Commercial production of ethanol in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Final Report Page: 28 of 222
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GENERAL EVALUATION OF ETHANOL PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES
Industrial alcohol was an outgrowth of alcoholic beverages, but now it has
become important as a solvent, an ingredient for other chemicals and recently as an
alternative automobile fuel. The production of ethanol for use as a fuel is not a new
concept. The original Ford Model-T was capable of using alcohol as a fuel and, during
World War II, nations on both sides relied heavily on alcohol fuels. The United States
ordered several beverage distilleries to modify their plants to produce anhydrous eth-
anol to supplement other fuels when petroleum products were in short supply. Although
originally viewed as an ideal fuel because it is manufactured from a renewable com-
modity and it stabilizes the market for farm crops, ethanol could not survive the direct
competition from gasoline and the demand for ethanol as a motor fuel largely disap-
peared after the 1950s.
As petroleum prices continue to escalate and the pressure increases to gain
energy independence from foreign suppliers, ethanol has again surfaced as a potential
fuel, most notably for automobiles. Ethanol is one of the most promising alternatives
to fossil fuels that can be produced in the near-term. Fermentation ethanol has become
the first non-petroleum fuel to attain widespread use in the United States through the
sale of gasohol, a blend of 10 percent anhydrous ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. Of
the 303 million liters (80 million gallons) of fermentation alcohol produced in 1979,
189 million liters (50 million gallons) were blended to obtain gasohol (Solar Energy
Research Institute, 1980). This product can be used in conventional internal combustion
engines without major modifications with no resultant effect on engine performance.
Conventional production techniques are generally not energy efficient. There-
fore, one major issue for future ethanol production facilities is to minimize conven-
tional fuel required for the process steps in order to make the synthetic fuel sub-
stitution as attractive as possible. Most of the industrial alcohol currently manufac-
tured is produced from ethylene, which is a petroleum product, so the replacement
value of fermentation alcohol becomes even more attractive.
This study will address the feasibility of utilizing geothermal fluid as the
prime energy source for the ethanol production process. A review of the industrial
processing geothermal direct use data base and commercial ethanol production methods
was conducted for application to the San Luis Valley Ethanol Plant. The main
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Hewlett, E.M.; Erickson, M.V.; Ferguson, C.D.; Sherwood, P.B.; Boswell, B.S.; Walter, K.M. et al. Commercial production of ethanol in the San Luis Valley, Colorado. Final Report, report, July 1, 1983; United States. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc874948/m1/28/: accessed March 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.