Michigan biofuels replace gasoline

Producing millions of gallons of gasoline replacement has put Michigan on the right path to becoming a global supplier and supporting its own energy needs.

A recent analysis completed by the MSU Product Center and Shepherd Advisors, titled Advancing the Bioeconomy: Overview of Michigan’s Recent Progress, notes that “as a state that imports almost all of its energy inputs and fuel, Michigan has prioritized growing its bioeconomy to support its own energy needs and to be a global supplier.” This quote clearly identifies one of the benefits of Michiganders becoming energy producers. The Michigan Public Service Commission offers a closer look at petroleum use in Michigan, which shows that 97 percent comes from suppliers outside the state.

Much discussion continues around the subject of the production and use of ethanol as a gasoline additive or replacement in the United States. While this debate continues, Michigan is impacted by its current ethanol industry. Currently there are five ethanol facilities operating in Michigan with each producing about 50 million gallons per year, bringing the total production to more than 250 million gallons. This ethanol is used as an oxygenate, which is a blend of up to 10 percent ethanol with gasoline, and E85, or 85 percent ethanol by volume. In 2007, Michigan consumed more than 300 million gallons of ethanol, ranking it the seventh highest user of ethanol in the United States.

While the current ethanol production is based on a corn grain feedstock, plans are underway for the creation of an advanced biofuel facility to make ethanol from cellulosic feedstocks. The Frontier Renewable Resources Project planned for Kinross in the Upper Peninsula plans to use plant biomass such as wood or grasses to produce ethanol.

One of the ways that MSU Extension supports the growing biofuel industry in Michigan is through the business development support of the MSU Product Center as one of its two primary foci. Two staff members provide primary support for the focus: Ruben Derderian, associate director of the Product Center, and Mark Seamon, bioeconomy innovation counselor.

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