26 July 2011
Farms of the Future: Bio-Oil, Biochar from Biomass
Newswise — Rural landscapes of the future might have pyrolysis plants instead of grain elevators on every horizon —processing centers where farmers would bring bulky crops such as switchgrass to be made into crude oil.
Those pyrolysis plants would pass that crude “bio-oil” on to refineries elsewhere to be made into drop-in fuels and industrial chemicals; they would capture and use for their own energy needs a byproduct called syngas made up of hydrogen, carbon monoxide and perhaps carbon dioxide; and they would send farmers away with an important byproduct called biochar that could go back on the land to help rebuild damaged soils, sequester carbon and alter greenhouse gas emissions.
Sound futuristic? It’s also a current research focus at South Dakota State University.
A major new study by South Dakota State University researchers working with a U.S. Department of Agriculture colleague explores how to get the most from such a production system. The USDA is funding the project with a grant of $1 million — $200,000 annually for the next five years — to help scientists design a feedstock production system for optimum energy production of “bio-oil,” and also to explore the possible ecological benefits from the use of biochar.
The grant was selected by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s flagship competitive grants program called AFRI, or the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative. It was selected in the sustainable bioenergy challenge area. Typically fewer than 10 percent of proposals are funded, with awards based on external peer reviews of a proposal’s scientific merit.
“We’re looking at this from a whole system approach, and we’re looking at various components in this whole system,” said SDSU professor Tom Schumacher, the project director. “Historically, the distributive nature of crop production gave rise to a network of grain elevators to separate and coordinate the flow of grain to the processing industry. A network of rail lines added new infrastructure to improve efficiency. For lignocellulosic feedstocks, a corollary to the grain elevator would be a collection point that would be within 10 to 30 miles of production fields.” Read more @ Source Newsvise