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A Short History and Production Statistics of the Ethanol Industry for Railfans

The US ethanol industry is the fastest growing energy industry in the world. 2.81 billion gallons of ethanol was produced in 2003 and 13.2 billion gallons in 2010. Or looking at it another way there were 65,372 tank car loads of ethanol in 2004 and 291,191 loads in 2012. Ethanol was just over one quarter of all the hazardous loads handled by the US railroads in 2012.

Ethanol Production
The dry-grind process is the most common method used to produce fuel ethanol. In it, the whole corn kernel is ground and converted into ethanol. This method is relatively cost effective and requires less equipment than wet milling, which separates the fiber, germ (oil) and protein from the starch before it's fermented into ethanol. In the wet-milling process, corn is separated into its four basic components: starch, germ, fiber and protein, which are each made into different products. Besides ethanol, valuable co-products such as corn oil also are produced. However, the equipment is expensive, the process takes longer and it uses hazardous sulfur dioxide.

1999 annual ethanol production of 1.5 billion gallons was just 1% of the total fuel transportation market. Almost 80% of existing ethanol producers ship ethanol via rail. About 90% of prospective new producers indicated planned rail shipment. Rail transit times from Midwest ethanol plants to California can range from 2 to 3 weeks. Depending on the plant of origin and the market destination, typical costs range from 14 to 17 cents per gallon.

California refineries receive crude oil from two sources: waterborne deliveries by ship and domestic production from California crude oil producing fields. About one-half of the crude oil processed at California refineries comes through waterborne deliveries from Alaska or foreign imports, the other half from domestic production. Although refiners expressed concern about supply of waterborne cargoes delivered through third-party terminals, the greatest concern appears over the integrity of pipeline shipments of domestic crude oil, particularly very heavy crude oils such as from the San Joaquin Valley.

Crude oil supply processed by CA refineries (barrels per day)

Los Angeles 11432,277232,437299,803964,517
San Francisco 6302,733186,735170,475659,943
Bakersfield/Santa Maria 5133,83500133,835

Refineries depend on receiving feedstocks, blendstocks, chemicals and catalysts (e.g., ethanol, methanol, butanes, and alkylation acid) by rail car and delivering some products by rail car. About 10 percent of the California gasoline pool comes from a gasoline blendstock called alkylate. Alkylate is a high octane product of an alkylation process unit. The alkylation process unit reacts isobutane with olefin hydrocarbons (e.g., propylene, butylene) in the presence of an acid catalyst, usually sulfuric acid or hydrofluoric acid. Fresh high concentration acid is brought into the refinery by truck, rail car, or pipeline from third party suppliers. Used low concentration sulfuric acid is returned via truck or rail car for regeneration.

California's largest gasoline supplier, BP phased out MTBE and switched to ethanol in 2003. The company entered into contracts to buy ethanol from Midwest producers for its 1,200 Arco stations statewide. They represent 20 percent (2.9 billion gallons) of the 14.5 billion gallons of gas sold in California in a year.

Williams Bio-Energy LLC entered into an ethanol storage agreement with Kinder Morgan Energy Partners in late 2001 to house 15,000 barrels (630,000 gallons) of ethanol at the company's Carson, CA facility and make ethanol available for sale to the Los Angeles and San Diego markets. Williams committed to providing a minimum of 100 million gallons of ethanol per year to California by the end of 2002. Williams will transport ethanol to the storage facility and directly to refiners via large unit rail shipments and ocean vessels.

High Plains Corp. announced it is considering expansion of all three of its production facilities. It is in the process of expanding its York, Nebraska facility from 36 to 50 million gallons per year. The company also operates facilities in Colwich, Kansas and Portales, New Mexico. During 2000, High Plains produced 67 million gallons and wants to increase this to 85 million gallons per year.

ADM has ethanol plants at Decatur, IL; Cedar Rapids, IA; Clinton, IA; Columbus, NE; Marshall, MN; Peoria, IL; and Wallhalla, ND. Total capacity is a little over one billion gallons per year as of February 2005.

