Higher Mixed Alcohol Fuel: An Introduction

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The following was written by: Jay Toups, CEO, Bioroot Energy, LLC, and Mark C. Radosevich, Chief Scientist, Bioroot Energy, LLC.

Imagine vehicles that can run any alcohol fuel whether blended with petroleum or as a substitute, neat fuel.

Imagine an economy that no longer exports $.65 cents of every petroleum dollar to foreign countries.

Imagine a powerful 138 octane alcohol fuel formula that makes money and doesn't hurt the environment.

Imagine converting municipal solid and liquid wastes, biomass, coal, refinery wastes, methane and CO2 into clean fuels in massive volumes for domestic distribution and seamless use or export.

What is needed to kickstart this dramatic expansion of the liquid renewables landscape? Simply, the political will to stand up to established energy industry interests and pass the Open Fuel Standard Act of 2011 bill — for the good of the national economy, the environment and the domestic energy industry. This Congressional bill is instrumental to spurring private investor interest in developing an accessible market for cleaner liquid fuels, while opening up new opportunities for citizens as renewable fuel producers who enable America to reduce its dependence upon petroleum fuels.

If you want more, better and cleaner liquid fuel choices, contact your representatives today!

Meanwhile, Back In The Fuel World...

What happens if the OFS bill doesn't pass? What if it does? Either way, it's clear that the world's increasing demand for liquid fuels won't be met by petroleum fuels. It is also clear that producing more single-alcohol fuels such as C1 methanol, C2 batch-fermented ethanol, or C4 batch-fermented iso-butanol will not provide sufficient additional volume. Demand will also not be met with another float-on-water oil - whether this oil-based fuel is derived from plant or animal substrates, such as waste restaurant greases, algae, dedicated fuel crops, or coal. America will need new and biodegradable fuels yet to be commercialized to meet future demands.

Thus far, alternative and renewable fuels have not achieved true profitability in the marketplace. Corn ethanol for example, has required a subsidy for 30 years, cellulosic ethanol has proven a total disappointment to date, and Fischer-Tropsch synthetic diesel (WW II-era synthetic coal-to-liquid oils) has not proven cost-effective even after 20 years of private sector development and investment. In fact, the Nazis were producing more synthetic oils from coal than today's scientists, even when crude oil is over $100 per barrel!

However, methanol, and its hybrid cousin, higher mixed alcohol ENVIROLENE®, can be produced in massive volumes and less expensively than either petroleum fuels or batch-fermented ethanol or iso-butanol. Which of these emerging fuels is ready to power all types of gasoline and diesel engines, with or without a flex fuel option?

Only higher mixed alcohol fuel blends seamlessly with gasoline and diesel fuels at the current 10.25 percent level or can be run neat as a gasoline substitute fuel in flex fuel vehicles.

Filling the Gen 2 Renewables Gap

Just a decade ago there was little ethanol in the fuel supply, yet corn ethanol was destined to become the first clean renewable oxygenate produced at commercial volumes. However, after ten years of increasing market share, and with corn ethanol production capped by RFS2 mandate at 15 billion gallons per year, the ethanol industry is looking for growth in cellulosic ethanol production which has not happened. Unmet mandates for cellulosic ethanol production, reduced by nearly 100 percent for four years running, are a strong signal that cellulosic ethanol isn't working yet, and that other alcohol fuels will be needed to fill the RFS2 gap of 21 billion gallons per year.

According to the EPA, qualifying production of cellulosic ethanol through June 2011 was zero gallons.

Source: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/compliancehelp/rfsdata.htm

In the late 1970's, Dow Chemical, Union Carbide and other companies developed higher mixed alcohol gas-to-liquid (GTL) synthesis as a response to the Arab Oil Embargo of the 1970's and the phase out of tetra-ethyl lead as an octane enhancer in gasoline. However, commercial interest didn't materialize with ready supplies of cheap petroleum, and the choice of MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) as a competitive octane booster produced from oil refinery waste isobutylene.

Produced from oil refining waste, refiners could produce MTBE cheaper than purchasing batch-fermented corn ethanol to achieve the same objectives. MTBE was legislated out of existence in the USA by 2007 because it polluted groundwater, lakes, rivers and streams. MTBE's recall furthered the rapid growth of the corn ethanol industry, now capturing nearly 10 percent of the domestic fuel market.

Since the initial research and development conducted by Dow Chemical in the late 1970s, higher mixed alcohol fuel research and development has been quietly lead by a Colorado firm, Standard Alcohol Company of America, Inc., with its patented higher mixed alcohol fuel formula, ENVIROLENE®. In 2000, Robert Jimeson, Dr. Rex Stevens, and Mark C. Radosevich of Standard Alcohol Company filed wide-ranging formula-usage patents to cover a blend of synthetic alcohols based on an optimized GTL process which used a novel and proprietary catalyst. Their goal was to create a family of new and biodegradable oxycarbon fuels which seamlessly blend with every form of petroleum-derived fuel or with any rank of coal before being combusted in power plants or industrial boilers.

