Florida Company Looks to E-Grass as Biofuel Feedstock
20 February 2006
A West Florida company is looking to rent 11,000 hectares (42.5 square miles) of land in the Philippines to grow e-grass as biomass input to a gasification process to produce transportation fuels.
The Biomass Investment Group (BIG), based in Gulf Breeze (near Pensacola), is offering as much as $400 (around P20,000) per hectare per year for farmers who would be leasing their lands to the project, according to papers submitted to the Sarangani Provincial Investment and Promotion Center. BIG is offering to pay the farmers five years in advance for leased lands.
E-grass usually refers to Miscanthus x giganteus, an infertile hybrid of other species of Miscanthus grasses. Miscanthus is a genus of about 15 species of perennial grasses native to subtropical and tropical regions of Africa and Asia.
Miscanthus is being grown experimentally in at least 10 European countries as an energy crop. The crop is established by planting pieces of the root called rhizomes, which are usually collected from nursery fields where miscanthus has already been established.
Miscanthus has relatively high yields of 8–15 tons/hectare (3–6 t/acre) dry weight, low moisture content, low mineral content, and a good energy balance and output/input ratio compared with some other biomass options. It requires about 25 inches of water per year to survive, tolerates brackish water, and uses a minimal amount of nutrients from the soil
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have concluded that Giant Miscanthus (Miscanthus x giganteus), a species of elephant grass, could serve as a clean substitute for solid fuel for use in power generation. They predicted that if just 10% of Illinois land mass was devoted to Miscanthus, it could provide 50% of Illinois electricity needs. Using Miscanthus for energy would not necessarily reduce energy costs in the short term, but there would be significant savings in carbon dioxide production.
BIG’s business plan calls for the conversion of e-grass into electricity through gasification, with expansion into the conversion of the syngas into liquid fuels such as ethanol and eventually hydrogen. BIG eventually plans to offer complete bio-refineries, consisting of large-scale commercial production of e-grass and other dedicated crops for production of thermal and electrical energy, transportation fuels, and a variety of value-added bio-based products.
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