Dec 31, 2009 Energy Talks
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researcher Agricultural Engineer Esha Khullar has found with close study that alternative ethanol production processes can produce more accessible products with better quality, a 20% boost in ethanol production plus saving waste and better efficiency. The choices for ethanol producers for profiting and answering product demands can be broader and more directed. There are new answers to the food vs. fuel debate as well.
A corn kernel is made up of three primary parts, the starch that is desired for ethanol production and some other starch and sugar based chemistry, the germ, which is the living seed where the proteins and most of the vegetable oil are, and the hard surrounding shell that offers fiber products to the market. Of these the oil and the germ are the most desirable parts for human consumption with high digestible protein and energy rich oil.
Currently the practice is to hammer mill, or to high speed whack the dry kernels into close to dust size particles that is simply faster than the even older process of grinding the kernels between two closely held stones. Both the ancient grinding method and the more modern hammer mill blend the three main parts into a more uniform raw material. Both methods need dry corn to work. It’s the time proven way to make ethanol.
What ethanol producers get out is ethanol and the distiller’s grain holding all the surviving proteins, oil and fiber products with the remaining unfermented starch.
What Khullar has researched is skipping the hammer milling or grinding and goes straight to the fractionating of the three main kernel parts by either a wet or dry method. In comparing the wet and dry fractionation methods, Khullar’s research team found that when using the wet fractionation method, the result is even higher ethanol concentrations coming out of the fermenter and better quality co-products than the dry method. That allows the proteins, oils and fiber to be marketed independently.
In the wet process, the corn kernels are soaked; washing the germ, which Khullar says is a cleaner separation. “There’s not a lot of starch sticking to the germ. That’s why you get higher oil concentrations.” After the kernels are soaked they are ground to produce a slurry. The slurry is soaked with enzymes that raise the specific gravity to a point where the germ starts floating and can be skimmed out from the top.
In the dry fractionation method, the kernel is just crushed, flattening out the germ. Khullar explains, “The germ is still attached to a certain part of the endosperm and you still have a few starch pieces sticking to it. You have a very high starch content germ from the dry fractionation and that lowers the oil content. That’s why there’s a big difference in the wet process compared to the dry process.”
Efficiency has driven the research as running the germ and the fiber through fermentation is pointless having no starch or sugar, so it’s wasteful. Khullar explains, “It’s better to remove them before the process. That way you have more starch in the fermenter. And you don’t have to heat them and bump them and cool them.” That saves energy inputs.
The process doesn’t require developing any new equipment. “It’s just a modification of things that are already being done in the corn processing industry and can be done pretty easily,” Khullar said. That might be a little overstated; some plant engineers will see major process revisions as plant layouts have evolved over the nearly three decades of building up the industry.
The major political payoff is the fuel ethanol business has the opportunity to answer the food vs. fuel debate with the high value products of protein, oil and fiber going to market instead of being lost in the distiller’s grain. In truth, cornstarch used to make high fructose corn sugar is even less healthy than just using plain sugar; so having less on the market would benefit some obesity issues.
The advantages are impressive.
20% more ethanol as more of the starch is going to fermentation, less energy inputs as the fermenting broth is “cleaner” without the fiber and germ going for the ride,
The proteins, oil and fiber can be sold independently for their value, distiller’s grain is greatly reduced saving more energy inputs to dry and process it.
Ethanol production is one of humanities’ oldest processes. The traditional process is well known and tested to huge scale. Khullar’s work shows the value of investigation and trying the steps in alternative forms to seek the most favorable result.
The surprise is not that the happened with such impressive results, but that it’s only been done now. A look at the paper’s abstract shows there is still a way to go.
The research team included Erik D. Sall, Kent D. Rausch, M.E. Tumbleson, and Vijay Singh. The University of Illinois and Monsanto Company provided the funding. The paper entitled “Ethanol Production from Modified and Conventional Dry-Grind Processes Using Different Corn Types” was published in the November/December 2009 issue of Cereal Chemistry.
Original post: New Energy and Fuel
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Dec 30, 2009 ELV Systems
Certain applications will require that you use a line voltage powered smoke detector with auxiliary relays, such as the GE 320 and 350 series of smoke detectors. How do you connect the auxiliary relays to the security or automation panel? Click here for a diagram.
Figure 1 shows tandem detectors with the Form C relay being used with the end-of-line resistor. The resistor value will vary depending on which panel you are using. Notice that the resistor is in series with the current loop, but in parallel with either of the Normally Open Form C relay contacts. During normal conditions, the panel sees the resistor and is in the “ready” mode. Upon smoke alarm from either detector, the relay in that detector changes state and produces a short across the resistor, causing the panel to go in to the “alarm” mode. Those are the only two states that the panel will see.
If you recall from a previous article on 4-wire smoke detectors, there are three different states that the panel sees when using these detectors: Ready, Alarm, and Trouble. Trouble was the supervisory indication that power was lost to the 4-wire circuit. In the case of the GE detectors, we won’t get that trouble message diplayed on the panel’s console. Since there is a 9 volt battery to back-up an AC power loss, the indication of a trouble condition would be when the battery drains down and starts chirping, usually when you are trying to go to bed, sounding like a cricket singing in the night. A cricket really doesn’t sing but it makes that chirping sound by rubbing its wings, but you know what I’m talking about.
