Quantifying Energy Savings Gained through Production of Hydrous Ethanol from Corn

University of Minnesota/William Northrop

This project represents an expansion of current work at the University of Minnesota in evaluating and developing technology that will allow the expanded use of hydrous ethanol in diesel engines. Early research has proven that up to 150 proof hydrous can be used in a dual fuel mode to reduce soot and NOx emissions below regulated standards without complex after treatment systems and without reduction in engine fuel efficiency. This project combines this ongoing research with previous experience in lifecycle energy analyses to further motivate the expanded use of hydrous ethanol. The proposed work fills a critical knowledge gap by definitively proving that optimization of plant processes to produce hydrous ethanol will improve the economics and renewability of fuel-ethanol production.

Direct estimations of energy savings possible by converting an existing plant to hydrous ethanol production will provide additional motivation for expanded uses of the fuel. If hydrous ethanol can be used as a diesel replacement, for example, blend wall restrictions on ethanol fuel sales can be overcome. The goal of this research is to quantify the energy use from thermodynamically optimized hydrous and anhydrous ethanol refineries using the modeling software Aspen Plus and additional analysis.