Monday, April 9, 2012
Bioethanol has successfully substituted Gasoline as a fuel for cars both in the form of blends with Gasoline or individually as an Anhydrous Ethanol. This successful demonstration by Brazil opens up new generation of cars called flex-fuel cars that allow usage of various blends of Ethanol and Gasoline.Bioethanol can also be used to generate Hydrogen onsite by steam reformation so that even Fuel cell cars such as Honda FCX can be felled by Bioethanol.This makes Bioethanol unique as an alternative fuel for transportation. It also facilitates onsite power generation using Fuel cell, replacing diesel engines. Substitution of Gasoline by Bioethanol has several advantages over other alternative fuels. The biggest advantage with Bioethanol is, it is renewable and it allows reduction of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and it will be eligible for Carbon credit. It can be produced by both developing as well as developed countries using locally available agriculture produces such as cane sugar, corn, tapiaco, sorghum etc. Hydrogen generated from Bioethanol is also free from Sulfur compounds normally associated with natural gas, making it an ideal fuel for Fuel cell application in cars, as well as for power generation using SOFC (solid oxide Fuel cell) or PAFC (Phosphoric acid Fuel cell).The resulting high purity Hydrogen 99.99% can be used as fuel for all type of transportation including Fuel cell Buses, scooters and even boats. The stoichometric reaction of steam reformation in presence of catalyst can be represented by the following chemical reaction: C2H5OH + 3 H2O---------- 6H2 + 2 CO2 The Ethanol and water mixture is preheated and the vaporized mixture is fed into a catalytic reactor. The resulting Hydrogen is contaminated with carbon monoxide. This gas mixture is separated using membrane such as Palladium to get Hydrogen with less than 50ppm CO as contaminant. Such purity is acceptable by Fuel cell such as SOFC as well as PAFC.In future a small micro-reactor for on-board reformation may be possible making Fuel cell cars with onboard liquid fuel storage. Commercial reformers consumes about 0.88 lits of Bioethanol of 96% purity to generate 1 Nm3 of Hydrogen with 60% conversion. This translates to $ 5.90 per Kg of Hydrogen. Fuel cell cars offer a mileage of 240 from 1 kg Hydrogen costing only $5.90. For onsite power generation 1 kg Hydrogen generates as much as 15Kw electricity and 20Kw heat .Onsite Hydrogen generation with steam reformation also facilitates using SOFC and PAFC for high temperature power generation applications. They are ideal for CHP (combined heat and power) applications for 24x7 operations like hospitals, hotels and super markets. These fuel cells are silent in operation without any emissions except water vapor. Governments should encourage Bioethanol production and distribution for both transportation and power generation. There is a fear that Ethanol could be diverted for potable purposes illegally depriving Governments of potential reveneues.But this can be solved by denaturing Bioethanol and making it unsuitable for potable purposes. Denaturants such Pyridine has no effect on steam reformation and number of denaturants are available. Such policies will allow transition from fossil fuels to Hydrogen or Bioethanol.This is a simple and straight forward step any Government can take irrespective of the size or type of a nation. But it requires political will, determination and leadership. Developing countries need not wait for big greenhouse emitters such as US, China and India to make a decision on their Carbon emissions but start introducing Bioethanol as fuel locally.
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Many universities, research and development institutions and industries are studying various biological processes to produce Hydrogen using different sources of organic materials such as Starch, Glucose, Bioethanol and cellulosic materials. However many of these technologies are at “proof of concept’ stages. Moreover these processes depend upon location and availability of specific raw materials in these locations. For example, Brazil has been very successful in the production of Bioethanol form sugar cane molasses and using it as the fuel for cars. Brazil has also successfully utilized Bioethanol as a substitute for Naphtha as a feedstock for the production of Ethylne, a precursor for several plastics such as PVC and Polyethylene and Glycols. Bioethanol is a classic example of biological process than can successfully substitute Gasoline. Many industrial raw materials are also derived from Sugar cane and Corn Starch. The main issue in substituting Gasoline with bio-chemicals is political in many countries. India has been producing industrial alcohol from sugarcane molasses for number of years but they are not be able successfully substitute Gasoline with Alcohol.They have to fix the price of Alcohol in relation to the price of Gasoline or Naptha.This pricing mechanism is critical. We have been using coal as the raw material for several decades not only to generate power but also to produce host of organic chemicals and fertilizers such as Urea, coal tar chemicals such as dyes and pharmaceuticals. These industries later switched over to oil and Gas. Now the world is facing depletion of fossil fuels at a faster rate. Greenhouse emission and global warming threats are looming large. There is a clear sign that the energy prices will sharply increase in the near future. Renewable energy projects are at early stages and their initial costs and cost of productions are much higher compared to fossil fuel based power generation. However biological processes and biofuels offer a glimpse of hope to get over the energy crisis and also to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Production of Biohydrogen using bio-organic materials such as starch, glucose and cellulosic materials are under development, but it may be a decade before they can be successfully commercialized. But production of Bioethanol and Biogas are well-known technologies. Generation of Biogas from agricultural waste, food waste and municipal solid waste and waste water are known technologies. However Methane the major constituents of biogas,is a potential greenhouse gas.The Biogas can be easily cleaned from other impurities such as Carbon dioxide and Hydrogen sulfide and can be readily converted to Hydrogen gas by steam reformation. This will substantially increase the energy efficiency of Biogas plants. Many developing countries can adopt these technologies on a wider scale and promote Bioethenaol and Biogas generation to substitute petroleum oil and gas. They can convert Gasoline cars into 100% Bioethanol (anhydrous) or blended with gasoline fuels for cars.These technologies are commercially available.Number of countries in Asia, Africa and South America produce starches such as Tapioca starch for industrial applications.Vegetable oils such as Jatropa and Castor oils are excellent for bio-fuels and lubricants.Though it is theoretically possible to substitute most of the petrochemicals with bio-organic materials,it is important that food products such as corn should not be diverted for commercial applications such as fuel. The coming decade will be a challenging one and Hydrogen generation from various biological organic materials can substitute fossil fuels at a much faster rate. A judicial mix of bio-energy and renewable energy such as solar and wind should help the world to overcome the challenges.