October 21, 2014

Alternative Fuel

Starter Fuel

Ethanol's on the way, but it will take awhile to get here and won't help Floridians cut their gasoline consumption substantially for years.

Amy Keller | 5/1/2006

CORN FED: E85 vehicles are identified by a sticker inside the gas door. For a list of Flexible Fuel Vehicles, go to ethanol.org/e85.html

"We're well-positioned to supply the entire Florida market because we are a flexible transportation facility," says Krohn. "We can move ethanol to the Port of Tampa, the Port of Jacksonville and Port Everglades by ocean vessel, truck or rail." Groups in North Carolina and Georgia are working on ethanol manufacturing facilities as well, but Krohn and his partners are alone in working on creating a supply of ethanol in Florida.

Krohn's position at the cutting edge of ethanol production may well make him a business success story in coming years. But even if he can break ground on his two plants this summer, it will likely be at least a year later before he's making any E10 ethanol for sale in Florida.

And even if U.S. EnviroFuels reaches its targeted production of 40 million gallons of E10 by the fall of 2007, all that ethanol would only cut gas consumption in the state less than one-half of 1% at most.

Krohn's broadest impact in the short term may be on Florida's agricultural sector. In a move that holds enormous potential for Florida growers, he's looking beyond corn to crops that could be grown locally on a year-round basis for ethanol production. Last fall, Krohn teamed up with an Ohio doctor, Anthony Senagore, who runs an ethanol distillery in Bartow, to experiment with turning sweet sorghum, sweet potatoes and citrus waste into ethanol.

Calling themselves the Tampa Bay Ethanol Consortium, Krohn, Senagore and two co-applicants landed a $1.92-million grant from the USDA and Department of Energy's Biomass Research and Development Initiative to design and construct a 2-million-gallon-per-year flex feed ethanol pilot plant. "We're very confident about the data we will prove within the state of Florida because the feedstocks are all high-quality" and require very little manipulation before going into fermentation, says Senagore.

Turning to citrus

USDA researcher Wilbur Widmer says it's becoming more economical to convert other crops -- including the 5 million tons of citrus waste produced each year in Florida -- into ethanol. A research chemist at the USDA Citrus and Subtropical Products Laboratory in Winter Haven, Widmer has been carrying on the work of Karel Groh-mann, a now-retired scientist, who made strides in converting citrus peel to ethanol fuel using a special enzyme cocktail.

Grohmann's lab work, carried out a decade ago when gas prices were cheap and enzyme prices were steep, sat dormant until economic factors realigned favorably. Gas prices have soared, enzyme costs have fallen, and Florida citrus farmers have experienced a precipitous drop in the price of citrus waste they sell for cattle feed.

Today, via a partnership with a private sector company, Renewable Spirits LLC, Widmer is setting up a 10,000-gallon waste-to-ethanol plant at the facility of a local juice processor. Converting "absolutely every bit" of the state's citrus waste each year to ethanol would produce between 60 million and 70 million gallons annually, Widmer estimates. "That would be enough to supply fuel additive demands for one section of Florida," he says.

Tags: Around Florida, Agriculture, Energy & Utilities

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