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New Technology Blends Ethanol for Cleaner Diesel
by Kristin Brekke

Diesel engines may soon have a new partner in the effort to satisfy Tier 4 emissions standards – ethanol.

A Nebraska company has developed a system for bringing a mixture of ethanol and water to a diesel engine just before the point of combustion, increasing the diesel engine’s efficiency and reducing emissions. The business partners behind CleanFlex Power Systems, LLC call the mixture “EM60,” which is 60 percent ethanol and 40 percent water. The overall fuel mix in the diesel engine is 85 percent #2 diesel and 15 percent 120-proof ethanol.

Bob Dickey, a farmer from Laurel, Nebraska, and three business partners are behind CleanFlex. Dickey is past president and current chairman of the National Corn Growers Association, and he and his team were in Sioux Falls, South Dakota last month for a demonstration of the new technology operating in a retrofitted 2005 Ford F250 Powerstroke.

The system requires the use of two separate tanks to deliver the fuel, one for the ethanol-water mixture and one for the diesel. The two come together at the point of combustion and produce a number of benefits, according to Ron Preston, CleanFlex president:

  • Reduces NOx by 30 percent or more
  • Reduces particulate matter
  • Increases horsepower by 25 percent or more
  • Increases energy efficiency by 10 to 30 percent

Preston says the EM60 has the ability to help diesel engines meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Tier 4 emissions standards that go into effect in 2011. Other benefits of the fuel mixture include added lubricity to the engine, longer storage life for the fuel and the ability to use it in all weather conditions – even down to 100 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

The hydrated ethanol was first tested last year on Dickey’s farm in a diesel engine running an irrigation system, a John Deere 70-horsepower four-cylinder turbo diesel. He reported increased efficiency and decreased emissions, plus a cost savings of $1 to $1.20 per hour over regular diesel.

The fuel and the retrofit are available today through CleanFlex with an estimated price of $5,000 to $7,500, depending on the vehicle and the engine. They are in talks with ag equipment companies as well as railroad companies on potential use of the fuel and delivery system.

At the Sioux Falls demonstration, Preston estimated that there are 29 million trucks that might not be allowed to operate in California or other places with strict emissions standards under the upcoming Tier IV diesel regulations. The addition of hydrated ethanol to the diesel fuel in this type of retrofit could change that.

Research is being conducted at the University of Nebraska under a two-year grant at the Industrial Agricultural Products Center. CleanFlex can be reached at (402) 480-0346 for questions or product inquiries.

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The American Coalition for Ethanol publishes Ethanol Today magazine each month to cover the biofuels industry�s hot topics, including cellulosic ethanol, E85, corn ethanol, food versus fuel, ethanol�s carbon footprint, E10, E15, and mid-range ethanol blends.
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