John Field, research scientist at the Natural Resource Ecology Lab at CSU, said it has been a challenge for the biofuel industry to demonstrate commercial viability for cellulosic biofuels created from switchgrass and other non-edible plants.
The research team used modeling to simulate switchgrass cultivation, cellulosic biofuel production and carbon capture and storage (CCS), tracking ecosystem and carbon flows. Scientists then compared this modeling to alternative ways to store carbon on the land, including growing forest or grassland.
CCS technology is being used by at least one facility in Illinois that is processing corn to ethanol as a conventional biofuel to create ethanol, but these systems are not yet widespread. As part of the study, researchers created models to simulate what this would look like at a cellulosic biofuel refinery. "What we found is that around half of the carbon in the switchgrass that comes into the refinery becomes a byproduct that would be available for carbon capture and storage. The resulting byproduct streams of high-purity CO2 would not require much separation or clean-up before being stored underground," the study noted.
The research team analyzed three contrasting U.S. case studies and found that on land where farmers or land managers were transitioning out of growing crops or maintaining pastures for grazing, cultivating switchgrass for cellulosic ethanol production had a per-hectare mitigation potential comparable to reforestation and several-fold greater than grassland restoration.
Using switchgrass can be particularly helpful in parts of the country where planting more trees is not an option.
This research was partially funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the US DOE via the Center for Bioenergy Innovation, and the Sao Paulo Research Foundation in Brazil.
The study illustrates how deliberate land use choices support the climate performance of present-day cellulosic ethanol technology and how technological advancements and CCS addition could produce several times the climate mitigation potential of competing land-based biological mitigation schemes. These results affirm the climate mitigation logic of biofuels, consistent with their prominent role in many climate stabilization scenarios, the study concludes.
(Source: Colorado State University, Green Car Congress, Aug., 2020) Contact: Colorado State University, Natural Resource Ecology Lab, John Field, (970) 491-1604,
More Low-Carbon Energy News Advanced Biofuel, Cellulosic Biofuel, Switchgrass,
At the heart of the project is the establishment of the Mid-Atlantic Sustainable Biomass for Value-Added Products Consortium (MASBio), a regional group of universities, industry partners, national laboratories and governmental agencies interested in advancing the science and practice of sustainable bioproducts.
Led by, MASBio will leverage research, education and extension strategies for increasing utilization of available resources in the Mid-Atlantic region. Plans include utilizing some of the mined and marginal lands to grow switchgrass, hybrid willow, a short-rotation woody crop, which can benefit the land, economy and biomass feedstock production. The sustainable biomass crops feedstock crops will be blended with logging residue wood chips to create a massive regional multi-feedstock biomass supply chain with minimized costs, consistent quality and continuous supply.
Consortium partners include Penn State University, Virginia Tech, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, West Virginia State University, Eastern WV Community and Technical College, U.S. Department of Energy Idaho National Laboratory and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S.Forest Service Forest Products Laboratory and Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Industry partners include: Double-A-Willow, Allstar Ecology, Ernst Biomass, Lignetics, Gas Technology Institute, Norris Thermal Technologies, Torresak and Eastern Biochar. (Source: WVU News, PR, 9 July, 2020) Contact: West Virginia University , Prof., Jingxin Wang, Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design,
Interim Director of Marketing and Communications
Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design
304-293-2381; Lindsay.Willey@mail.wvu.edu, www.wvu.edu
More Low-Carbon Energy News Biomass, Biofuel Feestock, Willow, Switchgrass,
The study found when compared with petroleum only emissions, cellulosic ethanol was "78--290 better in reducing carbon emissions; ethanol was 204--416 pct improved, biomass powered electric vehicles powered by biomass was 74--303 pct cleaner and biomass-powered electric vehicles combined with CSS was 329--558 pct superior." The research will next assess other environmental and economic aspects of bioenergy crops.
The study was conducted at Michigan State University's (MSU) Kellogg Biological Station and the University of Wisconsin's Arlington Research Station which is part of the U.S. DOE Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center.
Financial support was provided by the U.S. DOE Office of Science, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. National Science Foundation and Michigan State University AgBioResearch.