The ExxonMobil refinery in Vernon, CA receives blocks of about 10 cars. These come in on regular Barstow Los Angeles manifest trains. Lomita Rail Transfer, located adjacent to Watson yard in Wilmington 18 miles south of Los Angeles, receives unit trains of either 96 or 62 cars two or three times a week. These unit trains originate at Wilmer, MN, Rock Island, IL, Galesburg, IL, Omaha, NE, or Lincoln, NE.

BNSF's Ethanol ExpressTM unit train service delivered the 10,000th carload of ethanol from the Midwestern US to Lomita Rail Terminal on September 28, 2004. The service began in October 2003.

The gasoline you pump into your car likely started its journey from halfway around the world. It traveled via oil tanker, railway tank car and truck, as well as through several pipelines. Each mode of transport and accompanying transfer operation added to its cost.

Crude oil is drilled from porous rock deep underground in oil-rich regions such as the Middle East, North Sea, Africa and Latin America. In the United States, most petroleum is drilled in Texas and Alaska. It then is transported through land and sea by pipelines or tankers to refineries around the world. At the refinery, petroleum is first separated by distillation into gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil, jet fuel, diesel and so on. Gasoline produced by this direct distillation is called straight-run gasoline, and only a small portion of gasoline produced in the United States today is straight-run. While jet, diesel and some other fuels usually are acceptable as is, straight-run gasoline typically requires more processing, such as isomerizing, to increase octane characteristics for use in automobiles.

One 42-gallon barrel of crude oil yields more than just fuel for your car, it is a vital source of other everyday uses in transportation and industry.
Gasoline 19.5 gallons
Diesel fuel and home-heating oil 9.2
Kerosene-type jet fuel 4.1
Heavy fuel oil 2.3
Liquefied refinery gases 1.9
Still gas 1.9
Coke 1.8
Asphalt and road oil 1.3
Petrochemical feedstocks 1.2
Lubricants 0.5
Kerosene 0.2

USA Ethanol Plants as of 2010 sorted by State - Capacity is in millions of gallons per year

