sw363535
Honored Advisor

Re: Corn based Ethanol

Ray,

 

I am watching the new plant in sw develop and there are still more questions than answers.  It is a tough area to raise enough cover naturally, so will be highly dependant on groundwater in an area that is being cut back on pumping by state and natural depletion. Wondering if we will see some change to only raising fodder for plant.  -------- but that is still a grain for ethanol trade??

 

I am struggling to see how it will reach any mandate levels.  But enough public money is being thrown into it ----------well we will see where it goes.  We are along for the ride.  

 

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