Archive for Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More ethanol triggers concern about accident management

August 30, 2006


— The energized ethanol market has been an economic boon to Kansas but also is putting more hazardous cargo on the state's railroads and highways, officials said Tuesday.

Private industry, state government and emergency responders have joined forces to be prepared should a mishap occur.

"Ethanol is moving in Kansas and other Midwestern states," Gov. Kathleen Sebelius said, talking to an emergency training group.

Ethanol is not more hazardous than many other chemicals. It's just that as more of it is produced, more of it is transported along rails and roads, officials said.

Kansas production of ethanol, an alcohol-based alternative fuel made from corn or grain sorghum, has doubled in the last four years and is projected to double again in the next two years, Sebelius said. Current production at Kansas' eight ethanol plants is more than 215 million gallons per year.

"Kansas is a transportation hub : so whether it is by train, car or truck, we are going to have a lot of hazardous materials traveling though Kansas," Sebelius said. "So it behooves us to pull together and figure out how we can be prepared for an event should it occur."

She said cooperation had been high among state Homeland Security agencies, local communities and private industry in Kansas.

A Union Pacific freight train passes through North Lawrence on Tuesday. Trains and trucks are beginning to carry more ethanol, which is flammable. Training is scheduled for 10 Kansas communities to help local emergency personnel prepare for a possible ethanol accident.

A Union Pacific freight train passes through North Lawrence on Tuesday. Trains and trucks are beginning to carry more ethanol, which is flammable. Training is scheduled for 10 Kansas communities to help local emergency personnel prepare for a possible ethanol accident.

"We have all the parties at the table," she said.

Training sponsored by the chemical and transportation industries was scheduled for 10 Kansas communities to help local emergency personnel.

Lou Wagner, general director of chemical transportation safety for Union Pacific Railroad, said the training is especially important now that Kansas is producing and transporting more ethanol.

"This is something that definitely helps the nation and helps all of us, and we want to handle all of these shipments in the safest way possible," Wagner said.

Wagner said Union Pacific had seen a 10 percent increase in ethanol shipments from last year. The railroad has moved 3,000 rail cars of ethanol through Kansas, with each car containing 30,000 gallons.

Most of the ethanol is headed to the West Coast or Texas, he said.

A recently completed study shows there is more ethanol and other hazardous substances traveling through Douglas County.

"There is definitely a significant increase in the amount of chemicals coming through, and that (ethanol) is one of them," said Paula Phillips, Douglas County emergency management director.

The information is included in a "commodity flow study" in which a contractor recorded by sight a random sample of hazardous cargo on roadways and railroads.

Phillips said the information soon would be shared with Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical to determine if there is a need to change any training and procedures.

Many other chemicals are more hazardous than ethanol, she said, such as gaseous chlorine and anhydrous ammonia.

Because it is alcohol-based, ethanol is flammable and has the potential to explode. An ethanol fire would need to be contained with powder or foam instead of water, she said.

The training program put together by the chemical industry brought hazardous material equipment and rail cars to the Topeka railyard. The program already has been put on in Liberal, Dodge City, Wichita, Emporia and Olathe and was scheduled to go to Manhattan, Salina and Hays before concluding Sept. 14 in Oakley.


average 9 years, 3 months ago

Yep. Because ethanol absorbs water and is quite a bit more corrosive than gasoline, it's damn hard to pipeline. So, we have to transport it over the same overcrowded rail/road infrastructure. Not nearly as safe as buried pipe, either. I'm not sure we thought this cunning plan through.

Probably unrelated, but has there been a lot more freight traffic on the Santa Fe (south of river) tracks recently? Usually, increased traffic here means they're working on the high-speed KC-Ottawa-Emporia line. Maybe it's just peak season.

Bruce Bertsch 9 years, 3 months ago

Log...Brazil uses E-85. ETHANOL made from sugarcane. Use of E-10 and E-85 could reduce US consumption of oil by 12-13%. That is the equivalent to 1/2 of our consumption of Arab and Persian oil. That means we would be reducing the amount of $$$ we spend funding the terrorists we are fighting. Not the ultimate solution, but a good start. Certainly better than saying, "We're addicted to oil," and then doing nothing because a plan might not be the best solution.

compmd 9 years, 3 months ago

The ethanol we derive from corn is a waste. we might as well just use the corn oil since it is more stable, more energetic, and easier to make. Oh, but the vast majority of cars here cant use it...

tolawdjk 9 years, 3 months ago

News flash here, log, crude oil to gasoline is a negative energy process as well and the reason that Brazil is freeing itself from fossil fuel is that it is using ethanol made from sugar produced from sugar cane.

People have been looking at "passive" energy sources for years and it just isn't effecient to use the solar car.

You want to tighten the energy balance on ethanol, expand research into converting cellulose into ethanol. That will open up the usage of the complete corn plant and other options like grasses that can be raised on more marginable rangeland. Instead of irrigating the hell out of corn in Western Kansas they could harvest grass, save the aquifer, and reduce dependency on Mid East and South American crude.

average 9 years, 3 months ago

tolawdjk -

The question isn't whether crude -> gasoline loses some energy potential. That energy, to begin with, came from an accident of history. Providence, if you will. A huge reserve of biologically-stored solar energy, but so slowly restored as to be basically a finite (huge, but finite) amount in our time-frame (That is unless you want to believe Marion and the Creationist-Abiotic camp). Whether the fact that we've been finding less oil than we've been using for 20 years, and annual discoveries keep declining means we're near the top of production... stay tuned.

The question is, whether ethanol provides (through photosynthesis of modern-day sunlight) more energy than the fossilized energy (to farm, fertilize, ferment, refine, and distribute) required to produce it. Opinions on this range from modestly positive to decidedly negative.

Even if pretty energy negative (as I suspect), it may be sensible to produce some ethanol. Dense liquid fuel makes airplanes fly. Coal, wind, nuclear, and solar won't.

But, it's not going to be nearly as cheap as our last century of simply finding extremely dense hydrocarbons in the ground.

Kelly Powell 9 years, 3 months ago

now if you can keep the homeless guys from siphoning from you r gas tank for a cheap drunk......i wonder if the spirit industry will get into this? after all they have been making "ethanol" for generations and should know some tricks of the trade.

oldgoof 9 years, 3 months ago

hate to spoil the ethanol dream, but the Beef industry is already nervous about the amount of ethanol committed to coming on line in Kansas....because it will increase corn prices to the beef industry. Watch for this dynamic to occur behind in the scenes in the future.... (Ks Farm Bureau vs Ks Livestock Assn)

armyguy 9 years, 3 months ago

Anostick, you can buy grass raised beef now at many markets, though at a higher cost???

The Beef industry, needs to get over it's self. The "waste" from ethanol makes a better beef, pork or dog food, and the waste from many other processed foods makes perfect ethanol.

Yes I could fill this page with links, but just start out at or google ethanol, or buy all the volumes of books and other material I have bought and read or tour some of the ethanol plants or liquor plants.

As far as ethanol being cost effective, I have made it for 65 cents per gallon including all costs (and it is tasty). The first cars ran on achahol, and can still run a mostly pure form of it, check out Nascar.

Displayhawk 9 years, 3 months ago

Don't forget about the oil sands in Alberta, Canada. The projection is that there is the equivalent oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Enough to last the next 100 years. The problem has been seperating it from the sand economically. Hopefully technology will help on that front. I agree with Log, we all need to conserve more, and not just zero in our focus on one technology. It's beyond me why people in the Flint Hills are getting bent out of shape over Wind Farms!

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