Name City State Feedstock Capacity
Pinal Energy LLC  Maricopa  AZ  corn  50 
Pacific Ethanol Madera LLC  Madera  CA  corn  40 
Parallel Products of California  Rancho Cucamonga  CA  beverage waste 
AltraBiofuels Phoenix Bio Industries LLC  Goshen  CA  corn  31.5 
Pacific Ethanol Stockton LLC  Stockton  CA  corn  60 
Calgren Renewable Fuels LLC  Pixley  CA  corn  58 
Aemetis Advanced Fuels Keyes Inc.  Keyes  CA  corn  55 
Front Range Energy LLC  Windsor  CO  corn  40 
Merrick/Coors  Golden  CO  beverage waste 
Sterling Ethanol LLC  Sterling  CO  corn  52 
NKB Bioenergy LLC  Walsh  CO  milo 
Yuma Ethanol LLC  Yuma  CO  corn  50 
First United Fuel & Southwest Georgia Ethanol  Camilla  GA  corn  100 
Range Fuels  Soperton  GA  woody biomass  10 
Poet Biorefining  Gowrie  IA  corn  73 
Green Plains  Shenandoah  IA  corn  65 
Flint Hills Resources Fairbank LLC  Fairbank  IA  corn  115 
Poet Biorefining  Jewell  IA  corn  73 
Lincolnway Energy LLC  Nevada  IA  corn  55 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Albert City  IA  corn  110 
Amaizing Energy LLC  Denison  IA  corn  55 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Cedar Rapids  IA  corn  240 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Clinton  IA  corn  237 
Big River Resources LLC  West Burlington  IA  corn  105 
Cargill Inc.  Eddyville  IA  corn  35 
Corn LP  Goldfield  IA  corn  50 
Golden Grain Energy LLC  Mason City  IA  corn  80 
Grain Processing Corp.  Muscatine  IA  corn  10 
Flint Hills Resources Iowa Falls LLC  Iowa Falls  IA  corn  100 
Poet Biorefining-Hanlontown  Hanlontown  IA  corn  57 
Little Sioux Corn Processors LP  Marcus  IA  corn  92 
Green Plains  Lakota  IA  corn  100 
Poet Biorefining-Ashton  Ashton  IA  corn  57 
Permeate Refining Inc.  Hopkinton  IA  sugars & starches 
Pine Lake Corn Processors LP  Steamboat Rock  IA  corn  30 
Quad County Corn Processors  Galva  IA  corn  30 
Siouxland Energy & Livestock Co-op  Sioux Center  IA  corn  60 
Poet Biorefining-Coon Rapids  Coon Rapids  IA  corn  53 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Fort Dodge  IA  corn  110 
Poet Biorefining  Emmetsburg  IA  corn  57 
Poet Biorefining  Corning  IA  corn  73 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Charles City  IA  corn  110 
Absolute Energy LLC  St. Ansgar  IA  corn  115 
Green Plains-Superior  Superior  IA  corn  60 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Hartley  IA  corn  110 
Platinum Ethanol LLC  Arthur  IA  corn  110 
Big River United Energy LLC  Dyersville  IA  corn  115 
Southwest Iowa Renewable Energy LLC  Council Bluffs  IA  corn  115 
Penford Products Corp.  Cedar Rapids  IA  corn  45 
Plymouth Energy LLC  Merrill  IA  corn  50 
Flint Hills Resources Menlo LLC  Menlo  IA  corn  110 
Flint Hills Resources LLC  Shell Rock  IA  corn  110 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Cedar Rapids  IA  corn  275 
Louis Dreyfus Commodities  Grand Junction  IA  corn  100 
Fiberight of Blairstown LLC  Blairstown  IA  municipal solid waste  5.5 
Homeland Energy Solutions LLC  Lawler  IA  corn  100 
Idaho Ethanol Processing LLC  Caldwell  ID  corn, potato waste 
Pacific Ethanol Magic Valley LLC  Burley  ID  corn  60 
Illinois River Energy LLC  Rochelle  IL  corn  100 
Adkins Energy LLC  Lena  IL  corn  43 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Decatur  IL  corn  290 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Peoria  IL  corn  100 
Aventine Renewable Energy Inc.  Pekin  IL  corn  160 
Lincolnland Agri-Energy LLC  Robinson  IL  corn  50 
Illinois Corn Processing LLC  Pekin  IL  corn  95 
Marquis Energy LLC  Hennepin  IL  corn  140 
Center Ethanol Co. LLC  Sauget  IL  corn  50 
Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC  Annawan  IL  corn  110 
One Earth Energy LLC  Gibson City  IL  corn  100 
Abengoa Bioenergy of Illinois LLC  Madison  IL  corn  88 
Big River Resources LLC  Galva  IL  corn 110 
