Coal into Ethanol
I find it very interesting to read the trade mags for the "other side" - in "Ethanol Producer Magazine," there is an article about how ethanol plants are now being built to utilize coal instead of natural gas. Obviously coal is a lot cheaper than natural gas, and the price should be more stable (excepting the possible railroad price increases - future post). Apparently ethanol plants that use coal are more expensive up front - one plant found it to be 50 cents more per gallon than the comparable natural gas plant - but coal plants are predicted to recoup these extra costs within 5 years or so because of lower fuel costs. Interestingly, these ethanol plants are permitted and designed to run specifically on only one type of coal from a certain location - if they wanted to change from whom they purchased coal or switch from lignite to bituminous, there would be lots of modifications to do and permits to acquire.
We should be comforted to know that:
'A zero-emissions coal-fired power plant is very designable . . . using basically any coal on Earth,' Groenewold [director of the North Dakota-based Energy & Environmental Research Center] explains, noting that the expense of such technologies, while relatively high, is coming down every day due to research and commercialization.
But how many of these "zero-emission" plants are actually being built? And zero emissions of what? This is notably not explained. And we should remember that ND has lots of coal...