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  #1 (permalink)  
Old 02-11-2007, 10:58 AM
rusty70f100 rusty70f100 is offline
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New wood-based Ethanol plant in Georgia

See the link:

http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com...C0531?id=47371

Also, see their website:

http://www.rangefuels.com/home

Basically, they'll be making cellulosic ethanol without enzymes. Also they say they'll have it down to $1 a gallon in 10 years.
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Old 02-11-2007, 01:52 PM
aurgathor aurgathor is offline
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I quickly glanced through the website, and couldn't figure out how they make ethanol. However, I found a couple of statements that I find suspicious, or difficult to believe.

Now, thanks to new technologies like ours that generate no toxic waste and very few greenhouse gases
and
Cellulosic ethanol has an extremely favorable net energy balance, which means that it takes very little energy to create it.

To me, the first would mean that they may not be using fermentation (lots of CO2) and the heat for distillation may not come from a CO2 producing fuel. Alternatively, the "very few" may refer to the number of greenhouse gas compounds, meaning that they only produce CO2, and one or two more, for instance.

The second is a bit more subtle since fermentation doesn't need any energy, and breaking up the cellulose can be done without much heat, one just need the right microbes. However, unless they have some revolutionary process to separate the alcohol from water (or make it without the presence of water) there is a 2 step distillation process, which inormally requires significant amount of energy.

I believe it when I see at least the high level technical details that explains how all this work.

Last edited by aurgathor; 02-11-2007 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 02-11-2007, 02:22 PM
rusty70f100 rusty70f100 is offline
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Always the skeptic...

First let me say that the first link did not work. Go here "http://www.renewableenergyaccess.com" and click on "Wood-based Ethanol Plant Slated for Georgia."

From that link:
"The plant, being built by Colorado-based Range Fuels, Inc., will use a two-step thermo-chemical conversion process to convert biomass into a synthetic gas and then gas to ethanol."

When it's converted into a "synthetic gas" the water would be out of it before it ever becomes ethanol!

"The company's proprietary technology -- known as the K2 system -- eliminates the use of enzymes, which have been an expensive component of traditional cellulosic ethanol production, and transforms otherwise useless products such as wood chips, agricultural wastes, grasses, and cornstalks as well as hog manure, municipal garbage, sawdust and paper pulp into ethanol through a thermo-chemical conversion process."

Thermo-chemical conversion process... Hard telling exactly what they're doing. They sound optimistic about it though.
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Old 02-11-2007, 03:27 PM
aurgathor aurgathor is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rusty70f100
Always the skeptic...
I'd call it realistic.

Quote:
"The plant, being built by Colorado-based Range Fuels, Inc., will use a two-step thermo-chemical conversion process to convert biomass into a synthetic gas and then gas to ethanol."
I guess I missed that one -- that could definitely help them to get away with the distillation process.

Quote:
Thermo-chemical conversion process... Hard telling exactly what they're doing. They sound optimistic about it though.
I don't want to sound too skeptic, but I'd say there's a non-zero possibility that this is nothing but a scam. They try to sound scientidfic (i.e. "synthetic gas") but they tell very little about the actual process, and what they tell is mostly just some generics such as "thermo-chemical conversion process". For me, these are red flags. It was a long time age, but for 4 years, I was a chemistry major, so at least I have some basic understanding about chemistry. I can't say what they do is impossible, but it sounds too good to be true to me, based on the information available. If they have some revolutionary process, they should've applied for a patent, and that would prevent others from copying it, so they could tell us a bit more about it.

Unless there's a definite yes or no in either way, we should probably revisit this thread in a year or two to see what happened. And I guess that apply to some other threads in this group, too.

Last edited by aurgathor; 02-11-2007 at 03:44 PM.
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Old 02-11-2007, 04:55 PM
rusty70f100 rusty70f100 is offline
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Well of course. If it is a scam, everyone should know about it. But there is something called a "trade secret" and they may not want to give away too much information just yet. Besides, what I quoted was from an informational article about it, like you'd read in a newspaper. As such, too much technical information would be out of place.

My uneducated guess on their process is some sort of pressure / cracking type process like they do with petroleum.
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Old 02-11-2007, 05:31 PM
aurgathor aurgathor is offline
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Yes, "trade secret" is one possible explanation, but due to other things, currently, I wouldn't vote for that.

In any case, there's nothing new about heating wood. But since they can also use "hog manure, municipal garbage", I think that pretty much rules out many possibilities, inxcluding that one. One possible way to cover everything they have listed is to have some microbe that breaks down cellulose directly into water and some gas such as methane, ethane, etc. Stating something like this wouldn't give out much, especially if it was done with a genetically modified bacteria.

Last edited by aurgathor; 02-11-2007 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 02-12-2007, 02:52 PM
aladin sane aladin sane is offline
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Thermo-chemical conversion sounds like gasification followed by Fischer-Tropsch synthesis to me. It can be done, but it will not be cheaper than fermentation.

Once someone finds or engineers a bug that can rapidly ferment cellulose into alcohol, the entire ethanol market will turn upside down.
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Old 02-12-2007, 11:10 PM
rusty70f100 rusty70f100 is offline
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Just hope that bug doesn't get free... wouldn't that be a mess!
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Old 02-13-2007, 10:59 AM
aladin sane aladin sane is offline
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I don't think the conditions which the bug would normally live and work in are wide spread enough to cause a problem in our environment.

There are already organisms lose in the world which break down cellulose, they just work too slowly to make the process work economically in a commercial application.
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Old 02-13-2007, 10:59 AM
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