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USDA Reduces Forecast of Corn Consumption for Ethanol by 7.5%

23 December 2008

Decwasde
Forecast corn use for ethanol. Click to enlarge.

The December edition of the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) drops the projected use of corn for ethanol production by 300 million bushels for 2008/09 to 3,700 million bushels from its November forecast of 4,000 million bushels. The lower consumption figure still represents a 22.3% increase over estimated corn use for ethanol in 2007/08.

Estimated corn consumption for ethanol production in 2007/08 was 3,026 million bushels, according to the USDA. Consumption for 2006/2007 was 2,119 million bushels.

The December WASDE keeps projected total corn production for 2008/09 at 12,020 million bushels, and maintains its estimate of total supply (including stocks and imports) at 13,659 million bushels. The revised forecast thus projects ethanol production taking 27.1% of the total corn supply, or 30.8% of new production.

Estimated production in 2007/08 was 13,074 million bushels, with 14,398 million bushels total supply; production in 2006/07 was 10,535 million bushels, with 12,514 million bushels total supply.

Corn use is projected lower with increased feed and residual use more than offset by reductions in ethanol use and exports. Ethanol use is projected 300 million bushels lower this month as prospects for blending above federally mandated levels decline. Financial problems for ethanol producers are reducing plant capacity utilization for existing plants and delaying plant openings for those facilities still under construction. Falling gasoline prices have also resulted in high relative prices for ethanol, reducing blender incentives.

Despite reductions in expected meat production, corn feed and residual use is raised 50 million bushels as lower ethanol production reduces the availability of distillers grains. Corn exports are projected 100 million bushels lower reflecting strong competition from larger foreign grain supplies and the slow pace of sales to date. Projected ending stocks are raised 350 million bushels. The season-average farm price is projected at $3.65 to $4.35 per bushel, down on both ends of the range from last month’s $4.00 to $4.80 per bushel.

Global coarse grain consumption is projected 7.4 million tons lower mostly on lower expected US ethanol corn use. Global coarse grain stocks for 2008/09 are projected at 165.5 million tons, up 14.6 million from last month, and the highest since 2004/05.

—USDA WASDE

Although the projected number of planted and harvested acres in 2008/09 declines from 2007/08, the USDA projects an increase in average corn yield per acre from 151.1 bushels to 153.8 bushels.

December 23, 2008 in Ethanol | Permalink | Comments (31) | TrackBack (0)

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Now that the food for fuel spooks have been chased away, we can proceed on the task of meeting and exceeding the 2009 RFS requirement of 10.21%. The EPA raised 2009 RFS earlier this year from 7.71% via the Clean Air Act as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

This latest USDA announcement while lowering the total corn for ethanol use is still a 22.3% increase over 2008. All in all a continuing win for the environment, national security, and the goal of energy independence. Congratulations to EPA for pressing forward with domestic renewable energy.

Now that the food for fuel spooks have been chased away, we can proceed on the task of meeting and exceeding the 2009 RFS requirement of 10.21%. The EPA raised 2009 RFS earlier this year from 7.71% via the Clean Air Act as amended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.

This latest USDA announcement while lowering the total corn for ethanol use is still a 22.3% increase over 2008. All in all a continuing win for the environment, national security, and the goal of energy independence. Congratulations to EPA for pressing forward with domestic renewable energy.

Call me what you want, but we're still here, and
corn ethanol is still as bad as it ever was.

I'm OK with plant based ethanol as fuel, but not from corn. So how about this: Let's limit our corn ethanol to 10% (where we are now) and anything above that needs to come from cellulosic or some other more sustainable source that doesn't use a ton of fertilizer and water.

There's NO WAY we can grow enough corn to meet our fuel needs, and going to over 20% (as planned) will destroy our cropland even more and will raise food prices. Maybe it will only raise them a tiny bit, but there's just no way to deny that it has SOME effect (even if small).

