P-Series Fuels

P-Series is a family of renewable, non-petroleum, liquid fuels that can substitute for gasoline. They are a blend of 25 or so domestically produced ingredients. About 35% of P-Series comes from liquid by-products, known as "C5+" or "pentanes-plus", which are left over when natural gas is processed for transport and marketing. Ethanol, fermented from corn, comprises about 45%, and the remaining 20% is MeTHF, an ether derived from lignocelullosic biomass -- paper sludge, wastepaper, food waste, yard and wood waste, agricultural waste, and so on.

The Ford Explorer
The Ford Explorer: It's a flexible fuel vehicle
P-Series fuel addresses three problems: the need for non-petroleum energy sources, solid waste management, and affordability. Using feedstock with a negative cost - that means waste that municipalities would otherwise pay to have hauled away - allows the fuel's selling price to be about the same as mid-grade gasoline. It also gives urban areas control over a large portion of the generated trash stream without relying on burning, burying, or bequeathing it to other states. The feedstock is not incinerated, but chemically digested, so there is no combustion with the accompanying toxic air emissions.

P-Series fuels were officially designated as an alternative fuel by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 1999. The Since P-Series is not derived from petroleum, the DOE concluded that P-Series fuels would effectively help replace petroleum imports. DOE also found P-Series to have environmental benefits because of the reductions in hydrocarbon and CO emissions, toxics, and greenhouse gases.

The Chrysler Sebring
The Chrysler Sebring: It's a FFV
Much like gasoline, P-Series fuels range from 89-93 octane (mid-grade to premium) and can be formulated specifically for winter or summer use. Refueling with P-Series is as quick and familiar as with gasoline. But P-Series is not gasoline and cannot be used in a regular gasoline car. The basic capability for utilizing P-Series in vehicles has already been incorporated into methanol/ethanol flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV's). FFV's are designed to operate on alcohol, on gasoline, or on any mixture of the two. Nearly three million FFV's have been manufactured since 1996. It's almost impossible to see the difference between a regular car and an FFV, so check the owner's manual. Check to see if your car is an FFV: click here and select "ethanol" as the fuel type. Many people own FFV's and don't know it.

Note that though P-Series blends are specifically designed to work in FFV's and have been tested successfully for thousands of miles on Ford Taurus and Dodge Caravan FFV's, P-Series blends are so new, no manufacturer presently certifies a "P-Series specific" FFV. So check your car's warranty and when buying a car, ask for a P-Series FFV. Customer interest is very important because American manufacturers have shown a willingness to offer P-Series specific FFV's if there's a demonstrated demand.

The GM Yukon
The GM Yukon: It's a flexible fuel vehicle
One of the attractions of FFV's is that they are very easy to use. There is no need for any special fuel management because gasoline and P-Series can be freely intermixed in any proportion with fuel that is already in the vehicle's fuel tank. So, even if P-Series is not available at a particular location, simply fill up with gasoline.

How P-Series fuel is made
All ingredients except for the MeTHF can be purchased as bulk commodities from natural gas processors and ethanol producers. Fortunately, MeTHF is a high yield product of hydrolysis, a very well known process. Hydrolysis is actually a century-old process that had been utilized primarily in Germany and Russia during World War II to produce fermentable sugars that were used to manufacture ethanol fuel for vehicles. This approach has largely been abandoned because, upon formation, the sugars are rapidly destroyed, resulting in low ethanol yields. This problem is bypassed when producing MeTHF instead of ethanol, because sugar production is not necessary.

Several companies engineer hydrolysis plants. One, the Biofine process, is a commercialized technology that uses two-step dilute mineral acid hydrolysis to break down biomass containing lignocellulose into intermediate chemicals that can be further transformed into MeTHF and chemical products.

The Mercedes-Benz C320
The Mercedes-Benz C320: It's a FFV
The Cost
As of May, 2003, the projected retail (pump) price for P-Series (89 mid-grade) incl. all taxes is $1.49 per gallon (based on NJ state taxes). This about $.13 /gallon less than mid-grade gasoline, but the lower price reflects the lower energy content of the ethanol. On a BTU basis, P-Series is more efficient than gasoline, but on a gallon basis, the fuel mileage is about 10% less than gasoline. The upshot is that the operating cost -- in $/mile -- is about the same as mid-grade gasoline. Fortunately, the scale of production to reach this price point is very modest, only 10 MBD (150 million gallons per year), or about 5% of the production volume of even a small oil refinery. Economies are met even at such a small scale because revenue is obtained for accepting the waste as well as producing the fuel. Because of the small size and scale, multiple plants can be distributed geographically so that no one neighborhood need become the trash importer for the region.

America has a great many domestic resources, not the least of which is the determination of the American people. Make a choice to drive a car that can be powered with made-in-the-USA fuel. Do your part to Set America Free.
Property of The Institute for the Analysis of Global Security 2003, 2004. All rights reserved.