Skip to comments.Dow and Crystalsev to Make Polyethylene from Sugar Cane Ethanol in Brazil
Posted on 07/19/2007 10:31:59 AM PDT by Red Badger
The Dow Chemical Company, the worlds largest producer of polyethylene, and Crystalsev, one of Brazils largest ethanol players, plan to form a joint venture to manufacture polyethylene from sugar cane ethanol. With production expected to start in 2011, the plant will have an annual capacity of 350,000 metric tons.
The new facility will use ethanol with Dows proprietary technology to manufacture DOWLEXT polyethylene resinsthe raw material required to make polyethylene, the worlds most widely-used plastic.
At a molecular level, the joint ventures product will be identical to the DOWLEXT polyethylene resins manufactured at other Dow facilities. The new material is a drop-in replacement made with a renewable resourcenot a different polymer altogether. Also, like the traditional PE product, the sugar cane-based polyethylene would be fully recyclable using existing infrastructure.
Ethylene is traditionally produced using either naphtha or natural gas liquids, both of which are petroleum products. The partners estimate that the new process will produce significantly less CO2 compared to the traditional polyethylene manufacturing process.
The companies have already begun conducting a feasibility study to assess various aspects of the project, including engineering design, location, infrastructure needs, supply chain logistics, energy and economics. The study, which is expected to take one year, will also look at the possibility of receiving approval for the project and the process as a Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The CDM was developed by the United Nations to help companies manage their carbon credits from emerging market projects.
The areas being considered as potential sites for the new facility are currently being used for low-density cattle grazing and are not near any rain forests. Both companies have underscored their commitment to ensuring that the plant is located in a sustainable environment.
Another way to waste our food ping!....
There is some fantastic progress being made as a result of high petroleum costs. Yes, making ethanol from corn is a waste but there are a number of other crops that can be grown and reaped cheaply in lousy soil, making them a good economic alternative that does not empower the Saudis or Chavez.
I think this has great potential. Sugar cane and corn are just stepping stones.
Gee, great minds do think alike.
I sure wish they’d use some of that cane sugar to replace the corn syrup in Coke. I miss the old flavor, which I understand is only available around passover as their kosher version.
It's just a pilot plant, but if this is a $$$$ maker, you better believe the American Ag Industry will be all over it.....
Corn syrup is not Kosher?.......
2. What about beet sugar. I can't think of the last time I ate a beet, and I do know that we produce a significant amount here.
3. Ethanol from corn is a waste of time and energy. Its also pushing up the price of a staple food product in much of the developing world.
I don’t think this has to do with food.
There is a world excess capacity of sugar and Brazil can produce lots more. The ethanol is actually rum.
We could be importing Brazil’s excess sugar at a lower price were it not for a fantastic sugar lobby that uses tax money subsidies and restricts imports.
The chemical conversion of ethanol to polyethelene is a good use of the excess sugar. Since most polyethelene is derived from petroleum feed stocks, since these feed stocks are becoming increasingly more expensive, it is a good thing if the end product can compete with similar PE derived from petroleum..
This is nearly the same as making sugar based ethanol to be blended with gasoiine.Brazil is probably the world leader in gasahol fuels.
Google “kosher coke” and see for yourself.
Coke made in Mexico is still made with sugar (for now). You can find it in the old-style glass bottles at the smaller grocery stores that cater to our [ahem] southern neighbors.
funny environmentalists are not concerned with the billions of corn plants being sacrificed, but when it comes to a redwood tree... oh boy!
I won't be long before the American corn farmers start joining the chorus........
You Sir have one of the best tag lines I’ve ever read. Having visited Juarez around 1980 I gotta believe that has been the case for quite some time.
Yes, making ethanol from corn is a waste but there are a number of other crops that can be grown and reaped cheaply in lousy soil, making them a good economic alternative that does not empower the Saudis or Chavez.
I think this has great potential. Sugar cane and corn are just stepping stones.