Central Indiana Ethanol LLC  Marion  IN  corn  50 
Iroquois Bio-Energy Company LLC  Rensselaer  IN  corn  40 
Grain Processing Corp.  Washington  IN  corn  20 
New Energy Corp.  South Bend  IN  corn  102 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Linden  IN  corn  110 
The Andersons Clymers Ethanol LLC  Clymers  IN  corn  110 
Poet Biorefining  Portland  IN  corn  73 
Green Plains  Bluffton  IN  corn  120 
Poet Biorefining  Cloverdale  IN  corn  99 
Cardinal Ethanol LLC  Union City  IN  corn  100 
Poet Biorefining  Alexandria  IN  corn  73 
Poet Biorefining  North Manchester  IN  corn  73 
Aventine Renewable Energy LLC  Mount Vernon  IN  corn  110 
Abengoa Bioenergy of Indiana LLC  Mount Vernon  IN  corn  88 
Prairie Horizon Agri-Energy LLC  Phillipsburg  KS  milo/corn  40 
Abengoa Bioenergy Corp.  Colwich  KS  corn/milo  25 
East Kansas Agri-Energy LLC  Garnett  KS  corn  35 
ESE Alcohol Inc.  Leoti  KS  seed waste  1.5 
MGP Ingredients Inc.  Atchison  KS  corn 
Reeve Agri Energy  Garden City  KS  corn/milo  12 
White Energy Russell LLC  Russell  KS  Milo/wheat starch  50 
Western Plains Energy LLC  Oakley  KS  corn/Milo  45 
Bonanza BioEnergy LLC  Garden City  KS  corn/milo  55 
Pratt Energy LLC  Pratt  KS  corn/milo  55 
Arkalon Energy LLC  Liberal  KS  corn/milo  110 
Kansas Ethanol LLC  Lyons  KS  milo/corn  55 
Nesika Energy LLC  Scandia  KS  corn  10 
Commonwealth Agri-Energy LLC  Hopkinsville  KY  corn  33 
Parallel Products of Kentucky  Louisville  KY  Beverage waste 
BP Biofuels Demonstration Plant  Jennings  LA  energy grasses  1.4 
The Andersons Albion Ethanol LLC  Albion  MI  corn  55 
Green Plains  Riga  MI  corn  60 
Carbon Green BioEnergy LLC  Lake Odessa  MI  corn  50 
Poet Biorefining  Caro  MI  corn  53 
Marysville Ethanol LLC  Marysville  MI  corn  50 
Heron Lake BioEnergy LLC  Heron Lake  MN  corn  50 
Agri-Energy LLC  Luverne  MN  corn  22 
Al-Corn Clean Fuel  Claremont  MN  corn  45 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Marshall  MN  corn  40 
Bushmills Ethanol Inc.   Atwater  MN  corn  65 
Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op  Little Falls  MN  corn  20.5 
Chippewa Valley Ethanol Co. LLLP  Benson  MN  corn  46 
Corn Plus LLP  Winnebago  MN  corn  49 
DENCO II LLC  Morris  MN  corn  24 
Poet Biorefining  Bingham Lake  MN  corn  35 
Poet Biorefining  Albert Lea  MN  corn  44 
Granite Falls Energy LLC  Granite Falls  MN  corn  60 
Heartland Corn Products  Winthrop  MN  corn  95 
Minnesota Energy  Buffalo Lake  MN  corn  20 
Poet Biorefining  Lake Crystal  MN  corn  57 
Poet Biorefining  Preston  MN  corn  48 
Biofuel Energy Corp./Buffalo Lake Energy Corp.  Fairmont  MN  corn  115 
Green Plains - Otter Tail  Fergus Falls  MN  corn  60 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Welcome  MN  corn  110 
Guardian Energy LLC  Janesville  MN  corn  100 
Highwater Ethanol LLC  Lamberton  MN  corn  55 
Golden Triangle Energy Cooperative LLC  Craig  MO  corn  20 
Mid-Missouri Energy LLC  Malta Bend  MO  corn  40 
Poet Biorefining  Macon  MO  corn  45 
Show Me Ethanol LLC  Carrollton  MO  corn/milo  55 
LifeLine Foods LLC  St. Joseph  MO  corn  50 
Poet Biorefining  Laddonia  MO  corn  57 
Bunge Ergon Vicksburg  Vicksburg  MS  corn  54 
Clean Burn Fuels LLC  Raeford  NC  corn  60 
Blue Flint Ethanol LLC  Underwood  ND  corn/milo/grains/sugar  60 
Red Trail Energy LLC  Richardton  ND  corn  50 
Alchem LLP  Grafton  ND  corn  10.5 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Walhalla  ND  corn  28 
Hankinson Renewable Energy LLC  Hankinson  ND  corn  120 
Tharaldson Ethanol LLC  Casselton  ND  corn  153 
Abengoa Bioenergy of Nebraska LLC  Ravenna  NE  corn  88 
Cornhusker Energy LLC  Lexington  NE  corn  40 
Louis Dreyfus Commodities   Norfolk  NE  corn  40 
Mid-America AgriProducts/Wheatland LLC  Madrid  NE  corn  44 
Siouxland Ethanol LLC  Jackson  NE  corn  50 
Green Plains  Ord  NE  corn  55 
Abengoa Bioenergy Corp.  York  NE  corn  55 
