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Petroleum Refiner and Agribusiness Firm Team to Build Largest Ethanol Plant in Southeastern US

3 May 2006

A Mississippi-based petroleum refiner and a global agribusiness firm are teaming up to build the largest ethanol plant in the southeastern United States.

Ergon Ethanol, Inc. and Bunge North America, Inc. signed a letter of intent to form a joint venture to build an ethanol plant with an annual capacity of at least 60 million gallons in the State of Mississippi. The facility will link Bunge’s grain handling facilities in Mississippi and Louisiana and Ergon’s petroleum refining assets.

The plant will consume at least 21 million bushels of corn each year.

This proposed joint venture leverages the strengths of both Ergon and Bunge. With fifty years of experience in petroleum refining and marketing fuel, Ergon has the expertise to operate a highly efficient ethanol refinery as well as to market the ethanol produced by the facility.

—Don Davis, Ergon executive vice president

Bunge has been expanding its biofuel efforts internationally, expanding its oilseed crushing facilities in Europe, and joining with Diester to create a joint venture to manufacture and market biodiesel.(Earlier post.)

May 3, 2006 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (19) | TrackBack (0)

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Will they build it close enough to a powerplant to use turbine exhaust for process heat? If not why not?

"Will they build it close enough to a powerplant to use turbine exhaust for process heat? If not why not?
"

It is a common misconception that turbine exhaust from power plants is hot. In actuality, the outflow cooling water from a condensing power plant is between 50 and 80 degrees fahrenheit.

"Will they build it close enough to a powerplant to use turbine exhaust for process heat? If not why not?
"

It is a common misconception that turbine exhaust from power plants is hot. In actuality, the outflow cooling water from a condensing power plant is between 50 and 80 degrees fahrenheit.

Another question I have is will these new ethanol (and biodiesel plants for that matter) be built in time to be put to efficient use, before other alternate forms of powering our road vehicles come online?

Mark:

What other forms? Ethanol and biodiesel have a head start.

Furthermore - BioDiesel with 7% alcohol can be used and distributed right now.

No need to build a pie-in-the-sky infrastructure.

what kind of alcohol? Ethanol? Butanol? If it's methanol - not worth it - too many changes to the engines are required due to its corrosiveness.

Steam turbine generators optimized for electricity production are usually closed loop. They do not exhaust the steam to the atmosphere, and by the time they go through the condenser and recirculate, the cooling water only picks up enough heat to reach around 100 F. This is further reduced through the use of cooling towers, before the cooling water is exhausted into natural waterways, which yields the lower final temperatures cited above. See: http://www.answers.com/topic/fossil-fuel-power-plant.

However, the cooling tower step is strictly "optional," and the power plant could deliver water up to 100 F without affecting its core operations. Having a ready supply of "free" 100 F water might already save an ethanol plant a good amount of energy. I don't know enough about ethanol plants to know what their working temperatures are.

Planning more broadly, locating an ethanol plant near an existing power facility might allow for the construction of a high-efficiency co-generation unit to provide steam heat for the distillery, instead of using a more traditional furnace. By locating near existing infrastructure, the fuel can be delivered in the same trains or pipelines that deliver the power plant fuel, and the electricity output could be sold through the existing high-voltage grid. Co-fueling and co-distribution might make an economic difference, and make co-generation efficient, while siting an ethanol plant inconveniently might discourage the use of this overall positive technology.

Thinking about this further, it might make even more sense to locate an ethanol plant near an oil refinery. Such installations generate large qunatities of heat and electricity for use in their processes, as I understand. By tapping into a high efficiency steam system, both the fixed and marginal costs of operating the distillery go down. That is, you neither have to buy and install a dedicated steam boiler, nor do you have to fuel it, which is probably less cost-efficient for unit steam produced than a larger boiler. Or you might even be able to tap into waste gases which are commonly flared.

Many oil refineries are located near barge-ports and rail lines (even though oil can usually be moved by pipeline), so the grain can be moved in as cheaply as anywhere else.

