Hydrogen Fuel Cells & Ethanol

Hydrogen is one of the most promising energy carriers for the future. The production of hydrogen from ethanol steam  reforming is environmentally friendly and opens new opportunities for using  renewable bio-fuels.

Different catalysts have been tried for the steam reforming process of ethanol, and the optimal hydrogen conversion is still in research and development.

Car manufacturers have already introduced hydrogen powered   vehicles in Japan.  (Toyota, Hyundai, Honda).  Their vehicles have a fuel- cell that stores hydrogen at 10,000 PSI in heavily reinforced tanks within the cargo areas. They also need to be re-fueled in advanced hydrogen service stations. (90 of such stations are already available in Japan)

NISSAN is applying a different pathway for the production of hydrogen. In their proposed vehicles, NISSAN technology uses  an ethanol-water blend at 55:45 ratio, able to be procured at any existing conventional gas station.

The ethanol-water blend is then heated and fed to an onboard reformer that splits it into pure hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen produced in the reformer is fed into a solid oxide fuel- cell, which then generates electricity   at a steady rate to supply power to the vehicle electric motor.

NISSAN expects their new “eBio SOFC” system will provide a range of 500 miles, and filling the vehicle tank with ethanol will take no longer than a conventional gasoline tank.

As of late 2017, NISSAN has started testing its new Bio-Ethanol Fuel Cell vehicle in Brazil.

Japan is already building a network of hydrogen fueling stations, and the government announced a target of 900 hydrogen fueling stations and 800,000 fuel cell cars in the country by 2030.

For additional information, please contact the company.


Nissan Fuel Cell Car.jpeg

Global Ethanol Demand Escalating

The global demand for bio-ethanol and other bio-fuels continues to increase.

Chinese independent oil refiners are starting to buy ethanol to meet China’s new regulations of 10% mandatory ethanol blend into gasoline by 2020.

China is the world’s third largest producer of ethanol after The United States and Brazil. Although a distant third (China’s 2 billion gallons per year vs. 15 billion gallons per year in The United States), China’s ethanol market is set to grow 10% in 2018 but expected to quadruple when the new fuel blending regulation becomes mandatory in 2020.

Three large independent Chinese refineries are applying for blending permits and import licenses.

On March 19, the Australian  Prime Minister, Hon. Bob Katter, has declared bio-fuel a matter of national security.

Katter said that Australia is one of the only countries that have no indigenous supply of oil and that every other country has moved into ethanol. He is proposing a new massive program of producing ethanol from sugar cane, an energy security model that Brazil has implemented successfully.

We anticipate intense demand for bio-fuels to continue along with demand of better production technologies and advanced equipment.

For additional information, please contact the company.


Oil Refinery.jpeg

Grain Sorghum Re-loaded

Grain sorghum (Milo), not to be confused with sweet sorghum, is interchangeable in starch based bio-ethanol production. A bushel of grain sorghum produces as much bio-ethanol as a bushel of corn. Sorghum Distillers Dry Grain (“DDG”), a co-product of starch-based bio-ethanol production, tend to be lower in fat and higher in protein than corn DDG.

Sorghum is among the most efficient crops in conversion of solar energy and use of water. Under drought conditions a crop of corn may fail, while sorghum almost always produces a crop.


While the cost of farming an acre of sorghum is lower than an acre of corn (less water and less fertilizers needed), the yields are dramatically different. One acre of corn in the Midwest will yield circa 160-170 bushels per acre while sorghum produces 70-80 bushels per acre.


Based on research at the USDA Agricultural Research Center, a new MULTISEED TRAIT variety of sorghum could boost sorghum yield by 60%, making it competitive with corn yields, using half the water.

The development of a new sorghum hybrid requires from 10 to 12 generations of seed production. Multiseed Hybrids may be commercially available to farmers by 2020.

The multiseed trait is not genetically modified but originates from crosses of thousands of experimental hybrids.

Several commercial seed companies have attained the multiseed trait and are in various stages of working their trait into their own elite seed hybrids.

On March 2, professor Doreen Ware, Ph.d together with professor Zhanguo Xin, Ph.d, USDA’s Agricultural Research Center, announced that the team has uncovered the biological changes that triple the sorghum grain producing ability. They hope to apply the same strategy to other related crops vital to the human food supply such as rice, corn and wheat.

The company has been following the progress of the multiseed trait in sorghum, and our bio-fuel plant’s design, anticipates the use of multi-feedstocks such as corn and sorghum without cross contamination.

For additional information, please contact the company.


U.S. Grain Sorghum Planted Acres.PNG

Next Opportunities For Bio-Fuels

As technology and cost of production improves in the production of Bio-fuels and price of hydrocarbons increase, Bio-fuels will be further refined, to replace petroleum in plastic, specialty chemicals and other organic compounds.

 Only a fraction of commercial production of organic compounds comes from renewable microbial processes. With the exception of Ethanol, there are few specialty chemicals currently using microbial fermentation.