Today, ENVIROLENE is protected by U.S. and global formula-usage patents — and has earned EPA registration approval as a blended oxygenate additive or as a neat fuel for gasoline and diesel engines in all 50 states, with no engine modifications required.

"Think good, better, best as a simple way of understanding the comparative value of ethanol, methanol and higher mixed alcohol fuel. Higher mixed alcohol fuel (a synthetic blend of 8 to 10 linear, (n) normal alcohols) contains about 60% more BTUs per unit volume than C1 methanol, and nearly 20% more BTUs than C2 fermented corn ethanol."

138 octane ENVIROLENE can be utilized as a total substitute for gasoline when combusted in a car or truck outfitted with a flex fuel vehicle (FFV) computer chip. Alternatively, ENVIROLENE can be splash blended into gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, low grade locomotive diesel, home heating oil and thick bunker oils combusted in ocean-going ships.

Splash blending this twenty percent stronger (90,400 BTU) higher mixed alcohol fuel will upgrade refined petroleum products into premium varieties, providing more complete combustion, increased fuel economy and reduced exhaust emissions from 50 to 69 percent.

Like other alcohol fuels, higher mixed alcohol fuel combusts much cleaner than gasoline, emitting far less particulate pollution. It is also less likely to catch fire in a crash, and its fumes contain none of gasoline's carcinogens, such as benzene. Methanol and higher mixed alcohols are not meant for human consumption. The normal (n) synthetic alcohols within this blend are methanol, ethanol, propanol, butanol, pentanol, hexanol, heptanol, octanol, nananol and 10-carbon decanol. Yet both these oxycarbon fuels are water soluble, hydrocarbon oil soluble, coal soluble and easily biodegrade, feeding nature's micro-organisms and plants and trees with a free lunch.

The resources available to support higher mixed alcohol production are vast. In contrast to gasoline, which can be made economically only from petroleum — or batch-fermented corn ethanol whose mass production requires the pre-conversion of starches into sugars — higher mixed alcohol fuel can be continuously synthesized 24x7 from any carbonaceous material: oil, natural gas, CO2, coal, municipal solid and liquid wastes, ground tires and biomass such as beetle-killed pine. There is nothing to plant, fertilize, water, weed and annually harvest as base agricultural feedstocks.

The energy used to power ENVIROLENE GTL catalytic fuel synthesis is carbon from the feedstock itself, whether the carbon is gaseous, being converted via steam reformation, or solid waste which is cleanly and efficiently converted through gasification. About 21% to 25% of the carbon in these feedstocks is combusted to initially provide steam energy. The balance of the feedstock's carbon atoms with associated hydrogen ions, plus oxygen from water (steam), is catalytically converted into biodegradable C1-C10 higher mixed alcohol fuel.

FFV Chips Will Get Smart

Today's factory-spec FFV chips are only calibrated for C2 Ethanol's 75,500 BTUs and 33 percent oxygen content in the neat fuel. However, methanol at 56,000 BTU's features 50% oxygen. ENVIROLENE higher mixed alcohols at 90,400 BTU's contains 34 percent oxygen content.

A gallon of regular unleaded gasoline contains approximately 112,000 BTUs. M85 (methanol/gasoline blend) contains approximately 65,000 BTU/gallon, and E85 (ethanol/gasoline blend) contains about 81,000 BTU/gallon. ENVIROLENE contains 90,400 BTU/gallon and when blended with regular unleaded at 85/15 volumes yields 93,640 BTUs per gallon.

Offering more fuel choices which include higher mixed alcohol fuel and methanol requires no additional gasoline station infrastructure than it takes to retail E-85. If future FFV-chipped vehicles were to feature a glove-box calibration setting, for example, the chip could automatically adjust for different oxygen and BTU content in C1 methanol/gasoline or C2 ethanol/gasoline or C1-C10 ENVIROLENE higher mixed alcohols/gasoline blends.

The service station pumps whatever flex fuel blends it can purchase from fuel distributors. And the motorist's car or pickup simply runs this gasoline/alcohol blend at 10% to 85% volume percentages or uses gasoline only. A next generation FFV chip could handle at least three fuel blends and also be programmable for running neat alcohols, with no gasoline.

Of course, the price for different alcohol/gasoline blends would vary based on total BTUs/octane being delivered.