Ag Processing Inc.  Hastings  NE  corn  52 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Columbus  NE  corn  100 
Cargill Inc.  Blair  NE  corn  195 
Chief Ethanol Fuels Inc.  Hastings  NE  corn  62 
Husker Ag LLC  Plainview  NE  corn  75 
KAAPA Ethanol LLC  Minden  NE  corn  60 
Midwest Renewable Energy LLC  Sutherland  NE  corn  26 
Trenton Agri Products LLC  Trenton  NE  corn/milo  40 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Albion  NE  corn  110 
Nebraska Corn Processing LLC  Cambridge  NE  corn  44 
Advanced BioEnergy LLC  Fairmont  NE  corn  110 
E Energy Adams LLC  Adams  NE  corn  50 
Biofuel Energy Corp./Pioneer Trail Energy  Wood River  NE  corn  115 
NEDAK Ethanol LLC  Atkinson  NE  corn  44 
Green Plains  Central City  NE  corn  100 
Bridgeport Ethanol LLC  Bridgeport  NE  corn  50 
Archer Daniels Midland Co.  Columbus  NE  corn  300 
Aventine/Nebraska Energy LLC  Aurora  NE  corn  45 
Abengoa Bioenergy Corp.  Portales  NM  milo  30 
Western New York Energy LLC  Shelby  NY  corn  50 
Sunoco  Fulton  NY  corn  85 
Mascoma Corp.  Rome  NY  Wood biomass  0.2 
Veolia ES Technical Solutions LLC  Medina  OH  used industrial ethanol 
AltraBiofuels Coshocton Ethanol LLC  Coshocton  OH  corn  60 
The Andersons Marathon Ethanol LLC  Greenville  OH  corn  110 
Poet Biorefining  Leipsic  OH  corn  73 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Bloomingburg  OH  corn  110 
Guardian Lima LLC  Lima  OH  corn  54 
Poet Biorefining  Fostoria  OH  corn  73 
Poet Biorefining  Marion  OH  corn  73 
Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery  Clatskanie  OR  corn  108 
Pacific Ethanol Columbia LLC  Boardman  OR  corn  40 
Summit Natural Energy Inc.  Cornelius  OR  waste sugars/starches 
Bionol Clearfield LLC  Clearfield  PA  corn  110 
Poet Biorefining  Loomis  SD  corn  73 
Redfield Energy LLC  Redfield  SD  corn  50 
Poet Research Center  Scotland  SD  corn  11 
Dakota Ethanol LLC  Wentworth  SD  corn  48 
Poet Biorefining  Chancellor  SD  corn  102 
Advanced BioEnergy South Dakota LLC II  Aberdeen  SD  corn  46 
>Advanced BioEnergy South Dakota LLC  Huron  SD  corn  30 
Poet Biorefining  Groton  SD  corn  53 
Red River Energy LLC  Rosholt  SD  corn  25 
Poet Biorefining  Big Stone City  SD  corn  81 
Poet Biorefining  Hudson  SD  corn  57 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Aurora  SD  corn  120 
NuGen Energy LLC  Marion  SD  corn  115 
Glacial Lakes Energy LLC  Watertown  SD  corn  100 
Glacial Lakes Energy LLC  Mina  SD  corn  100 
Advanced BioEnergy South Dakota LLC I  Aberdeen  SD  corn  9.3 
Tate & Lyle  Loudon  TN  corn  110 
Green Plains  Obion  TN  corn  120 
DuPont Cellulosic Ethanol LLC  Vonore  TN  switchgrass/corn stover  0.25 
White Energy LLC  Hereford  TX  corn/milo  115 
Hereford Renewable Energy LLC  Hereford  TX  corn  110 
White Energy LLC  Plainview  TX  corn/milo  110 
Levelland Hockley County Ethanol LLC  Levelland  TX  milo/corn  40 
Appomattox Bio Energy LLC  Hopewell  VA  winter barley  65 
United Ethanol LLC  Milton  WI  corn  55 
Big River Resources LLC  Boyceville  WI  corn  55 
Ace Ethanol LLC  Stanley  WI  corn  40 
Badger State Ethanol LLC  Monroe  WI  corn  55 
Central Wisconsin Alcohol  Plover  WI  seed corn/whey 
United Wisconsin Grain Producers LLC  Friesland  WI  corn  58 
Utica Energy LLC  Oshkosh  WI  corn  52 
Marquis Energy Wisconsin LLC  Necedah  WI  corn  50 
Valero Renewable Fuels LLC  Jefferson  WI  corn  110 
Didion Ethanol LLC  Courtland  WI  corn  50 
Renova Energy Wyoming Ethanol  Torrington  WY  corn  12 
Western Biomass Energy LLC  Upton  WY  crushed sugarcane  0.5 
BNSF ethanol train with DPU locomotives

These are the DPU units pushing on the rear of a unit train of tank cars loaded with ethanol headed for California. For safety, there is always a loaded car of something other than ethanol between the tank cars and the locomotives.

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