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Straw Converted to Gasohol in Canada 74

Posted by michael
from the short-straw dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Government of Canada announced that its vehicle fleet is the first in the world to use cellulose-based ethanol. Iogen Corporation produces the ethanol from wheat straw at its leading-edge demonstration facility in Ottawa."
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Straw Converted to Gasohol in Canada

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  • duh. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Knights who say 'INT (708612) on Friday January 07, 2005 @05:31PM (#11291379) Journal
    About one fourth of brazilian cars have been running on cellulose-based ethanol since the late 80's.

    The whole system is only economical when we subsidize sugarcane farmers though :-|.
  • Re:duh. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2005 @07:28PM (#11292625)
    About one fourth of brazilian cars have been running on cellulose-based ethanol since the late 80's. The whole system is only economical when we subsidize sugarcane farmers though :-|.

    Uh, no.

    Brazil uses standard fermentation from *sucrose* not *cellulose*. That's why you need sugarcane - to get the sugar. If you are just using cellulose, you can use anything with cellulose: straw, cornstalks, paper pulp, old cotton clothes, grass clippings, etc.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2005 @07:32PM (#11292671)
    straw does rot back to its initial components and forms a major source of nutrients for upcoming wheat crops. Removing it for fuel just means you have to put more oil-based fertiliser.

    Except that for the ethanol you only take out the carbon portion of the straw - the stuff that doesn't stick around when it rots anyway. You don't fertilize with carbon, you use (fixed) nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, iron and other micronutrients (basically salts). "Using oil to make fertilizer" means burning the oil for fuel to process rocks to get fertilizer.

    What's left behind after the ethanol is extracted is a sludge which probably works nicely as a fertilizer, as it is rich in all the stuff which plants are made of.
  • The process (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 07, 2005 @07:40PM (#11292753)
    The ethanol is being produced by iogen http://www.iogen.ca/ [iogen.ca]. Info from their website, for those who won't even RTFA (Posted Anonymous so I'm not accused of karma whoring):

    "EcoEthanol(TM) is the patented name of Iogen's cellulose ethanol process. The process uses an enzyme hydrolysis to convert the cellulose in agriculture residues into sugars. These sugars are fermented and distilled into ethanol fuel using conventional ethanol distillation technology."

    ...

    Cellulose ethanol differs from conventional ethanol in the following ways:
    a) the manufacturing process does not consume fossil fuels, but rather uses plant byproducts to create the energy to run the process (this leads to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions profile),
    b) the technology is new and emerging and has only recently become practical, and
    c) the raw material does not compete as a food source for humans and is available today based upon existing farm practices.

    ...

    *How much ethanol do you get from a tonne of feedstock?
    Exact output depends on the condition of the feedstock that is put into the process, however approximately 300 litres of ethanol are produced from one tonne of feedstock. There is also approximately 200kg of lignin left after hydrolysis. The lignin can be burned to generate power.

  • Re:Cost to convert? (Score:2, Informative)

    by chizzad (35279) on Friday January 07, 2005 @09:05PM (#11293375) Homepage
    Actually, some DaimlerChrysler cars (my parents' minivan) have a little sticker that says it can run on E85. The interesting thing is that E85 which is 85% etanol can be purchased in corn-towns in Minnesota cheaply. E85 and %10 must be subsidized in rural MN. /I wouldn't put E85 into my Golf IV but I do use the subsidized %10 ethanol mix.
  • by Smidge204 (605297) on Friday January 07, 2005 @10:52PM (#11293969) Journal
    Uh, no... I think he means 12% of all the gasoline sold in the US contains ethanol, not gasoline is 12% ethanol. In fact, the article you linked to says exactly that: In the United States, one out of every eight gallons of gasoline sold contains ethanol. (1/8 = 12.5%)

    Thanks for the link, though. I find it interesting that MTBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether), which is used during the winter to reduce air pollution, in turn increases groundwater pollution. Where I live our only source of water is groundwater, so the local governments are SUPER DUPER anal about pollution control like septic/chemical waste systems and fuel storage... but the pumps say that the fuel is oxygenated with an ether from November to February. I wonder if it's the same stuff...
    =Smidge=
  • by pipingguy (566974) on Saturday January 08, 2005 @02:12AM (#11295061) Homepage

    The synthetic fuel goals in northern Alberta keep getting funded by the billions for some reason (I'm currently working on a side project - nothing impressive to the average Slashdot reader). The cost of extraction is high, but the available resources are quite impressive.

    Anyone want to take a shot as to why why all this money is being spent on crappy oil?

    If you guessed self-sustainability for North America you're probably right. All the while we learn more about clean production, co-gen, etc.

    If middle east oil dried-up tomorrow, we'd be able to supply the continent for quite a few decades, albeit at somewhat higher prices.

Premature optimization is the root of all evil. -- D.E. Knuth

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