You're exactly right.
Here’s a previous one:
Let’s all move to Mexico. It’s gotta be empty by now........
People keep listing foods they don’t eat to be used as fuel. I’m not sure that matters at all. If a farmer grows beets, he’s not growing corn, beans, etc. Those high-demand items, which are in everything, will still dramatically increase in price. Farmers will grow what brings the most profit. If that is fuel, people will starve. Why can people not get that? There are simply not enough farmers or farmland available to grow food AND fuel without starving people. I suppose clear cutting for timber is bad but clear cutting to grow gas is OK. What kind of civilization burns it’s food?
...”will produce significantly less CO2”..
My prayers have been answered. I can feel the temperatures changing, just from that news alone.
Oh, wait a second. The blower on the AC just kicked on. Never mind.
Or we could find ways to make it more profitable to increase sugar farming in this country, for example, by producing sugar ethanol.
Any change in the way we fuel this country should be made with the principle that the new energy industry should be centered along the gulf of mexico the way the current one is.
I don’t know who the Fanjul brothers are, but you’re right, the sugar tariff should be repealed. The reason why we make sugar from beets is because of the tariff. Sugar from cane is far cheaper, and thus far better for this PE plant, and thus the plant won’t be built in the States.
Look, I hate to keep piddling on the parade of all y’all malthusians out there, but here’s another factoid to throw on this “food vs. fuel” debate.
About 100 years ago, about 50% of all farmland planted in the US was for fuel. Fuel for draft horses. As timothy hay. Horses were used in ag production for everything from tilling the land to pumping water. Where do you think the term of “horsepower” comes from? It wasn’t just a wild idea of an engineer to say “I think we’ll call a unit of 550 ft-lbs/sec a ‘horsepower’ just because it sounds cool.”
Me too - we traveled to Toronto, Canada last year and I was pleasantly surprised by the taste of Coke - real cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup. Fortunately I found a local bottler when we returned home that’s producing cola with cane sugar. It costs more but the taste is worth it to me.
And not just fuel for horses. Cattle, hogs, sheep, rabbits and chickens also need fuel.
I doubt that that 50% has dropped much in recent years.
Using corn for fuel makes corn liquor, that's how NASCAR started.
In Brazil they are using sugar cane- that's Rum.
I’m referring to the specific hay/pasture ground that was used for working horses 100 years ago. Timothy hay had the highest number of acres planted of any/all hay types 100 years ago.
Today, alfalfa has the most acres of hay planted and timothy is a specialty crop.
Timothy has nowhere near the food value of alfalfa.
That’s exactly what I mean.
So all this wailing, sackcloth and ashes nonsense about our “turning our food into fuel” is nothing new. We’ve done it before, only we were feeding crops into horses instead of cars.
“So all this wailing, sackcloth and ashes nonsense about our turning our food into fuel is nothing new. “
So horses don’t eat if men don’t ride them? Food for horses is not “fuel”, I don’t care if people do ride them. If people didn’t, the horses would STILL require food. Additionally, It’s a safe bet there are more cars in New York State alone than there were ridden horses is the entire US in the 1850’s.
You may eat alfalfa and hay but I’d wager 99+% of the world’s human population does not. A sad excuse of a straw man argument, really.
You’ve completely lost sight of the facts, and quite frankly, your response is the literary equivalent of an out-of-body experience.
I have to tell you and the assembled malthusians that as a farmer, the nonsense I see spouted here on FR about ag, bio-fuels and other aspects of American farming sound every bit as nonsensical as the ravings of liberals. I expect better from conservatives.
Back to the beginning:
What I’m stating is the facts: In the US, before we replaced horses with tractors, automobiles and trucks, the total portfolio of US croplands had a huge component that was devoted to feeding horses, not people. The horses were used for most all the things that we now use oil-based fuels (eg, gasoline and diesel). I’ve got agronomic books from the turn of the 19th/20th century that detail just how much hay was grown for horses, and not just riding horses, but draft horses used for transport, farming, horse-powered machinery, etc. were in production, in what crops, etc.
