Talk:Cellulosic ethanol

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ethanol plants[edit]

--Alex 08:27, 17 July 2006 (UTC)

The intro section should discuss why cellulosic ethanol plants are not being built, and why the corn based plants are currently in favor.

--Chiefio

hi sorry no idea how to make new headers and whatnot so I'll just shove this in here right quick [works for a lot of things in life you'd be amazed] but #1 citation 49 leads to 404 citation not found, and "The study found that there could be 1.3 billion dry tons of biomass available for ethanol use, by making little changes in agricultural and forestry practices and meeting the demands for forestry products, food, and fiber."-- can someone calculate how much fuel this would produce and include it there?71.236.2.96 (talk) 00:06, 17 September 2011 (UTC)

80% less greenhouse gas?[edit]

Actually, cellulosic ethanol produces 26.4% of the energy of gasoline and 25% of the Carbon Dioxide. So, if you extrapolate to a cost per absolute energy, cellulosic ethanol produces 94.5% of the greenhouse gas of gasoline. Perhaps someone can find a source to substantiate this. Swakeman (talk) 23:54, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

"Ethanol has about two thirds the energy value as gasoline." [Source: [[ Cite error: There are <ref> tags on this page without content in them (see the help page). Energy Victory; (c) Prometheus Books; 2007; Author: Robert Zubrin; Page 94, Amherst, NY used by permission)]]] Therefore, the statement that ethanol has 26.4% of the energy of gasoline is false. Ethanol has about 67% of the energy of gasoline. The statement "cellulosic ethanol produces 94.5% of the greenhouse gas of gasoline" only considers the burning of the fuel in the engines of the vehicles, which is a gross distortion. What is far more important is the generation and consumption of carbon dioxide from inception of the fuel to the end use of the fuel. Here ethanol which originates from green plants which absorb carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen far exceeds gasoline which goes through transportation and refining that release CO2 but not through the green plant phase. This fair comparison would place ethanol far lower than gasoline in CO2 emission. Furthermore gasoline generates lots of pollution that ethanol does not: SO2, NOx, particulate matter, ground level ozone..."Rrrrprrrr (talk) 02:32, 19 February 2010 (UTC)

I had the understanding that ethanol contains about 26% LESS energy than gasoline, meaning it has 74% of the energy density of gasoline. Also of note is the possible sale of vehicles designed specifically for ethanol which would use turbochargers or high compression ratios to exploit ethanol's higher octane rating. Such ethanol engines could get equal performance and fuel economy to gasoline engines but would have lower displacements, which would of course produce considerably less net CO2 than gasoline engines. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 132.170.86.213 (talk) 15:48, 24 September 2008 (UTC)

In contrast to fossil fuels, the biomass used to produce biofuels is produced by photosynthesis where CO2 and H2O is removed from the atmosphere and so the CO2 produced when biofuels are combusted is taken as that which was removed from the atmosphere during growth.

The main reason that cellulose ethanol has such low emissions is that the cellulose is obtained as a waste or residue which by definition does not have any emissions. Thus all the fertilizer etc. which is used to grow the plant, such as corn is attributed to the corn and the corn stover does not have any emissions from the fertilizer use. This situation should change if the corn is grown for both the corn starch and for the stover. In this case the stover would have more emissions and the emission savings compared to corn ethanol will not be so great. --SeveriG (talk) 20:27, 14 October 2008 (UTC)

That whole paragraph and subsequent references (dead links, citations 1 and 2) should probably be removed, rewritten, and/or re-cited. IMHO. 74.178.138.186 (talk) 04:35, 24 February 2012 (UTC)

Cellanol is not a common term[edit]

I'd also note that "cellanol" smells like someone's proprietary name to me. A Google search yields 154 references, many on the top page in French. I've been involved in alternative fuels for at least 30 years and never heard the term before. The word "cellanol" needs to go, unless, of course, the goal of wiki is to coin terms and create new usages... 4.246.237.161 05:39, 25 August 2007 (UTC)

I googled it and I concur, it's uncommon at best, and may be a trademarked term, or used more in a non-English speaking country. Many of those 154 references were copies or foreign translations of the same few passages of text. -Agyle 07:05, 25 August 2007 (UTC)