Also, it doesn't make economic sense. Why are we subsidizing corn ethanol at $0.51 per gallon? That's crazy. And even with those subsidies, corn ethanol plants are shutting down. This is ridiculous.

Aren't those corn ethanol subsidies in addition to the subsidies corn already gets from general farm aid/subsidies?

Then you got to add-in the subsidies from the oil industry is because the farmers use a lot of diesel for fueling their equipment, and whatever they use to heat the distiller, and add in that the fertilizer is made using natural gas [which is also gets subsidies] as a feedstock and its a real taxpayer-financed mess.

Yep. With all those taxpayer (read) government subsidies - you could say the big ag corn business is nationalized.

And of course the alcohol should be made from cellulose downstream. The entire ethanol business is aware of this and are acting on it ala Range Fuels, Coskata and a dozen other cellulosic projects.

Given that the process for making ethanol from gasified cellulose doesn't differ much from a feedstock of coal, and we've been working on synfuels from coal since the 1970's, it seems safe to say that the product is not likely to be economical any time soon.  Ethanol from corn would be entirely uneconomical if it wasn't for the subsidies and mandates.

What irks me is the paths being ignored.  Syngas (CO+H2) has about the same heating value as hydrogen and could be used as a substitute in combustion engines (roughly interchangeable with compressed hydrogen), but the only programs are to turn it into liquids at a substantial loss.  It could be burned in the field in cogenerators or simple gas turbines and the power fed into the grid.  We wouldn't have to worry about the cost or difficulties of liquefaction.

These programs look more and more like deliberate diversions, aimed at preventing any real alternatives from ever displacing petroleum.

Actually EP that's why I favor NG fuel for cars. Once you have the systems installed to handle gaseous fuels you can extend the stockpiles of NG by turning biomass into biogas and/or blending in H2.

Hard to believe that greens are suggesting expansion of fossil fuels over sustainable, renewable non-fossil fuels. But at some point, like petro engineers, people seem willing to give up the sustainability component in favor of old fashioned fossils.

Looks like we've got two players here who are eligible for the coveted " Fossil of the Day Award"

BTW, Coskata's demo plant is near completion and their plans to build a 100M gallon plant for 2011 start move forward.
http://tinyurl.com/8d9ldw

Acually I'm not suggesting an expansion of fossil fuels.
I'm suggesting we replace carbon heavy oil fuels with carbon light NG as a stepping stone to renewables.
I just don't think we can bring renewables online fast enough.

Also, as I said; Once you have the systems installed to handle gaseous fuels you can extend the stockpiles of NG by turning biomass into biogas and/or blending in H2.

And you get a higher ERoEI with biogas.

Most if not all bio and agro fuels cannot compete with fossil fuel when crude oil price is as low as $30/barrel.

Current grain (or cellulosic) ethanol subsidies will progressively cost more and more as production ramps up.

The only way to offset this huge subsidy future cost and reduce oil imports at the same time would be with a selective but progressive carbon tax on fossil fuel.

It will never happen in Canada (a net crude oil exporter) and most OPEP nations but it should be more acceptable in Oil importing countries like USA, China, India, Japan, Indonesia and many European countries, where over 75% of the world crude oil is used.

ai_vin, since you're touting biogas so much, maybe you can tell me the conversion efficiency from cellulose to biogas, as well as the capital cost and conversion time.  Thermal processes may yield a much lower BTU gas, but they can be upwards of 70% efficient and work very fast.

What makes you think your "lower BTU gas" from "thermal processes" isn't a biogas?

Biogas simply refers to a gas produced from breakdown of organic matter in the absence of oxygen.

One type of biogas IS produced by anaerobic digestion or fermentation of biodegradable materials such as biomass, manure or sewage, municipal waste, green waste and energy crops. This type of biogas comprises primarily methane and carbon dioxide.

But the other principal type of biogas is producer gas [AKA wood gas, syngas] which is created by thermal gasification of wood or other biomass. This type of biogas is comprised primarily of nitrogen, hydrogen, and carbon monoxide, with only trace amounts of methane. However the exact percentages of each gas produced depends on the feedstock being cooked.

