Switchgrass as Ideal Biofuel Feedstock?
Posted by: JaredFurtado on Dec 13, 2011
By: Derek Mead
Can biofuel be economically coaxed from a modest plant?
The biofuel sector is aimed at weaning us off our dependence on oil, but what of biofuel producers' dependence on corn?
American bioethanol production is still vastly reliant on corn as a feedstock. In the short term, with total output volume still relatively low, corn remains a viable feedstock option. But as ethanol production continues to ramp up, corn prices will likely increase as biofuel producers compete with corn purchasers in the food and grain markets.
What alternatives do we have? A new research review published today in the journal GCB Bioenergy states that switchgrass is indeed viable as a cellulosic feedstock, as has been previously suggested, and that it may have advantages in carbon accumulation over other options.
"We reviewed over 100 articles on switchgrass, which found that this crop has a considerable ability to accumulate carbon in the soil compared to several other grasses, and especially row crops,” lead author Dr. Andrea Monti of the University of Bologna, Italy said in a release.
The review focused on research that measured the uptake of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide by switchgrass over the course of its lifecycle, including cultivation and processing. Estimates varied throughout the body of research Monti reviewed, which is due to variables ranging from how the switchgrass was cultivated and variations in biofuel production processes. But overall, the research reviewed suggests that switchgrass has carbon-sequestration advantages over other feedstocks, especially over row crops like corn that require more intensive cultivation.
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