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Alternative Fuel Vehicles >> BioFuels

Modernized Process Makes Ethanol a Viable Fuel Alternative

(NewsUSA) - A source of alternative fuel for your car may be sitting at the curb right outside of your home.

The concept of converting garbage into a form of usable fuel may seem like an idea too good to be true. But, due to a production technique called gasification, the conversion of waste and other materials into fuel is becoming an increasingly viable alternative to traditional fossil fuel production.

Ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel typically derived from corn, has been gaining prevalence in the United States for years. According to a report by the Earth Policy Institute, ground was broken for one new ethanol production plant every nine days between November 2005 and June 2006. Additionally, the annual growth of grain used to produce ethanol increased to 14 million tons in 2006, up from only 2 million tons in 2001.

But the rate of ethanol production may climb even more dramatically in the future. Recently, some manufacturers have honed their gasification production abilities and can now efficiently produce ethanol from a variety of materials in addition to corn, such as garbage and even low-level radioactive waste.

There are three basic types of gasification technology - steam, plasma and molten metal - all of which are used to convert various solid and liquid waste feedstocks into syngas. A Fischer Tropsch system, a type of chemical process, is then used to convert the syngas into ethanol, synthetic diesel fuel or other marketable products.

Although gasification is not a new concept, companies such as XcelPlus, a Virginia-based manufacturer of ethanol fuel and other automotive products, have modernized the manufacturing process, making it possible to convert material into ethanol at a fraction of the cost of traditional ethanol manufacturing.

According to Bill Smith, president of XcelPlus, his company's facilities will have the ability to produce in minutes the amount of ethanol fuel that previously took hours to manufacture. This level of efficiency, combined with the abundance of solid waste ripe for conversion into fuel, could have a significant impact on the world's future fuel market.

With a growing number of new vehicles that can operate on either gasoline or ethanol-based fuels, so-called "flexible fuel" cars, a world using less petroleum may be closer than you think.

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