Celunol/Cellunol[edit]

I did some search on Google recently and the term celunol/cellunol begin to be a bit more common --Sd-100 (talk) 19:38, 7 June 2008 (UTC)

Economic importance[edit]

"Cellulose is present in every plant: straw, grass, wood. Most of these "bio-mass" products are currently discarded"

Really? Aren't these products usually composted or somehow used for soil maintenance? Where are they discarded? Do farmers take them offsite to some kind of landfill? I find this claim extremely hard to believe. Would it be sustainable to remove all plant matter from farms and make ethanol with it? ErikHaugen 19:01, 7 June 2006 (UTC)
Good point. When biomass is left at the place of harvest, the nutrients might not be used optimally, and the energy content is hardly used at all. However that doesn't mean that they are useless, as it might seem from the use of the word discarded. --Alf 18:15, 12 June 2006 (UTC)
Disregard farming: think about the forests which are littered with wood droppings and other woody stuff from wind storms and natural causes. This has to be constantly cleaned up or brought to stump dumps and contains huge amounts of cellulose, which could be converted into ethanol. There are tons of this and it has a negative cost: they pay you now to take it away! I don't think it's a good point at all! Rrrrprrrr (talk) 23:45, 4 February 2008 (UTC)
Plants get and spread diseases just like humans (or much like humans, anyway). If you leave a bunch of rotting plant matter on your fields you'll reduce your yields. Here in California we have a huge amount of biomass which must be destroyed. Each year, farmers in the central valley burn their rice fields after harvest to sterilize the soil so they can get the best harvest next year. Burning rice fields is nasty; rice stalks have small fibers in them like asbestos that burning releases into the air. The practice is being phased out under state law, but replacement technologies are still pretty expensive. Rice farmers would LOVE to get rid of their waste mass if they could get someone to haul it off economically. There's a huge cellulose ethanol plant that they want to build in hopes that cellulose conversion will become economical. Anyway, I've never heard of anyone trying to compost ag waste. The scale of such an endeavor just boggles the mind. --Markspace 06:19, 9 July 2006 (UTC)
Ag waste is actually generally tilled back into the soil to restore the nitrogen to the ground. If all of the 'waste' was used for cellulosic ethanol, then the nitrogen cycle will be disrupted, and there will be a decrease in crop yields. If the nitrogen is not tilled back into the soil, then fertilisers need to be used which has problems of it's own (such as the economic burden to farmers)
Ash from burning rice left in the soil may provide some benefit to the soil. In other words, ash can be composted. "The scale of such an endeavor" - no, not really. Look, unless the waste is literally hauled offsite to some kind of landfill, then it is probably doing something constructive for the soil. What would happen to the soil if the rice plant waste was hauled away instead of burnt? I have 0 clue about what happens to ag waste, but as far as I know it is not generally hauled offsite to a dump. So I am assuming that soil maintenance would look different if it was, and I think it would be more interesting if the article addressed this, unless it really just isn't an issue. ErikHaugen (talk) 20:11, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

There are studies in the literature that show a very good correlation between burning of rice straw in the fields and emergency admissions of children with asthma. If pyrolysis is used, a byproduct is biochar, which can be used as fertilizer: it improves soil structure and water retention, and contains most of the fertilizer components originally in the waste, with the exception of nitrogen.

At present, the problem with the biochemical conversion of plant material to ethanol is that the yield is only around 25%, for practical processes (in the lab, people have gone up to 60%). So, there is still a lot of waste. Another problem is the long residence times that are required, which means that the reactors are very large.

From what I know about organic agriculture, ag waste is composted in conjuction with manure. It also serves as a bedding in traditional animal raising methods, and, as such, it is composted when the manure is composted. I wouldn't call regualar ag waste like straw 'discarted' either, as it serves many purposes. In fact, I wouldn't even call it 'waste', but 'byproduct'. --Hanns-Andre Pitot 12:20, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Questions: "In July, 2006, according to the Boston Globe, the production cost of cellulosic ethanol was approximately $2.25." $2.25/what? gallon? liter? BTU? Cup? —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 68.181.226.31 (talkcontribs) 20:09, July 29, 2006 (UTC)

A presentation by Dr MAthew Roberts of Ohio State University at the AAEA Annual Meeting, 24 July '06, referenced "~5.50/gal" cost of ethanol from Cellulose.