Figure 2 is identical to Figure 1 in operation to but instead of using the Form C relays, the Form A relays are used to short out the EOL resistor. Is there an advantage to using either method? None really, that I can think of.
Well, that about wraps it for me and for 2009. Have a safe Happy New Year and we’ll talk again next year.
The original post: Home Controls
Dec 30, 2009 Refrigeration
LED lighting is becoming increasingly popular in the gas station c-store industry. This is not only due to the lower energy consumption of the LED lamps, but the new lighting also makes the beverages in the coolers more visually appealing!
OSRAM Opto Semiconductors recently released their findings from a study on the life-cycle assessment (LCA) of LED lamps. Here is a summary of their findings.
LED life-cycle assessment
Light Emitting Diodes are among the most energy-efficient light sources available on the market. LED lamps are already today more than five times more efficient than incandescent lamps and future technical achievements offer additional potential for the coming years.
At present, artificial lighting accounts for around19% of global electricity consumption – that corresponds to 2.4% of worldwide primary energy consumption. 70% of the energy used for artificial lighting is consumed by lamps for which there are more energy-efficient alternatives. Simply replacing conventional light sources with LEDs would theoretically halve global electricity consumption for lighting. The potential savings are therefore enormous.
An OSRAM study monitored the life cycle of an LED and an LED lamp. It´s outcome made it clear – LED lamps need less than 2% of their energy consumption for their manufacture – over 98% are used for their task: illuminating the world.
Go here to see the original: Cooler Connection
Dec 30, 2009 Energy Talks
The U.S. oil refinery business is up against the wall for profiting, coping with oil prices and the economic atmosphere. Regulatory issues raised by every government from local to federal have imposed requirements, compliance, and regulations across the full imaginable board – each with increased costs and inefficiencies. It’s a miracle there’s any gasoline or diesel to buy at all.
They’re closing down; several northeast refineries are closed or have announced closing. Some are large ones, too. As they close the pipelines from the Gulf of Mexico coast try to make up the supplies, but factually the pipeline capacity is maxed out. Policy is just about to have serious economic impacts in the Northeast, but the press isn’t likely to do any journalism to identify the basic problems. Getting any policy change would take years, so such an effort could be just fruitless or too late. In most meaningful ways, it’s too late now.
Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering at Purdue who is working with doctoral student Vishesh Shah and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Technology Program have published research that appeared online this month in the AIChE Journal, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and will be included in a future issue of the print journal.
The research is showing refineries could trim millions of dollars in energy costs annually by using a new method the pair developed to rearrange the distillation sequence needed to separate crude petroleum into products.
Agrawal says, “This is important because improving efficiency by 10 percent at a refinery processing 250,000 barrels per day would save in excess of $12 million a year if oil were priced at $70 a barrel. And that’s just a single refinery. For the U.S. petroleum industry as a whole, this is a huge potential savings.” It would be 4 to 5 times that impact worldwide.
Refineries spend from 50 percent to 70 percent of their energy in distillation separations, which are required to separate a crude oil into various products. Four distillation columns are needed to separate raw crude into five separate components – naphtha, kerosene, diesel fuel, gas oil and heavy residue. Crude petroleum is fed into the system, heated and vaporized. Vapor rises up the first column, and the product is collected in a condenser at the top. The process is repeated in additional columns, with the number of columns depending on how many components are to be separated. It’s from these components gasoline and diesel are made.
“Improving efficiency by only a few percentage points translates into major savings. For every 100 barrels of oil distilled, nearly two barrels go into supplying energy for distillation. That’s a lot of oil,” says Agrawal.
The research is showing the distillation can be more energy efficient depending on the order in which the columns are operated. Agrawal says, “There are many ways to arrange the columns. Once we know all of the possible ways they can be arranged, then we can tell you which ones have the potential to be the most energy efficient.”
As a matter of fact, petroleum refineries have been using the same sequence for about 75 years, and it is currently the most energy efficient of the sequences known to the industry. That knowledge sets a basis for the research as the Purdue researchers confirmed using their new method.
For discovering a new method Shah built a computer algorithm that identifies all of the possible sequences and then determines which require the least heat and energy. The Purdue researchers used their new technique to determine there are nearly 6,000 possible sequences for the four columns used in petroleum distillation.
The pair identified 70 new sequences that have potential to consume less energy than the sequence now used by industry. Those 70 sequences range from being 6 percent to 48 percent more energy efficient than the method currently in use. That does speak well of the current industry engineering.
Agrawal says, “However, just because a particular sequence would be more energy efficient doesn’t mean it would be practical for industry to implement. There are a lot of challenges. Some are easy to build and just involve trivial retrofitting, and some are more difficult. So we’ll need to work with companies and refinery experts to determine which sequences could be built.”
While this might seem trivial, crude refining is a business of huge capital investment and profit margins that are usually very thin with brief periods of high profits and losses. Over a daily U.S. consumption of 19 million barrels of crude, 2% still works out to more than 380 thousand barrels a day worth something nearing $28.5 million a day or over $10.4 billion annually. Cutting that by up to 48% is worthwhile. Plus the saved heat energy would back on the market. It would be like discovering a large oil reservoir that would not decline.
If the worldwide industry can engineer in just half of the potential savings it could mean almost 400 thousand barrels a day world wide – about ten mature offshore oil platforms of production and another half percent of margin between supply and demand. It’s one more way to buy time for alternatives in fuels and other efficiencies.
Original post: New Energy and Fuel