June 16, 2014
The ethanol production cycle is an engineering operation destined to pioneer production of fuel as fermented from a number of creative sources. Grain and waste sites are sourced for ethanol, with the refinement process using a number of chemical distillation techniques involving catalysts and enzymes to extract the substance. With biomass refinement technology reaching new heights, ethanol storage is the next factor to consider.
We've already defined the basic elements of a production cycle, and the fuel industry is well aware of the applications of ethanol as either a complete or fractional fuel solution, but the high octane fuel has factors to consider before storage. Since ethanol isn't a high-energy source on its own, the substance is typically blended with gasoline or another fuel. These blends are classified for storage differently, and it's the purer forms of the substance that require more care when planning a storage strategy. An E85 blend in particular, commonly used in flex fuel engines, is the abbreviated label for a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. This close to pure ethanol, the mix is a potent corrosive force capable of compromising rubber seals and permeating certain elastomers, long-chained polymers used as industrial plastic.
It's crucial when engineering an ethanol storage design to plug the type of ethanol being stored into any calculation, assessing the viability of the ferrous or non-ferrous structure of the vessel, the formulation used to manufacture the gaskets and seals, offsetting the solvent and corrosive properties of each blend of ethanol. This includes the adhesives used in the construction of the vessel, the presence of any soft metals such as zinc, and the likelihood of any contaminants entering the process. Even the type of resin used in constructing a fiber-glass tank could chemically compromise the blended fuel. Water in particular is certain to cause an imbalance in the blend, possibly leading to phase separation, the division of the blend into pure ethanol and gasoline. Ethanol mixes easily with water, actually preferring the liquid to the gasoline component of the blend, rendering the fuel useless. As for particulate matter, introduce 10-micron and 1-micron filters into the project, fitting them on dispensers to prevent contamination.
The E85 mix is far more likely to produce caustic results than an E10 blend, but time is another addition to the blend, and an adverse impact will take place if the vessel isn't designed for the substance. Use the correct tank construction, opting for a double-walled steel build or a fiberglass jacketed steel approved to be free of soft metals and susceptible forms of resin. Be vigilant in inspecting the blend for separation and the effects of condensation or particulate contamination. Employ the use of fuel probes dedicated for ethanol monitoring, and initiate a quick response plan should the worst-case scenario, infiltration of water, be realized. Ethanol is a boon to a low-emission, green living plan, but the chemical nature of the substance must be accounted for with adequate vessel design that's compatible with the particular blend.
Fusion - Weld Engineering Pty Ltd
ABN 98 068 987619
1865 Frankston Flinders Road,
Hastings, VIC 3915
Ph: (03) 5909 8218
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