I think its supposed to say .51 Euro /kg not per g —Preceding unsigned comment added by 129.98.152.140 (talk) 04:53, 25 January 2011 (UTC)

Soil conservation requirements[edit]

As of early December, 2007, the article appears to recommend corn stover, bagasse and other agricultural residue as source material. In many settings that is unrealistic. Mixing plant residues into the soil is essential to maintain tilth and restrain erosion. In U.S. corn-growing areas, it has been estimated that failure to maintain tilth with stover would lead to a tenfold increase in erosion and exhaust native topsoil in 10-30 years. Practical plans for cellulosic alcohol must take into account soil conservation requirements, or else they will fail to provide sustainable production.

Energy gain of cellulosic ethanol appears to be unrealistic[edit]

All references that I have found claim that production of cellulosic ethanol is far more energy efficient than production of corn ethanol. Since the production of cellulosic ethanol requires all of the elements of corn ethanol production (except converting cellulose to suger instead of starch to sugar) it must require about the same energy not less. According to a science mag [1] article only about 5% of the input energy from corn alcohol comes from petroleum (the rest from coal and natural gas) so the 5% must be for cultivation and hauling and the other 95% for processing at the ethanol plant. The only obvious improvement is in the 5% so how can cellulosic ethanol be significantly more energy efficient than corn ethanol? Dan Pangburn 02:23, 23 February 2007 (UTC)

I don't know the numbers, but the idea that growing the corn crop takes a tiny fraction of the energy needed to distill the alcohol seems dubious. Fuel for farm machinery, materials (natural gas?) for fertilizer and other agrichemicals, etc. The corn plants produce much more cellulose than starch, so if it can be used, there's a much larger return for the same investment.
—wwoods 16:03, 24 February 2007 (UTC)
It also depends on the biomass used. For example, you can use wood chips from lumbermills; this byproduct does not have the cost of corn growth. You could also use energy crops other than corn, like switchgrass; since this plant is perenial you don't have to sow it every year, and it also requires less fertilizer than corn. These may be some of the reasons that cellulosic ethanol is more energy efficient than corn ethanol. I think that the distillation process itself uses less energy but don't know much about that ... Cadors 20:27, 16 April 2007 (UTC)
"so the 5% must be for cultivation and hauling and the other 95% for processing at the ethanol plant." I'm not sure about the logic of this statement. Even for cellulosic ethanol derived from corn, the yield per acre is higher than for ethanol production using just the kernels, so the energy input for cultivation is lower on a per gallon basis. In most parts of the US, corn growth is very fertilizer intensive, relying on large amounts of ammonia generated with natural gas. As suggested above, _potential_ energy yields for cellulosic ethanol are often calculated based on crops that require much less energy for cultivation as a consequence of reduced fertilizer/water use and higher biomass yields per acre. A2a2a2 01:21, 23 July 2007 (UTC)
Indeed, the Science study cited (now here) used switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol, in comparison to corn for conventional ethanol. I'd say more, but this is supposed to be for discussing the article, not the topic of the article. :-) Though this may suggest some areas for expansion in the article. -Agyle 00:55, 20 August 2007 (UTC)

Unfounded claim?[edit]

In the following paragraph:

"BlueFire Ethanol Fuels utilizes post-sorted MSW, rice and wheat straws, wood waste and other agricultural residues and implements significant proprietary improvements to concentrated acid hydrolysis. The Technology is unique in that, for the first time, it enables widely available cellulosic materials, or more commonly, biomass, to be converted into sugar in an economically viable manner, thereby providing an inexpensive raw material for fermentation or chemical conversion into any of a hundred different specialty and/or commodity chemicals. In February of 2007, BlueFire Ethanol was among 6 companies that received a grant from the US Department of Energy for $40M to promote development of cellulosic ethanol refineries"


This sounds like self-promotion. There are no references cited to support this claim of uniqueness or economic viability.

