Airborne measurements of the atmospheric emissions from a fuel ethanol refinery
- Journal Article
Ethanol made from corn now constitutes approximately 10% of the fuel used in gasoline vehicles in the U.S. The ethanol is produced in over 200 fuel ethanol refineries across the nation. We report airborne measurements downwind from Decatur, Illinois, where the third largest fuel ethanol refinery in the U.S. is located. Estimated emissions are compared with the total point source emissions in Decatur according to the 2011 National Emissions Inventory (NEI-2011), in which the fuel ethanol refinery represents 68.0% of sulfur dioxide (SO2), 50.5% of nitrogen oxides (NOx = NO + NO2), 67.2% of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and 95.9% of ethanol emissions. Emissions of SO2 and NOx from Decatur agreed with NEI-2011, but emissions of several VOCs were underestimated by factors of 5 (total VOCs) to 30 (ethanol). By combining the NEI-2011 with fuel ethanol production numbers from the Renewable Fuels Association, we calculate emission intensities, defined as the emissions per ethanol mass produced. Emission intensities of SO2 and NOx are higher for plants that use coal as an energy source, including the refinery in Decatur. By comparing with fuel-based emission factors, we find that fuel ethanol refineries have lower NOx, similar VOC, and higher SO2 emissions than from the use of this fuel in vehicles. The VOC emissions from refining could be higher than from vehicles, if the underestimated emissions in NEI-2011 downwind from Decatur extend to other fuel ethanol refineries. Finally, chemical transformations of the emissions from Decatur were observed, including formation of new particles, nitric acid, peroxyacyl nitrates, aldehydes, ozone, and sulfate aerosol. Show more
Journal / seriesJournal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres
Pages / Article No.
PublisherAmerican Geophysical Union
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