Some of the specialty chemicals, whose production can be implemented in second-generation Bio-fuel plants, are: 

  1. Acetic Acid
  2. Gluconic Acid
  3. n-Propanol
  4. Acetone
  5. Isopropyl Alcohol
  6. Propionic Acid
  7. 2,3 Butaneidol
  8. Itaconic Acid
  9. Pyruvic Acid
  10. n-Butanol
  11. Linoleic Acid
  12. Sorbitol
  13. Butyraldehyde
  14. Linolenic Acid
  15. Stearic Acid
  16. Butyric Acid
  17. Oleic Acid
  18. Succinic Acid
  19. Citric Acid
  20. Palmitic Acid
  21. Lactic Acid
  22. C12-C20 Fatty Acids
  23. Propaneidol
  24. Aliphatic Acids

 Although the potential production of these compounds is available from bio-fuels, virtually all commodities organic chemicals are currently produced from petroleum. Production costs, up to now, are generally much lower when processing these products out of hydrocarbons.

Among the reasons why production of specialty hydrocarbon chemicals and chemical commodities will ultimately switch production to renewable bio-fuels, we list the following:

1.      New developments, economics and technology in fractionizing lignocellulose into simple fermentable sugars.

2.      Exhaustion of non-renewable hydrocarbons. (60 to 80 years?)

3.      Environmental concerns.

4.      Tax Incentives for renewable bio-fuels.

 The technology to convert ethanol into ethylene (precursor of polyethylene) is not new, but it needs production scale and low cost of energy to make it a commercially viable product.

 Synthetic rubbers, plastics, synthetic fibers and thousands of other synthetic products can be manufactured from renewable bio-fuel rather than non-renewable petroleum products.

Benchmark’s second generation plants will have provisions to incorporate more “refined” specialty chemical products from bio-fuel as the cost of production and price become attractive.

For additional information, please contact the company.




Ethanol chemical-formula.jpg

Use of Ethanol Steadily Growing

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (“EIA”) has released its January new short-term energy outlook for 2018 and 2019.

The United States used 940,000 barrels per day of Ethanol in 2017. However, consumption is expected to increase to 960,000 barrels per day in 2018, and 970,000 barrels per day in 2019.

The EIA said that results in the ethanol share of the total gasoline consumed in 2017, is an average of 10.3 %. Use of higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85 are projected to continue to grow.

Bio-diesel use also continues to grow from 105,000 barrels per day to 128,000 barrels per day forecasted for 2019.

For additional information, please contact the company.

E15  new pump.jpg

Sweet Sorghum Confirmed as a Superior Feedstock

On December 13, the University of Florida (“UF”) and their Institute for Food and Agricultural Science (“IFAS”) published a new study about Sweet Sorghum for the production of biofuel.

UF found that three (3) new IFAS developed varieties of Sorghum  can produce up to 1,000 gallons of Ethanol per acre.

According to Dr. Eulogio Castro , lead author on the Study and Dr. Wilfred Vermerris, co-author, there is substantial renewable fuel potential for Sweet Sorghum partly because it’s so abundant.

Sorghum is the fifth largest cereal crop in the world and the third largest in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2014, the U.S. was the largest producer of sorghum in the world. UF/IFAS scientists like sorghum because it can be cultivated twice a year in Florida, requires little fertilizer, uses water efficiently and can be drought resistant, UF/IFAS research shows.

The new study is published in the journal Industrial Crops & Products.

For additional information, please contact the Company.


David Walker Jr. with mature Sweet Sorghum from The University of Florida

David Walker Jr. with mature Sweet Sorghum from The University of Florida

EPA Announces Renewable Fuel Standard ("RFS") for 2018

On November 30, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) announced the final quotas for how much refiners must blend gasoline and diesel under the RFS.

For 2018 the quotas are:

CELLULOSIC BIOFUELS = 288 million gallons

BIO-MASS BASED DIESEL= 2.1 billion gallons

ADVANCED BIOFUEL= 4.29 billion gallons

RENEWABLE FUEL= 19.29 billion gallons

The RFS program was created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and expanded by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. EPA implements the program in consultation with U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy. The RFS program is a national policy that requires a certain volume of renewable fuel to replace or reduce the quantity of petroleum-based transportation fuel, heating oil or jet fuel. 

For more information on the announcement, go to: https://www.epa.gov/renewable-fuel-standard-program/2017-announcements-renewable-fuel-standard

Is Your Car Flex Fuel ?

More than 22 million automobiles on U.S. roadways today are flex fuel vehicles (FFVs), which can run on fuel blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). Is your vehicle one of them?

 Finding out is easy, thanks to a new brochure released November 7 by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA). The brochure compiles all of the FFV models available in the current model year (MY2018), as well as previous years going back as far as MY1998.

All of the data used in the brochure was collected directly from the automakers.

E15 an E85 fuel blends continue to grow in the US market.

There are more than 4,000 retail stations throughout the U.S. that offer E85 or other ethanol flex fuel blends, and that number grows each week.

