- Today most U.S. biodiesel is produced from soybean. But despite its value as a protein source, soybean only provides the equivalent of about one barrel of oil per acre.
- A team led by the University of Illinois has engineered sugarcane plants to produce 12 percent oil by weight, and expect to reach 20 percent in the future. This could provide 17 barrels of oil per acre.
- Biodiesel from “oil cane” could reduce the cost of biodiesel production from $4.10 to $2.20 per gallon and provide additional environmental and economic benefits.
America’s oil consumption far exceeds that of every other country in the world. What’s more, it’s unsustainable.
Therefore, in 2007, Congress mandated a move away from petroleum-based oils toward more renewable sources. Soybeans, an important dietary protein and the current primary source of plant-based oils used for biodiesel production, only yield about one barrel per acre. At this rate, the soybean crop could never quench the nation’s thirst for oil.
To address this issue, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program called for high-risk, high-reward projects that could develop new drop-in fuels in its PETRO program. A team led by University of Illinois researchers answered the call by imagining and successfully achieving a way to produce large quantities of oil from sugarcane. Their most recent study demonstrates the economic benefits of this technology relative to soybean oil.
“We thought that if we could go back to the drawing board, we’d need a very productive crop. And we would also need something that could grow on land that isn’t being used intensively for food. We came up with sugarcane and sweet sorghum,” recalls Stephen P. Long, U of I crop scientist and lead investigator on the project.
The team altered sugarcane metabolism to convert sugars into lipids, or oils, which could be used to produce biodiesel. The natural makeup of sugarcane is typically only about 0.05 percent oil. Within a year of starting the project, the team was able to boost oil production 20 times, to approximately 1 percent. At the time of this writing, the so-called “oil-cane” plants are producing 12 percent oil. The ultimate goal is to achieve 20 percent. Oil cane has additional advantages that have been engineered by the team. These include increased cold tolerance and more efficient photosynthesis, which leads to greater biomass production and even more oil.
“If all of the energy that goes into producing sugar instead goes into oil, then you could get 17 to 20 barrels of oil per acre,” Long explains. “A crop like this could be producing biodiesel at a very competitive price, and could represent a perpetual source of oil and a very significant offset to greenhouse gas emissions, as well.”
In their analysis, the team looked at the land area, technology, and costs required for processing oil-cane biomass into biodiesel under a variety of oil production scenarios, from 2 percent oil in the plant to 20 percent. These numbers were compared with normal sugarcane, which can be used to produce ethanol, and soybean.
An advantage of oil cane is that leftover sugars in the plant can be converted to ethanol, providing two fuel sources in one.
“Modern sugarcane mills in Brazil shared with us all of their information on energy inputs, costs, and machinery. Then we looked at the U.S. corn ethanol industry, and how they separated the corn oil. Everything we used is existing technology, so that gave us a lot of security on our estimates,” Long says.
The analysis showed that oil cane with 20 percent oil in the stem, grown on under-utilized acres in the southeastern United States, could replace more than two-thirds of the country’s use of diesel and jet fuel. This represents a much greater proportion than could be supplied by soybean, even if the entire crop went to biodiesel production. Furthermore, oil cane could achieve this level of productivity on a fraction of the land area that would be needed for crops like soybean and canola, and it could do so on land considered unusable for food crop production.
The current full production cost of biodiesel from soybean is $4.10 per gallon ($1.08 per liter). Using oil cane instead, that cost decreases to $3.30 per gallon for 2 percent oil cane and to $2.20 per gallon for 20 percent oil cane. The ethanol produced from 1-, 5- and 10 percent oil cane would add to the cost benefit.
Although $2.20 per gallon does not represent a large savings over the current price of gasoline in the United States, Long cautions consumers and politicians to look at the bigger picture.
“We know from our past experience that it’s not going to last,” he says. “We need to start building for a future when gas is no longer as low as $1.50 per gallon, and we need to avoid any future dependency on other countries for our oil. We are lucky to have the land resources to do this and, in doing so, to ensure that future generations have a supply of oil that is domestic and renewable.”
The Latest on: Biodiesel from sugarcane
via Google News
The Latest on: Biodiesel from sugarcane
- Big trucks, little emissionson November 27, 2019 at 9:26 am
One strategy researchers are exploring for lowering emissions is to produce renewable fuels, like renewable jet fuel, with biofuel production already in place ... Some of the raw materials -- also ...
- Biotech breakthrough turns waste biomass into high value chemicalson November 26, 2019 at 5:59 am
This added value offers the potential to make the economics of biofuel production from plant-based sources more viable ... and in addition has the potential to add value to the process of making ...
- Demand for ethanol could fuel expansion of Brazilian farming landon November 26, 2019 at 5:56 am
According to Milton Aurelio Uba de Andrade Junior, a research at the university’s school of earth and environmental sciences, future biofuel demand will directly impact land use in Brazil, which ...
- Brazil sugarcane growth can meet biofuel need and not drive deforestation: studyon November 25, 2019 at 8:34 am
Biofuels are liquid fuels produced from crops, such as biodiesel produced from soybeans and ethanol made from fermented corn or sugarcane. They’ve been presented by advocates as a silver bullet for ...
- Researchers urge sustainability as palm oil tightens its grip on Latin Americaon November 20, 2019 at 3:15 pm
The European Union (EU) currently uses 46 percent of palm oil imports for biofuel production, and EC officials were quick to note that palm ... In the village of Rubiales in Colombia, the macaws, ...
- Turkey with a side of trade aidon November 18, 2019 at 7:13 am
HOW CONGRESS LEFT BIODIESEL BLENDERS HIGH AND DRY: Another biodiesel plant shut down last week ... Meanwhile, a cold snap that extended into the South dealt a blow to the sugarcane harvest. The ...
- Brazil - Government cancels decree barring sugarcane cultivation in the Amazonon November 8, 2019 at 4:31 am
We now require all subscribers to register with us the first time they log into the site. It only takes a minute and you only have to do it once.
- Brazil - H2 September sugarcane crush remains behind expectationson October 10, 2019 at 6:07 am
Mills in the Centre/South (CS) region increased cane crushing and sugar production in the second half of September, as drier-than-normal weather allowed for a quicker harvesting pace, cane industry ...
- Houston-based company planning $100 million plant in St. Martinville that would use sugar cane waste to make ethanolon September 28, 2019 at 10:21 pm
The project would be significant for sugar cane farmers and mills who must store any excess material after the milling process. "Mills burn about 90% of the bagasse produced as fuel for boilers, a ...
- Oil cos to buy biodiesel from used cooking oil in 100 citieson August 10, 2019 at 2:53 pm
Biodiesel from UCO will initially be procured at an assured ... At present, we produce ethanol from sugarcane molasses. Non-subsidised bio mass would be converted into energy.” “About four-five years ...
via Bing News