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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Biomass for bioenergy: Where industry appears to be going
Year: 2010
Author(s): Baldwin, B.
Source Title:
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 68
Original Publication:  
Abstract: As with any new crop, in order to provide raw product, producers must understand the demands of the industrial consumer. However, industry must have realistic economic and quality demands of the producer. Production of alternative crops in an emerging market must be coupled exactly with industrial demand. Former President Bush stimulated biomass for fuel research by mentioning the word “switchgrass” in his January 2006 State of the Union Address. The push for non-petroleum liquid fuels was initially met by ethanol from corn. Consumption of grain corn for ethanol production stimulated speculation, which in turn increased the price of food/feed corn to record levels. Corn­‐based ethanol production has been capped to stimulate practical production of ethanol from non‐food sources. Cellulose as a feedstock is the most likely candidate. Sources of cellulose vary greatly from solid municipal waste to wood, stover, and straw. Feedstock selection is based on economics of availability and delivery. The Department of Energy’s push for cellulosic ethanol production has stimulated research, and is now funding some small scale production plants focused on: acid hydrolysis, enzymatic conversion, and thermochemical hydrolysis of cellulose to make ethanol. Recently, interest has increased in the thermochemical production of bio-oil, a liquid fuel analogous to oxygenated crude oil. In the background, coal‐burning electric power plants have been test-­firing boilers with grass straw to offset coal consumption and reduce emissions. Their potential to consume vast quantities of cellulosic feedstock should not be ignored. However, to keep the price of fuel (liquid or electric) low, pricing of these biomass feedstocks will require the economics of production to be low. In turn, acreage for biomass production will be driven to marginal, CRP, sloping land, not suitable for higher‐value crops. Currently, industrial applications are optimizing for wood. However, wood can only act as a bridge to the more abundant annual production of warm-­season grass straw. Production of perennial grasses on marginal land offers significant positive economic and environmental.
Publisher: Proceedings of the Seventh Eastern Native Grass Symposium. Knoxville, TN, October 5-8, 2010
Editor(s): C. Harper