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Most plants and trees are made of inedible cellulose. Cellulose, in the form of firewood has been used as a basic form of bioenergy for millenia. Recent advances in bioenergy, ranging from the simple (biomass pellets) to the complex (cellulosic ethanol), have created a need for high-yield feedstocks.
- The crops under consideration are mostly grasses and trees, which as perennial crops may also provide a range of environmental benefits over annual crops like corn and soybeans.
- Because yields of cellulosic feedstocks are much higher because any part of the plant can be used and because they don't compete with food, cellulosic feedstocks are seen as the best hope for large-scale, sustainable biofuel production.
- Crops, like switchgrass, which are grown purely for energy and have no use as food or fibre, are also called dedicated energy crops.
- Technologies that can use cellulosic feedstocks include Cellulosic ethanol, biomass-to-liquids, gasification, biogas and others.
- Hybrid poplar
- Mesquite (found in North America)
- "Cooking up a smoky solution - Texan mesquite could offer cheap biofuel resource" - from Nature magazine (Payment required)
- Shrub willow
- Wheat straw
- 26-27 January 2011, Gothenburg, Sweden: Chalmers Energy Conference. (Themes: bio-alcohols, biobutanol, biogas, biomass, cellulosic)
- 15-18 November 2010, Washington, D.C., USA: Cellulosic Biofuels Summit 2010. (Themes: cellulosic ethanol, cellulosic feedstocks, markets)
- Advanced Biofuels Required for UK to See RED, 17 November 2011 by Waste Management World: "The UK is at risk of missing its renewable transport targets without significant investment in a new generation of biofuels, according to a recently published government study."
- "Under the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED), member states will be required to meet 10% of the energy used for road and rail transportation from renewable sources by 2020."
- "Currently, most of the country's renewable fuel is derived from vegetable oils. However, due to limited availability and competing demands for sustainable vegetable oils, the study argues that conventional biofuels are likely to produce just 3.7% to 6.6% of the required 10% target."
- "In assessing the how and if the UK will meet the Eu target, NNFCC drew up two illustrative scenarios to examine how the industry could develop in the UK."
- "Under a modest development scenario, and assuming that advanced biofuels produced from waste feedstocks are eligible to count double towards the RED, advanced biofuel production in the UK could contribute 2.1%age points toward the UK's 10% renewable fuels in transport target."
- "Under the same assumptions, with favourable economic conditions and strong improvements in policy, a strong development scenario could see advanced biofuels produced from waste and lignocellulosic feedstocks could contribute 4.3% points toward the UK's 10% renewable fuels in transport target."
- Researchers discover new process for biofuel, 25 October 2011 by R&D Mag: "A University of Maine engineer and his research team have, however, discovered a revolutionary new chemical process can transform forest residues, along with other materials such as municipal solid waste, grasses, and construction wastes, into a hydrocarbon fuel oil."
- "Considering the amount of wood in Maine—including around 6 million green tons of additional available biomass, according to a 2008 Maine Forest Service Assessment of Sustainable Biomass Availability—the new fuel has the possibility of 120 million gallons per year of gasoline, diesel, heating oil, and kerosene mixtures while providing all the steam and power needs of the processing plants."
- "The fuel has been determined to have a number of properties that make it better suited to serve as a drop-in fuel—which refers to the ease of which it can be used in a number of fuel tanks and pipelines—than many hydrocarbon fuels being widely researched and even those currently on the market."
- "The process by which the oil is created, known as thermal deoxygenation or TDO, is relatively simple, Wheeler says, and will work on the cellulose found in wood or other substances that contain cellulose or carbohydrates."
- Switch from Corn to Grass Would Raise Ethanol Output, Cut Emissions, 12 July 2011 by ScienceDaily: "Growing perennial grasses on the least productive farmland now used for corn ethanol production in the U.S. would result in higher overall corn yields, more ethanol output per acre and better groundwater quality, researchers report in a new study."
- "The study used a computer model of plant growth and soil chemistry to compare the ecological effects of growing corn (Zea mays L.); miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), a sterile hybrid grass used in bioenergy production in Western Europe; and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.), which is native to the U.S."
- "The analysis found that switching 30 percent of the least productive corn acres to miscanthus offered the most ecological advantages."
- "'If cellulosic feedstocks (such as miscanthus) were planted on cropland that is currently used for ethanol production in the U.S., we could achieve more ethanol (plus 82 percent) and grain for food (plus 4 percent), while reducing nitrogen leaching (minus 15 to 22 percent) and greenhouse gas emissions (minus 29 percent to 473 percent),' the researchers wrote in their report, published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment."
- "Several hurdles remain before the transition from corn to cellulosic ethanol production can occur on a commercial scale, the researchers said. Converting the sugars in corn to ethanol is easier than releasing the energy locked in plant stems and leaves."
