Raw Materials for Lignofuels

Raw materials for lignocellulosic ethanol currently fall into four basic categories. These include hardwoods, softwoods, grasses and agricultural residues. The benefit of these over fossil fuels is that they can be found in abundance.

For me agricultural residues are the most promising as they are already available in large quantities mainly as a byproduct from agricultural farming practices and would not require further agricultural land to produce. They also do not compete with food crops, which is one of the biggest concerns that biofuel production faces. Examples of these residues include corn stover, sugarcane bagasse, wheat straw and sweet sorghum bagasse to name a few.

In many cases agricultural residues are normally burnt directly in boilers to provide energy for steam generation. Although this is a cheap form of energy, the conversion of these residues to bio-ethanol (for example) would add value to the residue which would mean that the residue could then be sold as a value added by-product by farmers alongside the crop being grown. In South Africa for example, where farmers are currently giving up on farming due to the fact that it costs more to produce their crop than what they are being offered for it, they would benefit from value being added to one of their waste products.

Triticale (Hyrbid between wheat and rye)

Triticale - a hybrid of wheat and rye

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