Ethanol Applications (E-10)

The Optic Edge: see and solve a problem

As an alternative fuel that reduces air pollution and promotes domestic energy independence, ethanol is experiencing significant growth in the United States. In 2004, U.S. ethanol facilities set new production records as consumers used more than 3 billion gallons of ethanol in their vehicles, according to the American Coalition for Ethanol.

In August 2005, President George W. Bush signed new energy legislation that calls for 7.5 billion gallons of ethanol and/or biodiesel to be used annually by 2012 in America’s vehicles.

That growth is sparking both public and private efforts to expand the infrastructure capable of delivering ethanol to motorists.

The new federal energy bill, for example, provides sizable tax incentives during 2006 and 2007 for the conversion of fuel-station infrastructure to handle E85.

Directly linked to this is escalating awareness of the importance of tank cleaning and maintenance.

Government and industry publications are citing the need for tank owners and operators to understand and effectively manage fuel quality through tank system maintenance.

Controlling microbial contamination in B100. How bacteria creates a fuel-quality challenge.
Source: U.S. Department of Energy,
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
2004 Biodiesel Handling and Use Guidelines (Page 25)

Our system provides one of the best ways to keep an eye on ethanol quality. Utilizing fiber-optic technology, we can inspect fuel in an ethanol tank and immediately show where any problems (water, microbial colonies, loose sediment) are occurring. Once pinpointed, the fuel-quality problem can be treated using an integrated vacuum and five-stage filtration process. The good stuff then goes back into the tank. The bad stuff is redirected into holding containers for waste disposal.

Links to what the experts say:

Safely converting a tank to E85
Source: U.S. Department of Energy,
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Alternative Fuels Data Center

“If another fuel was stored in the fueling system that you intend to convert to E85, the system must be properly cleaned. Years of fuel storage can result in sludge, moisture, and scale buildup. Even an inadvertent ‘oops’ by a transport driver can result in dirt or snow falling into the storage tank during fuel delivery. Pens, loose change, eyeglasses and cell phones have all ended up in the bottom of fuel tanks. These are all potential sources of fuel contamination. Introducing ethanol-blended fuel, which will act as a cleaning agent, into such a tank will contaminate your fuel and may result in vehicle operational problems.”

New emphases on fighting phase separation
Source: Steel Tank Institute
“Keeping Water out of Your Storage System”

“Gasoline chemistry has changed significantly, from the removal of lead and MTBE, to (the inclusion of) additives such as ethanol. Most of these changes were done to comply with standards set by Fuel and Fuel Additive Regulations (40 CFR 79) that became effective in 1996. These new fuels are more susceptible to moisture accumulation, separation and potential biodegradation accelerated by water. For example, lead was a natural poison to the microbes that can grow in a moist environment – in today’s lead-free fuels, microbial growth can more readily occur. With alcohol-enhanced fuels, ‘phasing’ can more easily occur, separating water, gasoline and alcohols into three distinct layers.”

Avoiding the costs of waste reclamation
How to plan properly for the side effects of a tank conversion to biodiesel.

Source: Wisconsin Department of Commerce
Environmental & Regulatory Services
Storage Tank Regulation Section May 2, 2005

“Caution and Recommendations when Making the Transition to Ethanol”

“The contamination and residue resulting from failure to properly prepare a tank for the introduction of ethanol blends may result in the entire contents of the tank being disposed of via a hazardous waste reclamation facility.”

Protecting motorists from sludge.
Source:American Coalition for Ethanol
Fuel Storage and Dispensing

“If another type of fuel was stored in the tank that will be used for the E85, it must be cleaned because storing gasoline underground causes some particulates to settle out and form a sludge. Introducing alcohol into these tanks will place this sludge into suspension and will lead to serious problems with vehicle driveability. There are several methods for cleaning sludge from the bottom of a tank.”