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Help Desk Archive


Ethanol plants and the environment
Question submitted on 5/4/06

Do you have any information about the environmental impact of ethanol plants, particularly their water use?

Answer:

You probably have some of this general information, but just in case, you might want to look at:

Wikipedia: Ethanol fuel
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethanol_fuel#Production_and_Distribution
Brief discussion of criticisms of ethanol. Includes some environmental considerations.

As for water use, it depends on the size of the plant. According to Environmental Issues and Ethanol Production: Water Issues (http://econet.sk.ca/issues/ethanol/envissues.html):

The quantity of water needed depends on the design of the production plant and whether or not it is built in conjunction with a feedlot. Modern technology and design can substantially reduce the amount of fresh water needed by a stand-alone ethanol plant. There are "zero discharge" plants in operation that recycle virtually all of the water used in production, limiting the need for large supplies.

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity have just released a new guidebook called Building an Ethanol Plant in Illinois: A Guide to Permit Requirements, Funding Opportunities, and Other Considerations. It's available on the web at http://www.epa.state.il.us/agriculture/building-an-ethanol-plant.pdf. See also a press release about a related workshop held in January 2006 (http://www.ilcorn.org/news/html/1-25-06.html). It includes contact information that might be helpful.

You also might want to take a look at An Ethanol Production Guidebook for the Northeast States (http://www.nrbp.org/pdfs/pub26.pdf). It includes information about environmental considerations.

For more information, you may also want to contact the National Corn to Ethanol Research Center (http://www.ethanolresearch.com/), located on the SIU-Edwardsville campus. There's a contact form at http://www.ethanolresearch.com/contact.php.

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