Ethanol Pipeline Proposed by Producers
Ethanol producers are considering whether a dedicated pipeline might be the best method for transporting the fuel. The ethanol industry is currently reliant upon traditional transport methods, such as railway and tanker truck, to ship the fuel across the states. Since ethanol plants must depend on rail or truck for distribution, the result has been a delay in getting the fuel additive to the pumps. The industry has therefore initiated a study of the developing problem and a suggestion for an ethanol pipeline is emerging.
Yet many details surrounding the suggestion are still up in the air. The ethanol industry is still relatively new, and no one is certain where exactly the pipeline should go if built. Many skeptics doubt whether ethanol prices are sustainable, and if they would even be able to support the building of a vast transnational pipeline. Even the Renewable Fuels Association has claimed that it is not certain if a dedicated ethanol pipeline would provide the same transport security as the more traditional barges, rail cars, and trucks.
However, the projections for corn ethanol are promising. Current production yields 6.8 billion gallons a year for the fuel. And although the price of ethanol dropped almost 30% this year, and the rising price of corn stalled ethanol production, it is still estimated to hit 9 billion gallons next year. This projection, coupled with the call by President Bush to decrease US gasoline use 20% by 2017, promises a favorable outlook for the increase in production of alternative fuels such as corn ethanol.
So in the effort of making some progress, the Association for Oil Pipelines is conducting a study of whether gasoline blends, those with up to a 20% ethanol additive, would be a feasible fuel to consider transporting first. The trade group is also considering whether such blends could utilize existing oil pipelines. It is their hope that this study will conclude that such blends can be transported safely through existing pipelines, and that doing so will help relieve the current bottlenecking dilemma of ethanol travel.