June 7, 2007

Pipeline research for ethanol transport

New bipartisan legislation is being introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate that propose funding research to investigate transport of ethanol by pipeline.

I think the proposal is an excellent idea and a quite relevant area of research for site developers with whom I work.

I would like to know the results of the kind of pipe research that is being proposed. Not being able to pipe ethanol is a drawback in comparison to fossil fuels because of the relative trouble and expense (not to mention emissions) of hauling it any other way.

Conventional understanding of the problem of piping ethanol is that 1) it is susceptible to water contamination from pipe leaks and 2) it is best not to alternate between other fuels and ethanol using the same pipes.

Once an industrial site is built, it frequently converts to similar industrial usage because of the raw material, zoning, and transportation corridor development that went into it. There are existing pipes that connect prospective biorefinery sites with existing transportation hubs that could be upgraded at relatively low expense compared to these hauling costs - saving time and money.

Could pipes that carted chemicals and fuels yesterday be upgraded to service ethanol today and maybe other fuels like biobutanol tomorrow? Maybe the research could give us the answers.

Here are excerpts from a recent article on the announcement...

Study sought on ethanol pipelines
Supplement to rail transport appears vital as industry expands, Boswell says
By William Ryberg
DesMoines Register Business Writer
May 30, 2007

Two members of Iowa's congressional delegation want to know whether pipelines would be a good way to get ethanol transported across the country in the future.

Rep. Leonard Boswell, D-Ia., held a news conference Tuesday to announce that he'd introduced a bill in the U.S. House asking for a $2 million study of the feasibility of transporting ethanol by new or existing pipeline. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Ia., introduced a similar bill in the Senate.

Boswell, in a statement, said practical and economical ways to transport ethanol across the country need to be found because the industry continues to expand.

Pipelines are a major mover of gasoline, diesel fuel and jet fuel in the United States, but ethanol is moved primarily by rail car.

The bill would direct the U.S. secretary of energy to award money for a study of the feasibility and value of using pipelines to transport ethanol from the Midwest, where it's generally produced, to the eastern and western United States.

Currently, movement of ethanol through pipelines leads to "stress corrosion cracking" in the pipe and welds, Bruce Heine, director of government and media affairs for Magellan Midstream Partners of Tulsa, Okla., said after the news conference. Magellan is a pipeline company with a major terminal near Des Moines.

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