For more information, please contact the company.



US Bio-Fuel Production and Higher Blends

According to the Renewable Fuel Association, as of May 2017 there were 213 ethanol plants in the US capable of producing 15.8 Billion Gallons of Ethanol per year.

72% of the production capacity is concentrated in six states in the Midwest while, the majority of the blended gasoline  is consumed  in the Northeast, California, Texas and Florida.

The Renewable Fuel Standard II has been set at 15 billion gallons in 2017. 1.04 Billion Gallons of ethanol were exported in 2016.


As of May 2017, E15 is been offered in over 800 gas stations across 29 states. Major retailers continue converting pumps to E15, offering a higher octane fuel at a lower price than E10.

To gain perspective, blending an average of 11% ethanol would result in an annual demand of 15.8* billion gallons, exhausting annual production capacity in the US.


*Based on 143.3 billion gallons of gasoline annual consumption.

For additional information, please contact the company.



The company is encouraged by the positive outlook for the production and distribution of renewable advanced bio-fuels.  The domestic production of ethanol has played a key role in decreasing dependence on foreign oil. 

 In the United States, Federal   Law required the use of oxygenates in reformulated gasoline to reduce vehicle emissions in cities with unhealthy levels of air pollution. These oxygenates included MTBE in the past. However, the use of MTBE is no longer permitted, making ethanol the primary clean air oxygenates used. 

 Ethanol has an octane value of 113 and is the primary additive used by refiners to increase octane levels, producing regular grade gasoline from lower octane blend stocks and upgrading regular gasoline to premium grades, to improve engine performance. Refiners are producing more conventional blend stocks for oxygenate blending, or CBOB, which is an 84 octane sub-grade gasoline that requires ethanol or another octane source to meet the minimum octane requirements for the U.S. gasoline market. CBOB represented approximately 80% of total conventional gasoline sold in 2015.  

 Ethanol is a valuable blend component used by U.S. refiners to extend fuel supply. According to the EIA, ethanol comprised approximately 9.9% of the domestic gasoline supply, replacing nearly 750 million barrels of crude oil in 2016.  

 In October 2010, the EPA granted a waiver that permitted the use of E15 in model year 2001 and newer passenger vehicles, including cars, sport utility vehicles and light pickup trucks. In June 2012, the EPA approved the sale and use of E15 and in July 2012, the nation’s first retail E15 was sold. On January 2017, there were 627 retail fuel stations in 28 states offering E15 to consumers.

  Our  federal government mandates the use of renewable fuels under RFS II, which has been a driving factor in the growth of domestic ethanol usage. The EPA assigns individual refiners, blenders and importers the volume of renewable fuels they are obligated to use based on their percentage of total fuel sales. In November 2016, the EPA announced the final 2017 renewable volume obligations for conventional ethanol of 15.0 billion gallons.

Prior to 2010, the United States had a long history as a net importer of ethanol. In 2010, according to the USDA, the United States became the largest exporter of ethanol to world markets and lowest-cost producer, surpassing Brazil. According to the EIA, U.S. ethanol exports, net of imports, were approximately 1.0 billion gallons in 2016 and 730 million gallons in 2015.

Demand for cleaner, more sustainable transportation fuel has made ethanol a crucial component of the global fuel supply as an economical oxygenate and source of octanes.

According to the Global Renewable Fuels Alliance, 35 countries, including the EU which is regulated by a single policy with specific national targets for each country, have mandates or planned targets in place for blending ethanol and biodiesel with transportation fuels to reduce harmful emissions.

In January 2017, the USDA released a report providing evidence that greenhouse gas emissions associated with corn based ethanol are 43% lower than gasoline. Numerous factors have led to improvements over the past ten years, including conservation practices by farmers, higher corn yields and advances in production technologies, which are expected to continue and has the potential to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions up to a 76% as compared with gasoline.

Based on the forecasted market opportunity, the company is deploying new technologies for the production of advanced ethanol bio-fuels utilizing different feed-stocks depending on the location of the processing plant.

benchmark second generation advanced bio-fuel corn to ethanol plant, includes several competitive advantages including:

 -          Lower cost of operation per gallon produced.

-          Low Carbon Footprint (low GHG).

-          Self-production of renewable energy utilizing bio-gas and bio-mass.

-          Cost effective cellulosic pathways that increase yield.

Among the baseline industry parameters that will be implemented in the corn to ethanol new facility are:

  • Expected Yield of Ethanol per Bushel of Corn = >3.0 Gallons
  • Pounds of DDG produced per Bushel of Corn = 17 lbs. per Bushel
  • Pounds of extracted oil per bushel of corn =  1.0   lbs. per Bushel
  • BTU of renewable bio-gas per gallon of Ethanol = <18,000 BTU per Gallon
  • Kwh of renewable electricity per gallon of Ethanol =.05 Kwh per gallon

For additional information, please contact the company.

Copyright July 22, 2017