69.250.53.6 05:57, 8 November 2007 (UTC)

Sourcing[edit]

I don't understand why production of cellulosic ethanol should produce any greenhouse gases, since all of the carbon released by burning it was taken out of the atmosphere by the initial plant growth. There must be some assumptions that production equipment will be using energy from non-ethanol sources? These kinds of assumptions should be explained. The reference given is to an environmental advocacy group, which does not seem terribly reliable, and the details of and sources for this claim are not explained.

The section about the 2006 U.S. Senate hearing is currently referenced to a blog, which does not seem like a reliable source. -- Beland 16:07, 8 November 2007 (UTC)


GHG's aren't only emitted from burning carbon-based fuels, the farming itself releases amounts of CO2 that are non-negligible and is otherwise stored in the ground. The question of whether it produces GHG (aka whether it is CN) seems to be a matter of C-accounting.

216.99.185.50 (talk) 16:46, 6 December 2007 (UTC)

Ethanol not Methanol[edit]

This work by George Huber at UMass/Amherst -- this looks like "destructive distillation", that produces METHANOL, not ethanol. Methanol has a higher boiling-point and does not burn as efficiently as ethanol. It is also much more toxic than ethanol. Further, the residue from the distillation is quite toxic, as opposed to ethanol-fermentation residue which can be used as fertilizer or perhaps cattle feed. Carl Ponder (talk) 05:18, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

This article should probably be split into "Cellulosic Biofuels" versus "Cellulosic Ethanol". The "Cellulosic Ethanol" might actually be rolled in with "Corn Ethanol" and put the comparisons there. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Carl Ponder (talkcontribs) 05:32, 27 April 2008 (UTC)

Actually, methanol (b.p. 65 C) has a lower boiling point than ethanol (b.p. 78 C). --152.5.254.24 (talk) 22:03, 26 June 2008 (UTC)


I agree on separating out discussion of the process Huber proposes. This is referred to by others as 'catalytic depolymerization' - it produces alkenes, not ethanol or methanol (you can check this out on the University web page). It has parallels with CWT's process. I believe there are other entries that address this process. However others' attempts have not been in water - but either dry (heat using microwaves) or in a carrier oil. —Preceding unsigned comment added by M.Tooke (talkcontribs) 15:08, 6 February 2009 (UTC)

Corporate shill article?[edit]

Wow. I had no idea so many companies were lining up to tout their companies and technologies here on wikipedia...this is unacceptable. The article is about bio-fuel creation, not bio-fuel-creating-companies. Please clean up this article to cut out the corporate shill (or more like sh**) factor here. Twunchy (talk) 06:30, 20 May 2008 (UTC)

I disagree. Do you feel that only the government or universities will develope biofuel? I think the attempt to censor the section about entrepreneural efforts to produce biofuel is also a very biased POV. DonPMitchell (talk) 20:02, 24 June 2008 (UTC)

what?[edit]

I think I have a reasonably working antenna for corporate bullsh*t - but this page doesnt seem to me to push any particular company...

Obviously working farmers and gardeners need to compost all their own waste - what is missing is the link to taske energy from domestic and commercial waste - pretty well everything that is junked (re-cycling metals, of course, being something different) Tom fordo (talk) 21:48, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

Two fundamental errors[edit]

Error from the article: distillation does not provide 99.5% pure ethanol. The best you can do is 95.5% pure ethanol because ethanol and water form an azeotrope.

Error from the discussion: methanol is not higher boiling than ethanol. MeOH boils at 65 C, pure EtOH at 79 C, and the 95.5% EtOH/water azeotrope at 78.1 C. Chrishami (talk) 22:42, 9 June 2008 (UTC)

  • Distillation can get through azeotropes using pressure swing or ternary mixtures (e.g. benzene is added to ethanol near the azeotrope and the product redistilled to get around the azeotrope). As a result it is perfectly reasonable to obtain 99.5% or higher ethanol purity from distillation--assuming you play these tricks. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 68.40.178.205 (talk) 03:24, 21 July 2008 (UTC)

What is "ceetol"?[edit]

ATM, ceetol is a redirect to this article, yet this article does not explain what it means even though it appears in a section header. The edit summary for an earlier version of ceetol says: "Introduction of the word 'ceetol' which is industry speak for cellulosic ethanol"

If "ceetol" is indeed a common abbreviation, ISTM that the lead should say so.