Think Bigger About Renewable Fuels and Flex Fuel Infrastructure

Does the world need a cleaner and more scalable liquid fuel produced from a much wider range of feedstocks, such as municipal solid and liquid waste, biomass, coal, scrap tires, methane and even CO2? Or will corn, sugar cane and crop wastes provide enough raw material to produce the massive volumes of batch-fermented ethanol the world is competing for?

Does it make sense to analyze the total impacts of our fuel choices, employing life-cycle assessment methods to look at the total environmental burden of the various liquid fuels?

Alcohol fuels can do far more than power engines. Production of higher mixed alcohol fuels can also address significant environmental problems, such as lowering tailpipe and industrial emissions, reducing municipal solid and liquid waste volumes, or converting stranded (coalbed) methane, or capturing and recycling CO2 from coal-fired power plant smokestacks.

America needs a widely produced, more powerful, more profitable and less expensive oxygenate fuel to round out the range of options and fill the gap in America's renewable fuels production mandate. Higher mixed alcohol fuel is this game-changer fuel.

About the authors:

Mark C. Radosevich is Chief Scientist of Bioroot Energy, LLC. He has over 30 years in professional research and marketing of alternative energy systems. He is also co-founder of Standard Alcohol Company of America, Inc., and co-author of the company's slate of higher mixed alcohol fuel formula and usage patents.

Jay Toups is CEO/Managing Member of Bioroot Energy, LLC, a Montana cleantech company planning a commercial ENVIROLENE® production facility in Missoula, Montana.

More information:
http://www.biorootenergy.com
http://www.standardalcohol.com
or email: info@biorootenergy.com

5 comments:

Walter Breidenstein October 5, 2011 at 4:43 PM  

Excellent article! The best yet giving the facts without the political savvy that drives this OFS.

Think higher mixed alcohols in Montana and the latest new technology that is producing currently a 90% methanol and 10% ethanol blend in Michigan!

Anonymous,  October 7, 2011 at 5:38 AM  

What is the process for turning our waste products (feedstock) into Envirolene? Are they incinerated? Is there a byproduct? Is the production process clean? What type of emissions can be expected from an E4 plant? Do different feedstocks produce better grades of E4?

Jay October 8, 2011 at 5:21 PM  

@Walter: Thanks for your comment, and good luck with GasTechno.

@Anonymous: Please visit our site for more information or contact us by phone if you would like to discuss in further detail.

When converting solids and waste liquids, we employ a gasifier to create intermediate CO-H2 syngas, which is then run through a GTL catalyst to produce ENVIROLENE®. We don't use incineration, our choice is clean gasification.

When gases such as methane and/or CO2 are utilized as feedstocks, a conventional steam reformer is used to produce a slightly different recipe of syngas which is then run under pressure through the same proprietary GTL catalyst.

There are several by products: distilled water, heat, steam and electricity. There is also a smaller portion of inert slag created from the gasification of solids/liquids, which can be marketed as stronger road base, turned into bricks, or blasting beads and sandpaper.

The GTL production process to produce higher mixed alcohols is very clean, producing few emissions when gasifying solids or alternatively steam reforming gasses. It is Bioroot Energy's plan to vacuum all of its CO2 emissions and recycle this greenhouse gas back into producing even further volumes of higher mixed alcohols.

Different feedstocks all produce the same finished fuel, but the BTU content of various feedstocks determines the quantity of fuel produced. Coal, tires and petroleum coke wastes, for example, are much higher BTU feedstocks than woody biomass or garbage. Sometimes it will take two or three shovels of one solid feedstock to equate to building blocks contained within one shovel of another feedstock. There exist vast amounts of society wastes to reycle and convert.

There are no "grades" of ENVIRLOLENE higher mixed alcohol fuel, it is all 138 octane, 90,400 BTU/gallon, biodegradable, water soluble, oil soluble or coal soluble fuel. ENVIROLENE has been registered with the EPA and thus far approved for use in gasoline and diesel engines of any kind, from ships, planes, trains, cars and trucks to lawnmowers.

Hope this answers your questions, and thanks for asking.

Mark Steele,  January 6, 2012 at 10:00 PM  

Has your product seen any commercial use? At projected production levels, what is its expected cost to consumers on a per gallon basis? Thanks, it sound very interesting.

Jay Toups February 10, 2012 at 2:54 PM  

Hi Mark,

Thanks for your comment, sorry for the delay in replying.

We are currently planning first commercial facilities in western Montana. As for cost, it will be at parity with other oxygenates (ethanol), although we will have a significant cost and profitability advantage. Consumers using Envirolene at 10.25 percent (like ethanol) will continue to pay market price for blended gasoline, mainly because the majority of product used is gasoline. As the blend ratio increases, we will have greater latitude in pricing at the pump.

Regards,

Jay Toups

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