Although the gas produced is a mixture doesn't it make sense to put it through a filter and use the different gases for different jobs?

Biogas means gas produced by biological processes.  Pyrolysis is definitely outside this definition.

My point is that the PTB appear to be financing expensive ethanol/F-T possibilities at efficiencies well under 50% when they could be going for pyrolysis systems with demonstrated cold-gas efficiencies of 75% or better.  The question is, why?  Which is the best use of limited feedstock?

You're using a much narrower definition than I and many others would use but I don't want to argue this point, it would only be distraction. Let's use a different term; renewable fuel gas? RFG would be a more inclusive category, it would include biogas, producer gas from biomass and hydrogen released from water with renewable energy.

Which is the best use of limited feedstock? Well I don't like 'either/or' arguments, 'all or nothing' arguments or 'one size fits all' arguments. When it comes to renewable energy we should use a mix of energy sources and apply the right tech to the right job: Your low BTU producer gas is perfectly suitable for a stationary power application - want more power? Just use a bigger pipe. Heck, you don't even need a combustible gas; if it's hot or pressurized from the producer you can get usable power from it. But for mobile power [like in a car] you want your fuel to take up less space, so methane and/or hydrogen is it. Ideally we should be electrifying our transport but that's not always possible.

As for which process to use? We use the right process for the right feedstock. Is the feedstock "wet" or "dry?" Pyrolysis happens at higher temperatures and water takes more energy to get past the boiling point. Anaerobic digestion takes little energy when the materials are easily biodegradable. So you use thermal gasification on wood and other high cellulose material and "anaerobic digestion or fermentation on manure or sewage, municipal waste, green waste and energy crops." As I said.

Even here it's not an 'either/or' argument. Anaerobic digestion of wet biomass will produce higher concentrations of methane but leave behind a lot of material - a lot but it's still reduced in mass, therefore it will take less energy to bring it up to pyrolysis temperatures. What remains after this could be used as biochar or put through a plasma torch to get the last bit of gas out.

A while back, I asked you:

maybe you can tell me the conversion efficiency from cellulose to biogas, as well as the capital cost and conversion time.
I note that you have thus far failed to offer anything resembling an answer, but have instead chosen to change the subject.
Let's use a different term; renewable fuel gas? RFG would be a more inclusive category
  • It also conflates radically different things; biogas typically means a mix of about 50% methane and 50% CO2 with an LHV of around 500 BTU/ft³, biomethane is predominantly methane with an LHV over 1000 BTU/ft³, and pyrolysis gas is 300 BTU/ft³ or less depending on whether it's made using air or oxygen, the CO2 is removed, etc.
  • RFG already means reformulated gasoline.
No, I don't think a catch-all term is needed, or even useful.
Which is the best use of limited feedstock? Well I don't like 'either/or' arguments, 'all or nothing' arguments or 'one size fits all' arguments.
We're talking about fuels to run vehicles here.  Hydrogen and CO are both about 300 BTU/ft³.  Solid torrefied biomass may be superior to any gas based not just on the efficiency, but on the ease of fueling and storage.
Heck, you don't even need a combustible gas; if it's hot or pressurized from the producer you can get usable power from it.
At an enormous waste of energy.  Pressure-drop turbines are useful but they don't capture anything like the energy of combustion of a fuel gas.  If you are using a pressurized combustor for e.g. a gas turbine, that's the engine right there.
As for which process to use? We use the right process for the right feedstock. Is the feedstock "wet" or "dry?"
If the feedstock is wet, it's going to be too heavy (and probably also too bulky) to be worth shipping.  You've got to process it very close to the point of production.