--Jtir (talk) 20:23, 26 August 2008 (UTC)

An earlier version of the article did indeed mention "ceetol" in the lead, but it was removed without explanation.[2]
Some other name variants have also been removed without explanation.[3]
BTW, ceetoh is a redirect to this article, yet this article does not mention it.
--Jtir (talk) 20:54, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
AFAICT, neither "ceetol" nor "ceetoh" are US trademarks.[4][5]
--Jtir (talk) 21:03, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
One can try the {{Google}} test:
  • ceetol - Results 1 - 10 of about 895 for ceetol.
The hit count is a bit slim, but at least one person takes the term seriously enough to have devoted some space to it:
--Teratornis (talk) 21:13, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
Thanks, I didn't know about the {{google}} template.
The hit count gets even slimmer if WP is excluded (760): ceetol -wikipedia
This sentence at http://ceetoh.googlepages.com/home is identical to one in the WP article: "However, it differs in that it requires a greater amount of processing to make the sugar monomers available to the microorganisms that are typically used to produce ethanol by fermentation."
Also, the site links extensively to WP and has a WP-style footnote.
So the site cannot be considered independent of WP.
However, here is an essay that defines "ceetol":[6]
  • "The defenders of ethanol contend that the future lies not in corn but in in cellulosic ethanol, also known as ceetol."
--Jtir (talk) 22:47, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
http://www.ceetol.net and http://www.ceetol.com redirect to http://ceetoh.googlepages.com/home.
They are both registered to:
            <info redacted>
User:Galwaycity created both of the redirects ceetol and ceetoh.
--Jtir (talk) 22:57, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
ArticleFirst and EBSCOHost MasterFILE Premier database searches at my library for "ceetol" and "ceetoh" produce one hit, and that one hit appears to be quoting the WP article without attribution:
"Cellulosic ethanol (also called ceetol) is a biofuel produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants."
Poplar trees hold promise for fuel By: Baker, Dean, Columbian, The (Vancouver, WA), Jul 07, 2008
--Jtir (talk) 23:26, 26 August 2008 (UTC)
Neither "ceetol" nor "ceetoh" appears in standard dictionaries.[7][8]
They are not used at these corporate sites:
This 2008 article, Cellulosic Ethanol Plant Opens, in Technology Review does not use them.
--Jtir (talk) 22:27, 27 August 2008 (UTC)

I have nominated the redirects Ceetol and Ceetoh for deletion. Editors can comment at Wikipedia:Redirects for discussion/Log/2008 August 29#Ceetol → Cellulosic ethanol. --Jtir (talk) 19:49, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

citation for definition of cellulosic ethanol[edit]

The lead cites a huge PDF file as the source for the definition of cellulosic ethanol. I can find two mentions of the term in it, and neither looks like a definition. Can editors suggest a reliable source that defines the term? --Jtir (talk) 20:52, 7 September 2008 (UTC)

Merge proposal[edit]

Placed up the merge notice from Treethanol - seems exactly redundant. Minnecologies (talk) 19:26, 1 July 2009 (UTC)

Switchgrass efficiency[edit]

There is some question as to whether the use of switchgrass as opposed to corn is an improvement. I have read claims from the University of Illinois that biomass production for the two is approximately the same. This is in sharp contrast to the biomass produced by Miscanthus Gigantum, which produces far more biomass (five times, I believe I read), and when harvested in winter, the majority of the non-cellulose planet matter has retreated underground, to the rhizome (main part of the root system), conserving these nutrients for next year's chutes. Miscanthus and Switchgrass both have the advantage of extensive root systems, which sequester carbon and provide protection from erosion. I am a bit premature in editing the article, because I don't have the studies and references lined up in front of me, but I will carefully review them and prepare changes to be made, and discuss them at length here. I would hate to be someone who makes edits which don't add to the accuracy or completeness of the article. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 66.31.55.175 (talk) 08:06, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Cellulosic Butanol[edit]

