Energy yield for the production of ethanol from corn | INSTITUT DE PHYSIQUE DU GLOBE DE PARIS


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  Energy yield for the production of ethanol from corn

Type de publication:

Journal Article


Comptes Rendus Geoscience, Volume 340, Ticket 5, p.263-287 (2008)



Numéro d'accès:



Géomatériaux et Environnement, UMR 7154


<p>This article establishes the primary energy balance for making ethanol out of corn in the USA, calculated from the farm to the fuel station, following a methodology described in Chavanne and Frangi (C. R. Geoscience 339 (2007) 519-535). Raw data (direct energy and material consumption as well as their heat value and external costs) come from published papers related to this topic, technical textbooks, as well as reports from the US Departments of Agriculture and Energy. For the 2001 harvest, over the area producing more than 90% of ethanol and for the 2005 network of working refineries, 100 J of ethanol and recovery of by-products (the energy saved by the replacement of animal feed by these byproducts is around 12% of the ethanol heat value) needed 86 1 3 J of energy spending, of which more than 50 J is natural gas and 62 J is used in refineries. A third of the area of Nebraska corn must be irrigated with water pumped from underground, at an added cost of 26 +/- 3 J. In 1996, the extra drying required, because of heavy rains, added 6 J. By comparison, 100 J of gasoline cost less than 25 J to be produced out of crude oil. Complementary studies of resource availability are not performed here. The largest possible reduction in energy costs can be achieved at the refinery stage, by fermenting by-products, gas residues, (from 62 J to around 12 J). The article gives also an expression for the expenditure to enable comparison between different energy systems, including everything from biomass to transport. For the ethanol case, the average cost is 130 J for 100 J of corn grain heat.</p>