But if we're talking "biomass" as commonly used, the feedstock is crop stover or straw, fuel grass (probably harvested after dying back in the winter) or chipped wood or forestry byproducts.  Moisture content may be 40% for green wood to a few percent for dry grass.  All of these can be dried to a few percent moisture in air.  They are all mechanically tough and require considerable energy to divide finely.  Microbial processing requires considerably more than that.  This figures into your energy cost and processing time (which determines capital investment).

Anaerobic digestion of wet biomass will produce higher concentrations of methane but leave behind a lot of material - a lot but it's still reduced in mass, therefore it will take less energy to bring it up to pyrolysis temperatures.
Except for all the water, which is a much greater fraction of the reduced amount of biomass.  And you still haven't addressed conversion efficiency, capital cost or conversion time.

I feel like I'm talking to a wall.

No, you're talking to an ally in the fight for renewables. Try to remember that before you chew me out.

A while back, you asked me: "maybe you can tell me the conversion efficiency from cellulose to biogas, as well as the capital cost and conversion time."
And yes I didn't answer - because I don't know and don't see as it matters; We shouldn't be using that process on cellulose. "We use the right process for the right feedstock." So we use thermal gasification on wood and other high cellulose material.

>Let's use a different term; renewable fuel gas? RFG would be a more inclusive category
•It also conflates radically different things; biogas typically means a mix of about 50% methane and 50% CO2 with an LHV of around 500 BTU/ft³, biomethane is predominantly methane with an LHV over 1000 BTU/ft³, and pyrolysis gas is 300 BTU/ft³ or less depending on whether it's made using air or oxygen, the CO2 is removed, etc.
•RFG already means reformulated gasoline.

Fair enough.

>Solid torrefied biomass may be superior to any gas based not just on the efficiency, but on the ease of fueling and storage.

I thought we were talking about fuels to run vehicles here. Solid torrefied biomass would be great in displacing coal at power plants but we can't run it through an IC engine.

>If the feedstock is wet, it's going to be too heavy (and probably also too bulky) to be worth shipping. You've got to process it very close to the point of production.

Of course.

But biomass that's 'too heavy and bulky' to ship as fuel is shipped anyway, every day, for other reasons and uses. Once it's been used and labeled 'garbage' we ship it again even though it's more heavy and bulky.

"maybe you can tell me the conversion efficiency from cellulose to biogas, as well as the capital cost and conversion time."

Ok I did some research and a number of sites gave the same general percentages; the anaerobic digestion process can reduce the mass of organic solids by 80-85% in ~14 days - depending on the feedstock. However some of that reduction actually comes from 'dewatering.' So the process only converts 50-65% to biogas. Comparable to the 75+% you get from pyrolysis systems. [I've also found that plasma based systems can reduce organic solids by 95+%. How much of that goes into gas I don't know.]

Still, the residue from either process isn't exactly going to waste. The digestate leftover from the anaerobic process and the biochar you can get from pyrolysis are both very good soil improvers.

In the mid to long term, the technology used to produce usable liquid fuels or electric energy will depend on the relative production and distribution cost per unit of energy.

That being said, one of the best way to promote one technology over another is the good old fashion subsidy route coupled with selective taxes (to fund the subsidies).

When fossil liquid fuels price change drastically, as it did it during the last six months, alternative fuels (or energy) subsidies have to be adjusted accordingly to maintain relative competition. Above a certain crude oil price, the alternative fuels subsidies could even become negative.

Alternative fuel could also be promoted by taxing fossil fuels but too many people would disapprove. Not that many people will accept to pay an extra $1/gal for fossil fuels to pay for alternative fuels subsidies.

Since alternative fuels cannot compete with $30 or $40/barrel crude oil and we do not want to tax it to ramp the price up to alternative fuel production cost, alternative liquid fuels may be doomed for as long as cheap crude oil is available or we accept a new fossil fuel tax.

The country cannot keep on increasing the subsidies without a new source of revenues. It is deep enough in debt allready.

What bugs me about people[Americans] who disapprove of high taxes on fossil fuels is that they don't seem to know how little they pay at the pump and how much they have to pay on April 15 because of it. The oil companies get tax credits and grants that amount to huge subsidies.

