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sw363535
Honored Advisor

The marketing of C. ethanol

http://watchdog.org/250277/abengoa-biofuels-industry/

 

http://www.stltoday.com/business/local/abengoa-reportedly-closing-u-s-headquarters-in-chesterfield-w...

 

At the occasional meeting this morning of a locally respected group,  known as "the intellectual center",  Discussion ensued on the apparent failure of the Ethanol plant in Hugoton, Ks.  Or should I say the apparent failure of it's parent company.

 

In the course of discussion ,,, at the beginning of which I surmised knowing the basic reasons for it's failure, woith all the data and details,,, as most do who foolishly partake in such discussions,,,, I was reminded of the course of events I had forgotten, or maybe chosen to forget...  But, that course of events is telling of where we are today as a country and why the markets, and our economic system often seem to be listing in the political winds..  This is subject to the failings of my recollection but I think I can paint the picture that is bigger than "whether cellulostic science will compete"

 

A few years ago I attended Abengoa's initial meetings in the area and noted these details.  They had been given a 90+ million $ US grant to try to build a production plant to produce cellulostic ethanol.  The new idea we had heard about in a presidential state of the union speach as a promising new idea using switch grass and other biomass products for ethanol production.  At the meeting we were told that the plant design was to be built as a 70% grain ethanol facility, but must produce at least 30% of its production from cellulostic.

Purchasing of water rights, land, and the beginning of stocks to fuel the plant began.  By the time plant construction needed to begin in full the political winds had changes somewhat.  We heard some public complaining about using our "food for fuel" and other such shallow thoughts, a different president and its administration told abengoa we did not want to expand grain ethanol any more and decided to change the project to 100% cellulostic ethanol....guaranteed the loans and promissed epa permitting only if those changes were made...

The rest is pretty obvious,,,, the plant got built,  money spent, and at that scale the feasability became a nightmare...  experimenting over a  year ensued... but with nothing there to generate funds(the grain ethanol side), while the cellulostic problems and details got worked out.  It was doomed to economic failure.

There will be some blame handed out and fools like me will concentrate on the handing out of public money and the waste of billions...

But we have to lay some blame in the area of foolish Public opinion and listening to the political instead of the scientist.

 

Other discussions of distinction were held on the comical subjects of advertising by Duluth Trading and The recently replaced steeple lighting at the methodist church.  Also the best way to balast the pickup for traction control on winter ice.

 

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4 Replies
hardnox
Advisor

Re: The marketing of C. ethanol

Well SW, I think you have to go back to the original legislation, where we were inexplicably facing a seemingly inexorable rise in gas prices, engaged in two hot ME wars etc.

 

So the legislation was passed with the fervor of a nation going into war stamp rationing. Nearly a decade on the grain ethanol portion has been revealed for more of what it is- a hybrid rural development, farm program, environmental bandaid and mostly a NG, NH3 and petroleum to liquid fuels conversion program with a modest net energy gain.

 

There was some dislocation associated with the rapid ramp up (I'll call $500 cash rents a dislocation, among other things) but net of everything there were modest net benefits.

 

the cellulosic story helped sell the whole deal with a Tom Swift tehno whizz bang factor but has proven to be a complete loser in the real world. The only reason it continues is via the initial legislative momentum and some of the same beneficiaries continuing to lobby for it.

 

There are smarter places to put public seed money and subsidies (disguised as a mandate).

 

I'll go back to my original opinion- should have done 9-11 bgy of corn ethanol and moved on. There's no precise substitution of ETOH for MTBE from an emissions point of view- 15 was every bit as capricious as any other number, but created a lot more dislocation here and around the world.

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k-289
Senior Advisor

Re: The marketing of C. ethanol

SW  -  Looks like Kansas is a '' spotlight of fame '''  in the '' watchdog '' reference article - interesting how 1 article prasses the state of the state  -  another article bemoans the state for the plant failing  - interesting analyzation and I guess have it both ways ?          

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sw363535
Honored Advisor

Re: The marketing of C. ethanol

The watchdog would like to be an opinion piece but has some good quotes........

 

That is why I posted both.

 

The details of cellulostic are hard to make mathmatical sense of.. and may or not be anything more than work theropy.. and dollar trading....  Lets face it if you want to spend $3 a gallon for gasoline.... today,,,, we can do it .... if we stick together,,.... build a camp fire .... and hold hands.  But it may take a government grant and ................ I need a federal loan guarantee for a few other projects I got going...

 

 

But this story tells us quite clearly how fine the line is between encouraging progress, scientific defelopment and commerce with federal assistance................. and ...............really screwing things up with political know how.

 

Cellulostic is still an interesting "idea"...   But in just a few months and one election we saw cellulostic become an absolute that is depended on.

Chart from EPA

 

 

Do you believe those numbers?   Were the ever......... or are the ever going to be feaseable..............  

 

Most important.....are we ever going to go back and ask Why....  After all in 1972 we were nearly out of fossil fuels and now we are twice the population and have more than we need...... 

Everything gets so screwed up when the original assumptions turn out to be wrong..

 

 

 

 

 

k-289
Senior Advisor

Re: The marketing of C. ethanol

Famous  Quote  - This info is worth as much as the contents of Uncle Henry's fish measurements --- 

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