In short, it was a HUGE amount of land that was growing crops that produced crops for a non-human ultimate use. It was the “fuel” of the day. Never mind the issues of whether the horse stopped eating when you weren’t using him. That’s a non-issue here. The central issue for horses back then was this: No hay, no horses, no horse, very little moved - whether goods or people. Simple as that. The rail system was the long-haul transport mechanism, and then to get anything from the train to you and your business was horses. Farming was done with horses.
With the introduction of the internal combustion engine and vehicles, cars, trucks, etc, farmers also converted from horse/hay power to tractor/oil power, and two things happened to the American ag sector:
1. That cropland previously in hay/forage production was converted to either a) human end-use crop production or b) allowed to revert to nature. This conversion was partly responsible for leading to the over-production of ag commodities that caused commodity prices to collapse, which then brought about the FDR administration’s mucking about with production quotas and price supports. For people who continue to wail about ag subsidies, there’s one of the historical reasons: conversion of ag land away from horse food to people food. We had too much people food, prices dropped, the government stepped in, and hasn’t stepped back out since.
2. Labor requirements were radically reduced on the farm. Before WWII, about 25% of the US population worked on a farm in some way. Today, less than 2% of the US population works in the ag sector in any way (and I’m counting remote connections to ag in this 2% — actual “work on the farm” labor is a very small portion of the whole US population).
This malthusian wailing that we’re “burning our food” is typical of so much city-slicker ignorance of what actually happens in farming that I read here on FR. We’ve used farmland for growing crops that were not human food before, and were effectively the “fuel” of their day. What we’re seeing with bio-fuel production is NOTHING NEW. We’ve “been there, done that” before.
The number of cars or horses at any given time is another non-issue. What is at issue is the number of acres and the percentage of US cropland that is devoted to non-human cropping.
In 1915, the amount of of US cropland devoted to feeding horses peaked at about 93 million acres. 79 million acres were used to feed horses on farms, about 14 million acres were devoted to feeding non-farming horses.
In addition to cropland devoted to haying (the above 93 million acres), there were about 80 million acres used for pasture, and a large component of the animals on those pastures were farm horses. In 1915, farm horse numbers peaked about 23 million head. That’s just horses on farms, not horses in hauling teams, individual horses, etc. Total US horse numbers peaked just about 1916/1917, at about 27 million head. It takes a huge base of land to feed that many horses.
As farmers converted from horse power to tractor power, the US cropland base was increased by that 79 million acres being converted from hay to other crops. That’s about two-thirds of the total cropland harvested in 1920 in what was the Louisiana Purchase. I throw that in to help you look at a map and get your head around “what is 79 million acres?”
Want to put that 79 million acres into modern perspective? US farmers stated an intention to plant 90 million acres in corn this year. As recently as 2006, actual harvested corn acres were about 79 million, “for all purposes” (so that includes table as well as field corn). Recent stats show total US farmland at about 930+ million acres, about 434 million of that is cropland, 395 million acres of pasture area. 2007 planting intentions were for about 90 million acres of corn.
Going back to the total cropland used to feed horses in 1915 — what was that number again — both on and off farm horses?
93 million acres.
So there you go: about 100 years ago, the entire acreage that is today in corn was used for feeding horses.
Good perspective. Thanks. For how many horses would we be growing how many acres of feed for today were there no engines, I wonder.
I don’t know. Elimination of engines would cause a huge disruption to farming alone. Farmers use something like 8% of all #2 diesel fuel in the US in most years. Just replacing tractors with draft teams would be... well, it would be nearly impossible. There’s no practical way to harvest today’s grain crops with even antique engine-driven combines, much less the old horse-drawn Holt machines from the 1880’s. With today’s grain yields, you get about 100 yards before having to empty the grain bin.