(Source: American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, PR, EurekaAlerts, 9 Mar.,2020) Contact: American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. (212) 302-6443,
More Low-Carbon Energy News Cellulosic Ethnol, Biomass , Climate Change, Global Warming,
Many biorefineries consume one, or sometimes two, feedstocks grown and harvested nearby. The feedstock contains lignocellulose. That chemical is processed and fermented into biofuels or bioproducts. Accepting a variety of feedstocks could improve the refinery's environmental footprint, economics, and logistics. The team's study showed that a lignocellulosic refinery could be relatively agnostic in terms of the feedstocks used.
Refineries to convert biomass into fuels often rely on just one feedstock. If the refineries could accept more than one feedstock, it would greatly benefit refinery operation. Scientists investigated how five different feedstocks affected process and field-scale ethanol yields. Two annual crops (corn stover and energy sorghum) and three perennial crops (switchgrass, miscanthus, and restored prairie) were pretreated using ammonia fiber expansion, hydrolyzed, and fermented separately using yeast or bacteria.
Researchers found that both biomass quality and biomass yield affected the amount of ethanol each acre produces. However, the effect differed. Biomass quality was the main driver for the ethanol yields for high-yielding crops, such as switchgrass. Biomass yield was the main driver for the ethanol yields for low-productivity crops, such as corn stover. Therefore, to increase ethanol yield for high-yielding crops, focusing efforts on improving biomass quality or conversion efficiency may be prudent.
For low-yielding crops, focusing on increasing biomass yield may be the best strategy. When measuring the amount of ethanol produced during fermentation, most feedstocks fell within a similar range, especially when scientists used bacteria to ferment the biomass. In total, the results of this study suggest that a lignocellulosic refinery may use a variety of feedstocks with a range of quality without a major negative impact on field-scale ethanol yields. (Source: Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, US DOE, 12 Nov., 2018) Contact: Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, Tim Donohue, Dir., John Greenler, Dir. Outreach, (608) 890-2444, www.glbrc.org
More Low-Carbon Energy News Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, US DOE, Biofuel Feedstock, ,
The research found biomass feedstock quality was the main driver for the ethanol yields for high-yielding crops such as switchgrass. Biomass yield was the main driver for ethanol yields from low productivity crops such as corn stover. The re[prt concluded that to increase ethanol yield from high-yielding crops, focusing efforts on improving biomass quality or conversion efficiency "may be prudent."
For low yielding crops, focusing on increasing biomass yield may be the best strategy. When measuring the amount of ethanol produced during fermentation, most feedstocks fell within a similar range, especially when scientists used bacteria to ferment the biomass.
In total, the study suggests that a lignocellulosic refinery can use a variety of feedstocks of varying qualities without a major negative impact on field-scale ethanol yields.
(Source: Great Lakes Bioenergy Science Center, US DOE, Nov., 2018)
Contact: Great Lakes Bioenergy Science Center, Tim Donohue, Dir., (608) 262-4663, email@example.com, www.glbrc.org
More Low-Carbon Energy News Great Lakes Bioenergy Science Center, Ethanol, Ethanol Feedstock, Switchgrass, Miscanthus, Cellulosic,
The study, which examines how to grow dedicated bioenergy crops without converting land already under perennial cover, identifies areas within fields suitable for conversion from corn/soybean to switchgrass as indicated by publicly available agronomic, management and economic information.
Under the assumptions that land is fully owned by farmers, and switchgrass sells for $55 per short ton, the study showed that 4.3 pct of the corn/soybean area in Iowa could break even when converted to switchgrass yielding up to 4 tons per acre. In some counties, converting corn/soybean areas to switchgrass could add up to millions of dollars in total annualized producer benefits. With a future bioenergy crop market for switchgrass, the researchers conclude their approach could be used beyond Iowa and could be applied to other intensively farmed regions globally with similar data availability.
The study is available HERE. (Source: Iowa State University, High Plains AG Journal, May, 2018) Contact: Iowa State University, Alejandro Plastina, assistant Professor of Economics, www.econ.iastate.edu/people/alejandro-plastina
More Low-Carbon Energy News Switchgrass, Biofuel Feedstock, Iowa State University,