- Ethanol: How Much Can We Produce?, 5 April 2011 by RenewableEnergyWorld.com: "Innovations in America’s ethanol industry are constantly delivering new ways to reduce water and energy consumption at the plant, coax more energy out of the feedstock and cut greenhouse gas emissions through use of renewable energy."
- "But researchers from General Motors, Auburn University and Coskata Inc. have also identified ethanol as the most efficient and productive way to create renewable fuels from biomass – such as agricultural waste, trash and other cellulosic materials – that is often otherwise left unused in the United States."
- "As oil prices spike on unrest and instability in the Middle East, research demonstrates that we have more than enough cellulosic feedstock for conversion into ethanol in this country to cut our foreign oil consumption by as much as 30 percent."
- "Some of the paper’s findings echo other work – such as the finding that ethanol substantially reduces carbon emissions, compared to other transportation fuels. But other conclusions would surprise critics of ethanol. For example, the paper concludes that using higher blends of ethanol improves the performance of today’s high-compression engines, because of its superior qualities over gasoline as a fuel."
- Challenges for Biofuels – New Life Cycle Assessment Report from Energy Biosciences Institute, 8 February 2011 by Department of Energy Berkeley Lab: "A combination of rising costs, shrinking supplies, and concerns about global climate change are spurring the development of alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels to meet our transportation energy needs. Scientific studies have shown the most promising of possible alternatives to be liquid fuels derived from cellulosic biomass."
- "'Challenges include constraints imposed by economics and markets, resource limitations, health risks, climate forcing, nutrient cycle disruption, water demand, and land use,' says Thomas McKone, lead author for the report."
- "'Responding to these challenges effectively requires a life-cycle perspective.'"
- "This report summarizes seven grand challenges that 'must be confronted' to enable life-cycle assessments that effectively evaluate the environmental footprint of biofuel alternatives."
- Cows' guts yield clues for new biofuels, 28 January 2011 by One India News: "A new study has found dozens of previously unknown microbial enzymes in the bovine rumen -- the cow's primary grass-digestion chamber -- that contribute to the breakdown of switchgrass, a renewable biofuel energy source."
- "After incubating the switchgrass in the rumen for 72 hours, researchers conducted a genomic analysis of all of the microbes that adhered to switchgrass. They cloned some of these genes into bacteria, and successfully produced 90 proteins of interest. They found that 57 percent of these proteins demonstrated enzymatic activity against cellulosic plant material."
- USDA lists bioenergy program awardees, many are biodiesel plants, 24 January 2011 by Biodiesel Magazine/USDA: "Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new investments in 33 states to support the production and usage of advanced biofuels."
- "Authorized under Section 9005 of the Farm Bill, the Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels authorizes payments to eligible producers to expand production of advanced biofuels."
- "Eligible examples include biofuels derived from cellulose, crop residue, animal, food and yard waste material, biogas (landfill and sewage waste treatment gas), vegetable oil and animal fat."
- "The producer payments are intended to provide a financial incentive to biorefineries – a necessary step towards meeting the nation’s renewable energy needs."
- U.S. to Pay Farmers for Non-Food Crops for Biofuels, Vilsack Says, 21 October 2010 by Bloomberg: "The U.S. will pay farmers to produce non-food crops that can be converted to fuels for planes, cars and power plants to reduce reliance on imported oil and boost rural economies, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said today."
- "The Agriculture Department will resume payments to farmers under the 2008 Biomass Crop Assistance Program for eligible perennial crops and work with the Federal Aviation Administration to develop aviation fuels from farm wastes, Vilsack said today at the National Press Club."
- "Vilsack said he is directing the agency to plan within 60 days and help fund construction of five refineries spread across the U.S. to process biomass into fuels. Higher costs for refiners related to use of the new feedstocks will be paid from up to $281.5 million that remains from the 2008 Farm Act, Vilsack said."
- Researchers propose movable biofuel center, 8 July 2010 by UPI.org: "If agricultural waste can't go to a biofuel processing center, then the processing center should go to the agricultural waste, U.S. researchers theorized."
- "Researchers at Purdue University propose creating mobile processing plants that would roam the Midwest to produce biofuels using a technique called fast-hydropyrolysis-hydrodeoxygenation, the West Lafayette, Ind., university said this week in a release."
- "'What's important is that you can process all kinds of available biomass -- wood chips, switch grass, corn stover, rice husks, wheat straw,' said Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone distinguished professor of chemical engineering."
- Impact of second-generation biofuel agriculture on greenhouse-gas emissions in the corn-growing regions of the US by Sarah Davis, William Parton, Stephen Del Grosso, Cindy Keough, Ernest Marx, Paul Adler, Evan DeLucia, 2011. "If cellulosic feedstocks were planted on cropland that is currently used for ethanol production in the US, more ethanol (+82%) and grain for food (+4%) could be produced while at the same time reducing nitrogen leaching (−15 to −22%) and greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions (−29 to −473%). The GHG reduction was large even after accounting for emissions associated with indirect land-use change."
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