Finally, you might be able to blend your ethanol product directly into gasoline at the factory, cutting down on transport costs -- at least for concentrations up to E10 which don't pose corrosion problems. Pure ethanol, ready for blending, cannot be transported by the standard petroleum pipeline network because of corrosion issues, and that increases the cost of using it.

nbk-boston
read the section titled "steam condensing" from the link you supplied.
cooling tower water is supplied at 70 to 80 degrees fahrenheit in the particular power plant they are describing.
A rule of thumb is "for every 10 degrees cooler you can supply cooling water at, you get 1% increase in efficiency of your turbine". You could ATTEMPT to use cooling water outflow heat in the ethanol refinery, but you would be decreasing the power plant efficiency by as much as you increase ethanol distillery efficiency. The power plant where I worked discharged cooling water into the detroit river at about 10-12 degrees warmer than river inlet water. In the winter time we actually discharged 50 degree water from the power plant.

My "on topic" question is - are they drying the distillers mash after boiling the ethanol out of it, or shipping it as slurry to feedlots?
this actually accounts for a significant percentage of total energy used by the refinery.

Well, Ergon is a refiner so I think the previous post answers the energy question.They can do the blending.They have the distribution in place.The e ntire article speaks to the convergence of two companies with assets that fit together to create an efficient alternative energy production and distribution company.There is therefore no need to build a pie in the sky infrastructure,although I do like pie.

"....provide steam heat....."

That statement would seem to defy all logic. In other words, an extra step that need not be taken.

Are they going to use coal as a feedstock for this plant? If so, that would be extremely diasppointing. In fact its very disconcerting that coal is being considered as a feedstock in many new proposed ethanol plants.

It basically means: let out CO2 on the production side to reduce emissions at the user end, all while receiving a nice tax credit and subsidies from the government!

See this article for more info:
http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0323/p01s01-sten.html

Finally, you might be able to blend your ethanol product directly into gasoline at the factory, cutting down on transport costs -- at least for concentrations up to E10 which don't pose corrosion problems. Pure ethanol, ready for blending, cannot be transported by the standard petroleum pipeline network because of corrosion issues, and that increases the cost of using it.

I was under the impression that this couldn't be done because ethanol absorbs water, and so can't be shipped through pipelines. If you're not going to ship it through pipelines, it's not worth it -- just zip the petrol through the pipes and ship the ethanol.

I'd expect that, unlike gasoline refineries, we'll see ethanol plants sprouting up over a wide variety of geographic locations, since shipping ethanol is more expensive than petrol. This results in a more robust system, providing jobs throughout tUSA and making sure that a natural disaster doesn't wipe them out like Katrina did to so much petrol refinements.

coal burner writes:

It is a common misconception that turbine exhaust from power plants is hot. In actuality, the outflow cooling water from a condensing power plant is between 50 and 80 degrees fahrenheit.

I'm sure your 1%/10° F figure is overstated, because there isn't all that much useful energy left by the time the steam reaches 200° F.  Tapping off some at 150° for the mashing and some at 200° for the distillation would give you everything between that and the supercritical stage as output power; the savings in fuel to run the distillery would be tremendous.

Ideally we'd do it with nuclear, but I can just imagine the offended screams. ;-)

engineer-poet writes:
I'm sure your 1%/10° F figure is overstated, because there isn't all that much useful energy left by the time the steam reaches 200° F. Tapping off some at 150° for the mashing and some at 200° for the distillation would give you everything between that and the supercritical stage as output power


The energy that can be extracted from critical steam at 705 degrees by condensing it at 150 degrees is about 1525 BTU per pound.
The energy that can be extracted from critical steam at 705 degrees by condensing it at 80 degrees Fahrenheit is about 1650 BTU per pound.
(I would give more precise numbers but my steam tables and most of my reference books are packed away.)
Remember that the latent heat of vaporization increases as the vaporization temperature decreases.
The last several stages of a condensing turbine are powered by steam under high vacuum and usually well under 100 degrees Fahrenheit. These last stages are actually much more efficient per pound of steam used than the higher pressure stages.

Both of these facts combined make the rule of thumb that I quoted more or less accurate.
( I didn’t make the rule, I was just forced to memorize it for my 1st class steam license exam)

Trust me on this one.
My engineering license is in the field of steam boiler powered turbines.

Okay, you've piqued my curiosity... and unlike you, I do have a reference ready to hand ("Introduction to Thermodynamics", Sonntag and Van Wylen, 1971).