Now I'm not against subsidies par se but there has to be a good reason for them and the only reason the oil companies get get them is that they send lobbyists to Washington with briefcases full of money. A good reason for subsidies would be if the public is getting some side benefit from the tech that they aren't paying for.

This is what I mean by subsidied oil-
http://www.icta.org/doc/Real%20Price%20of%20Gasoline.pdf

Quoth ai_vin:

Solid torrefied biomass may be superior to any gas based not just on the efficiency, but on the ease of fueling and storage.
I thought we were talking about fuels to run vehicles here.
I am.  Charcoal was used in on-board gasogenes during both world wars, and torrefied biomass has similar properties.  The bulk and weight of a bin for pellets is much smaller than tanks for compressed fuel gas, there's no leakage, fire or explosion hazard, and you can handle the fuel in buckets.
But biomass that's 'too heavy and bulky' to ship as fuel is shipped anyway, every day, for other reasons and uses. Once it's been used and labeled 'garbage' we ship it again even though it's more heavy and bulky.
I submit that you have it backwards:  waste is shipped not because it has uses, but because it is useless (creates nuisances and hazards).  Being able to treat it closer to the point of origin is a big selling point of many of the waste-to-fuel processes.
anaerobic digestion process can reduce the mass of organic solids by 80-85% in ~14 days - depending on the feedstock. However some of that reduction actually comes from 'dewatering.' So the process only converts 50-65% to biogas.
Must be what they call "bound water".  That reference mentions 30 days retention time, which will require a certain amount of capital investment.  I also found the abstract Anaerobic biogasification of undiluted dairy manure in leaching bed reactors which you may find informative.

The same search turned up a 2003 Usenet posting with a claim that the nitrogen in the digestate winds up mostly in the liquid filtrate rather than the dewatered solids (which are typically just 18-22% solids), so nutrient cycling is an issue.

@E-P
>>I thought we were talking about fuels to run vehicles >>here.
>I am. Charcoal was used in on-board gasogenes during >both world wars,

I know this, my grandfather drove a cab during WWII with with set-up but the system he described took up the whole of the boot and had a huge gasgag on the roof.

>>But biomass that's 'too heavy and bulky' to ship as >>fuel is shipped anyway, every day, for other reasons >>and uses. Once it's been used and labeled 'garbage' >>we ship it again even though it's more heavy and >>bulky.
>I submit that you have it backwards: waste is shipped >not because it has uses, but because it is useless
>(creates nuisances and hazards).

No, I was refering to the original biomass being shipped in as being useful. The waste reference was a separate sentence and separate issue.

>Being able to treat it closer to the point of origin >is a big selling point of many of the waste-to-fuel >processes.

Agreed and that IS the point I'm trying to make. When talking about biomass-to-fuel/energy you have to concider many issues with the feedstocks; one (which process is best for which feedstock) I've gone over already, but another is 'what was the feedstock being used for before?' The whole "food-to-fuel" issue is just one side of that, most of the feedstocks ARE being used for something else. We should only use biomass-to-fuel/energy when they aren't being used for something else or when it improves the feedstock: I favor thermal gasification for MSW, because it's only going into a landfill anyways, and anaerobic digestion for farm/green wastes for the same reasons farmers like it.

>The same search turned up a 2003 Usenet posting with a >claim that the nitrogen in the digestate winds up >mostly in the liquid filtrate rather than the >dewatered solids (which are typically just 18-22% >solids), so nutrient cycling is an issue.

I believe farmers use the liquid also.

BTW I think "bound water" is only part of the water that's dewatered. Organic matter is made of chemical compounds with the elements; hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. You gotta figure that the biological processes of anaerobic digestion are going to change those chemical bonds and some of that hydrogen and oxygen is going to come out as H2O.

Also, here's something of interest-
http://www.cbc.ca/fifth/2008-2009/the_gospel_of_green/video.html

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