Ethanol In Oil Patch

February 9, 2011 | 6 Comments

Jennifer Johnson at Wahpeton North Dakota’s Daily News has looked into ethanol smack in the midst of America’s prime oil boom of the Bakken oil field. For all the naysayers, ethanol is here and looks to stay.

Ethanol fuel blends increased by 133 percent in North Dakota in 2010.  It seems to be because North Dakota does what no other state seems to be able to get done.  They’re putting in the blender pumps at the service station – at least that’s the suggestion from the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

Ethanol Blender Pump Diagram. Click image for the largest view.

The Dakota Plains gas station in Lidgerwood ND has been offering the blend since last March.  Weldon Hoesl, the stations general manager, could not pinpoint how much E85 usage has increased this year – the crude oil market drives the price of ethanol, and usage usually follows.  He does explain he has noticed more of an interest in blends for older vehicles that can’t use the fuel saying, “People just driving their regular vehicles can use the 20-30 (percent ethanol) without any loss of gas mileage, and the extra ethanol prevents gas line freezing so they don’t have to put in a little jug of antifreeze. Plus, the price is cheaper on a 20 percent blend.”

Well, there’s a real world experience – blowing some reality check on the E-15 argument that has so many in a huff.

Ethanol Blending Pump Showing Octane Ratings. Imagine the compression ratio gains if you could use 105 octane. Click image for the largest view.

Hoesl notes what might be even more relevant, people get to choose – pointing out, “They can choose what they want to burn and what works best for them. We’re supporting ourselves by using the ethanol product that not only helps our farmers, but it uses less gasoline – when you get E85, we’re not dependent on our oil fields to support us.”  Actually getting to E-40 almost gets the U.S. independently supplied.

Do you suppose there is a lot of “Support America” sentiment up there?

These results for people, business and for the country as a whole are being led by North Dakota’s Biofuels Blender Pump Program.  The program has installed about 117 new blender pumps in 27 communities across the state. The program provides retailers with a $5,000 tax incentive toward installing the pump and the North Dakota Corn Council gives an additional $2,500 per pump.

The program support gives away the motivating parties.  Corn is grown way up there, maybe not at the yields seen in Iowa or Illinois, but the value is there to the state and the local growers.  More sales supports a higher price that yields more income taxes from the farmers and they’re bright enough to feed the market some supply support.

Keep in mind there are about 22 states in the U.S. where corn is grown.  This idea is showing legs, and the legs are giving consumers a choice.  One might expect that in a small town newspaper there would be blowback in the comments.  Your writer has let this article sit for over a week – and no one has posted a comment – not even one about hard stating, destroyed fuel system components – nothing posted at all.  One would expect at least the ethanol opponents would have found the article and pounded the opposing view.

They might now.  But it’s to late to be credible.

Ethanol works.  In a fuel market replete with market distortions the U.S. has an option and is using it.  All the fighting aside, ethanol is closing in on a million barrels a day of oil equivalent, keeping s a huge share of the consumer’s gasoline fuel dollars in the U.S.

It works, in oil patch no less.  It can work all across the country and the world as well.


6 Comments so far

  1. Sam salamay on February 9, 2011 4:14 AM

    The blender pump is the key to educating the driver about ethanol. Now it is up to the states to enact incentives to install these pumps nationwide. We are hoping to get ethanol in all 50 states so a national initiative can commence. In the southern states, our firm (EPEC Biofuels) is hoping to grow sweet sorghum as a primary and advanced feedstock on a distributed level whereas the farmer will prosper as well as their local communities. I applaud this article and the people of North Dakota. We are on our way to energy independence…

  2. Sam salamay on February 9, 2011 4:16 AM

    Now it’s up to the car companies to supply us with E85 vehicles like GM with its advanced Buick model, optimized for flex fuel.

  3. Walter Breidenstein on February 9, 2011 9:41 AM

    I would like to see them do the same with methanol blending pumps. We have just announced our successful field demonstration to make methanol.

    We can produce methanol at $0.25 per gallon without subsidy from the government on larger scales, and about $1.00 at small scales.

    See the article here:

    The ethanol blending pumps are encouraging. I would like to see them in Michigan for methanol. Why import 80% of our methanol?

  4. Steve Vander Griend on February 11, 2011 12:49 PM

    Ethanol is energy positive at nearly 2 to 1. If you take that energy to a volume then we produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol for every gallon gasoline.

    Ethanol displaces aromatics, the most expensive part of gasoline and the most hazardous. The VOC’s, PM, PAH & SOA’s can find its roots from the Benzene, Toluene and Xylene of aromatics. The oil companies will never tell you that E10 is 20 to 30 cents cheaper since they don’t want to disrupt the petro chemical market but ethanol is clean and green ($) to America.

    Ethanol is more efficient as well since most FFV’s will loss 15 to 20 percent mileage with consistent E85 fueling, all the while having 28 percent less energy in the tank.

    For those who say they see any significant mileage loss with E10, ask what is in the 90% gas.

    For the comment on Methanol, some issue would need to be address since it is more corrosive and for lower blends, there will be some issues to vapor pressure responce. Nothing that can’t be overcome.

  5. Me on September 26, 2013 11:16 PM

    I fix pumps, in my area no one uses blended fuel, less than 1% of sales, they sit and need nickel plated parts changed out regardless of use but due to mandated exp dates. The up keep is so severe one blended pump (popular type) produces the following garbage in a year: 12 curb hoses, 12 whips hoses, 8 nozzles, 12 filters plus other parts that come in contact of fuel. One maintenance trip produces about 150lbs of garbage, costs a site 1200 in parts alone (3-4 times per year per pump), just to sit there used or not, that’s with no pump breakdowns.
    (I test fuel often at work, and a tank of E-85, Blended, and regular fuel makes no noticeable difference in my mileage, 2000+ miles weekly for years now)

  6. Steve Vander Griend on September 27, 2013 8:41 AM

    In regards to the previous comment, I am not sure what you are fully saying but if interested, you can contact my email below. Recent testing shows aromatics (25 to 30 percent of gasoline) to be the most aggressive towards plastic, rubber & silicon as well as some corrosion issues.
    While ethanol can clean up many years of deposits from high distillation components found in gasoline, aromatics cause engine deposits, much of the small engine issues to include fuel tank leakage and swelling. All these aromatics are some form of benzene and we should be questioning what range of aromatics actually makes it into our gasoline supply.

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