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Hold that delete button

Posted 25/08/2010 by roses

Among the many e-mails that drop into my in-box every day, one this week stopped me in my tracks – or rather, I did a double take!

Over the past few years, C&I has reported on the growing application of ethanol as a replacement transportation fuel to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and also provide energy security.

More recently, C&I has also begun reporting on how carbon dioxide – the headline greenhouse gas responsible for global climate change – can be sequestered and therefore removed from the climate question.

Indeed, another recent release, for example, reported successful field trials into the best approaches for terrestrial carbon dioxide storage in central North America have been completed by one of the US Department of Energy’s seven Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships; in this case, the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership involving over 80 US and Canadian collaborators.

Even more recently, C&I has discussed the use of carbon dioxide as a feedstock for the production of other chemical building blocks that are conventionally produced from fossil fuel.

It is therefore not difficult to appreciate my reaction to a news release that details the construction of a plant that takes ethanol and turns it into carbon dioxide. And to cap this, the plant is located in the US, home of corn-, or maize-, based bioethanol and the drive for energy independence from imported fossil fuels.

Such news certainly demands a closer examination rather than the cursory review that most news releases are accorded in a busy editorial office – the subject matter is either relevant or it is filed – either in that round metal filing cabinet next to one’s desk or, more usually, by hitting the delete button.

So what are the details of this, at first sight, unlikely story? Well, it certainly deserved closer examination since the release, from the US arm of German gases and engineering major Linde, detailed the start-up of one of the company’s newest plants.

The facility produces carbon dioxide for use in the food, beverage and chemical manufacturing, by capturing and purifying the carbon dioxide emissions from the largest corn-based bioethanol plant in the Northeast US. To cap this, the new 600t/day carbon dioxide plant is located in a former brewery at energy major Sunoco’s site near Syracuse, New York.

So far from being an unlikely and somewhat controversial story, this is an example of how to hit all the right targets, from the production of an alternative biofuel to producing chemicals thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions – all through the application of chemistry. It certainly does pay to read every news release carefully – before hitting that button.

Neil Eisberg - Editor

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