Ethanol Research Looking at Cobs and Fiber
ST. LOUIS, Mo. --- Corn cobs and fiber, along with stover, will likely be the main focus for cellulosic ethanol research and deployment in the Midwest over the next few years, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) said. Cellulosic studies are now moving from basic research to applications.
Earlier this month, representatives from the Department of Energy met with NCGA and other ethanol stakeholders including the Governors Ethanol Coalition to discuss which of the many areas of cellulosic ethanol research looks most promising. In the Midwest, producing ethanol from cobs and fiber will be the first generation of cellulosic ethanol slated for development, said Nathan Fields, NCGA director of research and business development.
"It's likely the first commercial corn cellulosic plants will use the infrastructure of today's corn-to-ethanol facilities," said Fields. "They could be built as additions to existing ethanol plants to take advantage of transportation, power, marketing and other capital investments."
Fields points out that conversion costs are the major barrier to large-scale cellulosic ethanol production. "In a laboratory a researcher can obtain good ethanol yields from biomass," he said. "But the cost per gallon is still higher than corn-to-ethanol conversion. Therefore, creating a sustainable, fair, cost-competitive deployment of the technology is a priority."
Fields said he believes ethanol from corn fiber, cobs and stover must be a significant source for the nation's fuel needs.
"Ethanol from corn starch and ethanol from corn biomass are not two entirely different technologies," he said. "Because of that, there are tremendous advantages to developing corn-based cellulosic programs. The basic technologies have been developed. Focusing on cost-effective deployment for a healthy biofuels industry is the next step."