A new green product ethyl levulinate - heating oil replacement

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Minister of Fire
Hearth Supporter
Jul 11, 2008
Northern NH
So add this to list of green products, This product can be used for heating oil, most likely blended with Biodiesel. Biodiesel is great stuff except that its pour point is high. Therefor not so good in cold climate. Ethyl levulinate can be blended in and drop the pour point. It can be made with low grade wood products. With the closure of many Maine papermills and biomass power plants, low grade wood is being left in the woods as it costs more to haul it than they can sell it for. I wonder what the Cetane rating is and if it can be used in Diesels?

The proposed plant location was a pulp an paper mill that shut down after they accidentally blew up their chemical recovery boiler after years of "band aid" patches. The plant is basically a future superfund site so if it could be reused it will save an expensive clean up and creaty some jobs in a rural area of Maine.

Unfortunately this is the not the first proposal for the site, there was a prior company that was going to build a cross laminated timber factory there. Most of these proposals sound great but usually its developer pushing them who need a big infusion of state cash and loan guarantees to make it real. Usually it comes down to that yes the product can be made but its considerably more expensive than dyno diesel. It doesnt make economic sense unless emodied carbon is factored in an to date there is not a universally recognized carbon taxing scheme. Still nice to know that is drop in replacement so folks dependent on heating oil for home heating with little hope of natural gas have an option.

If they pull it off there are several other locations in Maine NH and VT where there is lots of low grade wood readily available cheap.
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The plant is basically a future superfund site so if it could be reused it will save an expensive clean up and creaty some jobs in a rural area of Maine.
How does building on top of contaminated soil obviate the (moral) need for cleaning a mess up?
If you are familiar with the concept of EPA "brownfields" the concept is that its far better to attempt to reuse a contaminated site for commercial or industrial use than to potentially contaminate a new site. Many things that were perfectly acceptable in the past are no longer acceptable so many old industrial sites are technically contaminated as rules have changed. There are no potentially responsible parties left to pay for an expensive clean up bills anyhow at this site. Therefore the concept is try to minimize the spread of past contamination and reuse it for commercial use.
oh, I agree it's good to re-use, but I quite disagree that re-use pre-empts clean up. In fact, re-use often accelerates spread. Digging, concentrated water flows etc.
And yes, I'm quite familiar with such clean - ups - having worked on Nat'l Lab sites subject to such long-lasting projects. (Not working on those projects, but seeing from up close - literally - what it takes.)
We almost bought land for our company. What killed the deal was zoning, it had been rezoned for multi family residential, and its use a few generations ago as a service station. Who knows what kind of liabilities exist in the soil? Its too bad. The land was cheap. It would have worked well for us.
To keep the drift going a bit, Brownfield sites are cleaned up to prevent the contamination that is present contained so that it does not get any worse or people are exposed to it. Usually the contamination is in a large area of underground soil. To clean it completely generally means digging deep and removing the soil to be buried at a licensed landfill. In some cases its gotten into the underlying bedrock. All this removal also can cause exposure to the workers and the people in the surrounding areas. Cost to do this is very expensive and funds are limited so the brownfield concept is to restore the site so that it can be used for limited uses (industrial and commercial). Generally the site is cleaned up and capped and any future development is limited to uses that do not expose the future users to the contamination. The alternative is for these sites to remain vacant for decades inevitably causing contamination of the surrounding area and possible surface waters.

The problem with contaminated sites is the contamination remains effectively "forever" while people memories are short and developers memories are shorter. There are ways of cleaning up titles on questionable land so that an unknowing buyer ends up with a piece of land that is more than worthless, should contamination appear the current owner may be liable to clean it up. Contrary to popular belief, title insurance is not going to protect a landowner in that situation from much beyond after years of litigation the owner may get their purchase price back but be left with the costs for the clean up. I am unsure of how the brownfield designation works but the designation stays with the title "forever" (or until the next glacier comes).
We have both examples in our area. There was a coal gas power plant at the heart of Seattle, right on Lake Union. It sat as an idle, toxic waste site for many years after Seattle went hydro. Eventually the problem was addressed by capping the toxic soils and turning it into park. They kept a lot of the huge machinery and painted them with bright colors. Gasworks Park is quite popular with a great view of the city.

To the south, in Tacoma, was the Asarco Smelter superfund site. This copper smelter belched out arsenic and cadmium over a large area. When it came to the cleanup the company conveniently went bankrupt and the taxpayers footed the bill. It took many years and million$ to remove the contaminated soils in the immediate area of the plant. The project is completed now and condos, theater and shops have replaced the smelter. However, the surrounding area that was in the cone of prevailing winds is still finding contamination. This reaches out about 25 miles.