Ethanol Science

The Present of Ethanol

Ethanol production in the U.S. has reached unprecedented levels. According to the Energy Information Administration, (the statistical branch of the U.S. Department of Energy), a record 2.81 billion gallons of ethanol was produced in 2003. 1980, the first year that ethanol production was tracked, there were fewer than ten ethanol facilities producing approximately 50 million gallons annually. Nowadays, many facilities are designed to produce over 50 million gallons of ethanol in annual production. More than 3.25 billion gallons of ethanol will be produced in the U.S. by the end of 2004. Why the huge increase? Consumer demand, the banning of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), and the number of production facilities set to begin operations.

There are currently 85 ethanol production facilities in the U.S., primarily centered throughout the Corn Belt, and nearly half of these plants are owned by farmers. While U.S. plants vary in capacity, most can produce between 20 million and 60 million gallons of ethanol per year. Many of these facilities are constructed with the engineering flexibility to double production in the event of an expansion. Cellulosic feedstocks such as municipal waste or recycled paper products, rice hulls, bagasse (fibrous residue from sugarcane), small diameter trees, wood chips, and switch grass may also be used to produce ethanol, but these products are not yet utilized on a commercial scale.


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