Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pipeline Study

A lot of what is fun and exciting, on one hand, and frustrating on the other is the fact that the ethanol industry is still very 'young.' This isn't to say that ethanol production is anything new; it isn't, but production of ethanol on this scale has never been done before. What we are experiencing now is the transition and growing pains that the industry is experiencing -- from feedstock production, ethanol plant design, production efficiencies, and so on. One of the biggest impacts is on transportation. Because ethanol can not flow through a pipeline with gasoline, it is being moved by boat, train, or truck. This has put a strain on the transportation industry and led to prices of ethanol that could be lower if a more efficient mode of transportation existed.
Enter Magellan Midstream and Buckeye Partners, two companies that will undergo feasibility studies over the next few months to determine whether a pipeline dependant on ethanol might be in the future. Although they caution that even if the pipeline is built, it would take several years to build the 1,700 mile proposed pipe at a cost of nearly $3 billion. This pipeline would run from somewhere in the Midwest up to the Northeast where it would end at a distribution terminal and trucks could go the rest of the distance, much like gasoline does right now. The group claims that the pipeline would be able to pump 10 million gallons of ethanol per day from the production sites in the Midwest to the consumer hubs in the Northeast. If this were to occur, it would be a big step in making ethanol cheaper and more available to the entire United States. Since one of the main ideas of producing ethanol is to decrease GHG emissions, a pipeline would only help make ethanol more attractive.

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