There are still guys who hitch up a team and do demonstrations of horse-powered farming. Sometimes you see them at county fairs. For people who want to get some perspective, I’d suggest seeking them out. It is highly educational. Here in the Great Basin, where the desert environment preserves things made of wood, you can still see the hay-making machinery from the horse-powered days on ranches all over central Nevada, Utah, Idaho, etc. From talking to old-timers here, the job of putting up hay was a non-stop, every day job from about July until mid-September on most ranches. Cutting was the easy part - a two horse team and a ground-driven sickle mower.
Gathering the hay up was more difficult. They used dump rakes, and a guy raking had to have good driving skills and a steady horse.
Putting the hay into a pile (baling really wasn’t done much then) was a team affair, and you needed a couple of steady horses in the team, or the buckslide was across the field and in the fencerow if the horses spooked.
The old timers have told me that the #1 issue in horse-powered haying was horses that spooked. A skittish horse could cause other horses to skitter, and horses that started boiling up on you made for headaches that took hours to untangle.
That all said, the use of modern herbicides and pesticides make horse-powered farming more possible than it was 100 years ago. Using horses for tillage was what kept farm sizes so small 100 years ago. The biggest team ever put together for tillage was (I think) 48 draft horses under one hitch, and they pulled something like 43 or 45 plow bottoms. Today, a 300HP 4WD tractor would play with that rig. Driving 48 horses, even draft horses, is a challenge even if all the horses are co-operating. Holding all the leads in your hands is practically impossible.
So, eliminate the tillage, use spraying to no-till the crops, and we’d be a lot closer to modern outputs - right up until we get to the harvesting bit. Then we’d hit the wall.
92.9 million acres in corn this year versus 78.6 last year. 19% increase, the highest acreage since 1945.
There are an additional 110 million acres of fallow farm land in the US and much of that land will be farmed in the future with corn and other crops. We have about 20% of the world’s crop land in this country and we are more than capable of feeding our population and producing fuel.
Most corn farmers rotate corn with soybeans (due to the ability of soybeans to restore Nitrogen in the soil) but they are rethinking their approach and they may go with “continuous corn”. Planting corn every year, in other words.
Ethanol is probably an intermediate product in the long term and will probably be replaced by bio-diesel.
By the way, the average fuel consumption of an acre of corn is about 4.5 gallons of fuel per year. An acre will yield 330 to 400 gallons of ethhanol in the same period.
Sugar cain produces about 700 gallons of ethanol per acre. The resulting wast, however, has no use, unlike corn.
All absolutely true.
BTW — we should both remember that the “93 million” was the planting intentions from early this year. That doesn’t mean that 93 million acres were actually planted. We’ll find out what was actually harvested and yields this fall.
The number 92.9 million acres is from the USDA as of May 30th and I believe that it is planted acres. I don’t know if there will be more acres plantd in June or not. If so they will probably have reduced starch and sugars production so they may not count.
If we have a good moisture year without too much hail and wind damage, it will be a good year for farming.
Current Chicago Board of Trade futures today are 321/bushel. A nice number.
Usda projects that the 25 new ethanol plants production needs are covered by the existing crop and that ethanol production will have no impact on food prices.
I looked the other day at sugar futures to see if they had spiked due to a possible higer use of sugar to replace the corn sugars that will be fermented but they were at .08 per pound. There still appears to be too much sugar in the market due to over supply by developing countries.
The one spike I have seen is in soybean futures due to soybean fields being planted in corn. Cotton planting is also down as they turn to corn.
Hve you seen that that the Uof Illnois as well as some other ag schools are planting 44,000 plants per acre? Man that could yield a huge amount of corn if they can figure out how to make it work in the field, considering that we are planting 28,000 to 29,000 per acre this year with a projected yeild of 150.2 bushels per acred.
I expect that we will end up exporting ethanol in the future because we are going to be swimming in it.
Nice to see someone else who has been in agriculture on this board. A breath of fresh air.