The Oklahoma Bioenergy Center (OBC), a state initiative, has secured land to enable the planting of more than 1,100 acres of production-scale demonstration fields for cellulosic energy crops, such as switchgrass and sorghum. Planting will take place within the next 45 days.
The central piece of this effort is 1,000 acres of switchgrass which will be planted near Guymon, Okla. in the state's panhandle. This switchgrass field will be the first of its size anywhere in the world focused on biomass production. Additional acreage of sorghum and switchgrass will be planted near Chickasha and Maysville in central Oklahoma.
Switchgrass is a perennial grass that is naturally drought resistant and grows on marginal lands. The OBC demonstration fields will provide academia and industry a living laboratory to understand the production and long-term impact of bioenergy crops, as well as experiment with new production techniques and critical harvest, collection and transport methods.
A cellulosic biorefinery currently being constructed by Abengoa Bioenergy in Hugoton, Kan., will be less than 35 miles from Guymon, and the switchgrass fields in the panhandle will provide material to this biorefinery. The Abengoa Bioenergy facility is expected to be operational in 2010. (Earlier post.)
The value of the Oklahoma Bioenergy Center to the cellulosic ethanol industry cannot be overstated. The early and aggressive establishment of 1,000 acres of switchgrass will provide researchers, scientists, agricultural producers and industry—not only in Oklahoma but across the nation—with important information that will help establish the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry.—Gerson Santos-Leon, executive vice president, Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies
Revenues received from the sale of biomass will be reinvested in the OBC for additional bioenergy and biofuel research.
The OBC demonstration fields will benefit from the involvement of a contingent of national organizations. In addition to Abengoa Bioenergy, Ceres Inc., based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., will provide seed and agronomic direction for the establishment and management of the fields. Idaho National Laboratory, the lead feedstock supply and logistics laboratory for the Department of Energy, will provide expertise in harvest, collection and processing of biomass in coordination with Abengoa Bioenergy.