It might be worth including other alcohols which can be produced from cellulose by renaming the article to 'Cellulosic Alcohols'. If one reads up on the advantages of using butanol instead of ethanol as a fuel, and why there are efforts underway to make cellulosic butanol economically viable, then one may see that ethanol is not alone. I suppose there are some advantages to cellulosic methanol or propanol as well. This all relates to the point of engineered fuels - perhaps, it's best for the chemists to consult the fuel users (engines, powerplants, jets, etc) to see what these people might consider the ideal fuel - both in its characteristics and some final formula for it, and pass this wishlist back to the biofuels industry to see what is possible. I have a hunch that better fuels can be obtained which are a mixture composed of various chemicals. We may not realize what each component chemical is at this point. An article on the chemical engineering of fuels may be premature, but expansion of the cellulosic alcohols is timely, I believe. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 66.31.55.175 (talk) 08:21, 11 September 2009 (UTC)

Environmental Safety?[edit]

However, in 2010, a genetically engineered yeast strain has been developed that produces its own cellulose-digesting enzymes.[14] Assuming this technology can be scaled to industrial levels, it would eliminate one or more steps of cellulolysis, reducing both the time required and costs of production.

Question: What happens when these genetically modified, cellulose-digesting yeast escape into the natural environment, as they certainly will from an industrial-scale process? What, for instance, happens to a wetland when its submerged grasses and reeds are broken down and alcohol is produced? Even if they, at present, were to require some specific conditions for optimal growth, it seems to me that mutation and selection could quickly adapt them to the outside environment, where they would find essentially unlimited food resources (much to our detriment). I'm not saying that this is a certain danger, but I'm very surprised to see no consideration of it in any of the literature I've come across. Natural ecosystems are enormously complex, and even small changes can lead to large-scale disruption. And anyone who says he can predict all effects of a newly-introduced factor on such a complex system is simply not being honest and duly diligent in his science.

Heavenlyblue (talk) 00:24, 7 August 2011 (UTC)

Interesting question. In my personal experience, genetically modified microorganisms like this tend to compete very poorly with native species and need to be protected so they can survive without competition even in a lab setting (let alone in the wild). However, I could not point you towards a reliable source that discusses the subject in any real detail. VQuakr (talk) 18:04, 4 September 2011 (UTC)

Bacteria from giant panda's and termite's digestive system[edit]

Appearantly bacteria from giant panda's and termites is being used to make cellulosic ethanol. See ie http://www.energydigital.com/green_technology/giant-pandas-may-be-key-to-cellulosic-biofuels I'm not sure which species of bacteria these are though, nor by which university it's done (appearantly by Ashli Brown and David Mullin, amongst others). Look into it and add in article.

91.182.205.137 (talk) 11:45, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

"Production challenges"[edit]

The lead mentions "difficult production challenges," but gives little in the way of specifics about those challenges. I'd wager that most people seeking information about cellulosic ethanol are specifically interested in why it is not yet being produced in large quantities, so the lead should contain more detail about this. 199.46.199.232 (talk) 21:50, 12 August 2013 (UTC)

About corn lacking an extensive root system[edit]

Modern corn hybrids have a very extensive root system and can tolerate drought conditions quite well. A display at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair showed root systems of various plants. Corn was one of plants that had an extensive root system - like about 7 feet long. Conversely your typical lawn grass had very shallow roots (6 inches, maybe). Not sure where switchgrass would be. A citation is needed if the statement about corn not having an extensive root system is to remain in the article. --66.41.154.0 (talk) 03:20, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

POV tag on paragraph (section)[edit]

This information appears to be taken from a single, biased source. Some of what is claimed for cellulosic ethanol plants could just as easily be implemented for grain ethanol plants. For instance - you can burn biomass to supply heat for the distillation process regardless of whether a cellulosic or grain ethanol plant. POET's facilities in Esterville, Iowa do just that. Nonfermentable solids from corn ethanol production are used as cattle feed. --66.41.154.0 (talk) 03:29, 2 October 2013 (UTC)

Merge Grassoline[edit]

Grassoline refers to the same thing as cellulosic ethanol (except it's probably more generally any fuel derived from plant chaff) so let's merge and redirect. 68.173.0.226 (talk) 20:14, 15 December 2013 (UTC)