BNSF has plans to ship ethanol

(The following article by Dan Pillar was posted on the Fort Worth Star-Telegram website on March 24.)

NEAR ALBUQUERQUE -- Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway executives are making plans to ship "green" ethanol fuel from plants in Nebraska and Iowa to the Fort Worth area by summer, the carrier's chairman said Thursday.

The ethanol will be needed as an additive to regular gasoline in order for the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area to comply with federal clean-air standards during the hot summer months.

The railroad company will haul tankers of ethanol each week from processing plants in the Corn Belt to North Texas.

The tankers will return to the Midwest hauling refined gasoline.

Iowa and Nebraska, which are major corn-growing states, have emerged as the leading sources of grain-based ethanol, a product made from corn.

BNSF is trying to negotiate long-term contracts with oil companies and ethanol suppliers in order to build a regular distribution system from the Midwest to Texas, BNSF Chairman Matt Rose said during a rail-inspection trip with members of the news media from Kansas City to New Mexico.

"We hope to be able to use a temporary storage facility at our North Yard in Fort Worth," Rose said. "We don't need a large facility, we just need to have a place where the delivery trucks can come and pick it up."

The effort may help forestall gasoline shortages that the U.S. Energy Information Administration predicted last month as a possibility for Dallas-Fort Worth and the Houston area.

Until this year, the additive MTBE was used to reduce sulfur content in auto emissions.
However, MTBE, a toxic substance, has been found in groundwater supplies in several states.

When manufacturers, most located in the Houston area, failed to receive immunity from liability in the 2005 energy bill in Congress, refineries quit using the substance. That caused concern whether enough ethanol could be shipped in to adequately serve as a replacement.

Because ethanol cannot be moved in pipelines along with regular gasoline, railroads are the only means of shipment to Texas from the Midwest.

The ethanol is mixed with the conventional gasoline at its destination for delivery to gas stations.

"It is something we can do," Rose said. "California banned MTBE two years ago, and we now send 70-train cars to California every week." Rose said.

For several years, Dallas-Fort Worth has been designated a nonattainment area by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The designation means that high air pollution in the area must be mitigated by more stringent emissions inspections of cars and special gasoline formulas and other requirements.

Friday, March 24, 2006

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