I note that you don't take feedwater heaters into account (NB for non-engineers:  feedwater heaters remove steam from the turbine path to heat water going to the boiler, which both reduces the heat going to the condenser and the heat required from the boiler).  In the example of an actual powerplant used in Sonntag and Van Wylen (p. 309), the boiler's output is 700,000 lbm/hr of steam but only 500,000 lbm/hr goes directly to the condenser; the remaining 200,000 lbm/hr is tapped to heat the feedwater in four stages.  (This is not a highly optimized cycle, as it is subcritical and specifies no reheats.)  The mass-flows and states are as follows:

  1. Boiler input:  1850 lbf/in^2, 416 F, 700k lbm/hr
  2. Boiler output:  1265 lbf/in^2, 925 F, 700k lbm/hr
  3. At 1st tap:  330 lbf/in^2, 61k lbm/hr tapped, 639k lbm/hr downstream
  4. At 2nd tap:  130 lbf/in^2, 61k lbm/hr tapped, 578k lbm/hr downstream
  5. At 3rd tap:  48.5 lbf/in^2, 24k lbm/hr tapped, 554k lbm/hr downstream
  6. At 4th tap:  10.8 lbf/in^2, 54k lbm/hr tapped, 500k lbm/hr downstream
  7. To condenser:  500k lbm/hr, 1.5 in Hg abs
Output is specified as 80 MW.

Enthalpy of the compressed liquid is roughly 384.5 BTU/lbm, enthalpy of the output steam is roughly 1457.8 BTU/lbm so the heat input in the boiler is 1083.3 BTU/lbm or 222 MW.  The thermal efficiency is about 36% (minus boiler losses, pump work, etc).  A supercritical plant with reheats would extract more energy in the high-pressure stages and have greater efficiency.

If the steam to the condenser is 90 F and 90% quality (NB for non-engineers:  quality is the fraction of vapor in a mixture of vapor and liquid), its enthalpy is 996.5 BTU/lbm and its entropy is 1.8186 BTU/lbm-R.  If steam was instead exhausted to a distillery at 14.7 PSIA and 90% quality, the enthalpy would be 1053.5 BTU/lbm.  The difference between 500,000 lbm/hr of steam at 996.5 BTU/lbm and 1053.5 BTU/lbm is 57 BTU/lbm, 28.5 million BTU/hr or 8.3 megawatts; only about 10%, cutting thermal efficiency from 36% to 33% or 0.9% per 10° F.  A supercritical plant would take a smaller hit.

It looks like we're both "right", depending on what that 1% is supposed to be part of and what the conditions are supposed to be.

I must stand corrected on an important point. Not only can pure ethanol not be shipped through conventional pipelines, but even low concentration ethanol blends such as E10 cannot be shipped through standard petroleum pipelines, due to the phase separation problem.

See:
1. http://www.chevron.com/products/prodserv/fuels/bulletin/motorgas/4_oxygenated-gasoline/pg2.asp.
2. http://www.agmrc.org/NR/rdonlyres/4EE0E81C-C607-4C3F-BBCF-B75B7395C881/0/ksupipelineethl.pdf.

This reduces the presumed advantage in the shipping of finished product, but it leaves open the question of co-locating to share an efficient heat and power source.

A final constraint on the geographic dispersion of ethanol plants is efficient bulk transportation needs. Shipping bulk raw materials such as corn to a distant ethanol plant is less efficient than shipping a higher value finished product, such as ethanol, to a distant market. Ethanol plants will therefore be located as close as possible to their bulkiest feedstocks. At present, that means that ethanol plants will be concentrated in the midwest, probably in proximity to the great rivers (where grain barges can deliver corn cheaply), and in proximity to railroads which can haul away their product in tank cars.

As the cornbelt is pretty large, there is a considerable area over which ethanol plants can be located. I also get the sense that at present, the typical ethanol plant is much smaller than a typical refinery. That will lead to a certain degree of fine-grained dispersion over the suitable midwestern states, with many towns playing host to smaller and more regionalized production facilities, instead of seeing employment concentrated in a few mega-installations. However, I hardly expect to see a substantial fuel ethanol plant going up in New England any time soon, until cellulostic technologies make Maine's forestry waste an efficient feedstock.

I want to know the steam required for ethanol plant
How it is generated and circulated in the process of ethanol manufacturing.
what is the use of steam turbine and its type.
How steam pressure is regulated after steam turbine

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