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Prickly Pears and Tree Tobacco for Ethanol Production in Semi-Arid Regions

The TBF (Technology-based Firm) Almeria Albaida Recursos Naturales y Medioambiente, S.A. (Spain), and the Cajamar Foundation are testing the feasibility of two crops adapted to extreme environmental conditions—prickly-pears and tree tobacco—for the production of bio-ethanol in semiarid areas where there is no competition for the use of raw materials for food purposes or for farmland.

The work is part of the national project for Research and Development of Ethanol for Automotive Applications (I+DEA).

In particular, the tasks of the Almeria scientists are embodied in the sub-project of Energy crops for use in current technologies for bio-ethanol production, focusing on research of bio-ethanol production alternatives in semiarid areas. Prickly-pear (Opuntia ficus indica) and the tobacco tree (Nicotiana glauca) are adapted to conditions of extreme water shortage; at the same time these plants have high energy biomass due to the fermentation process of their organic matter.

Experimental plantations of tree tobacco and two eco-types of prickly-pears—one from the Andarax Valley and the other from Cabo de Gata—are being subjected to three water regimes. Natural farming—which only uses rainwater—and two other systems (medium to high water supply) to analyze the variation in its growth and biomass production as regards to the available water.

The Department of Plant Production at the Polytechnic School of Madrid, directed by Jesus Fernandez, is responsible for the adjustment of the bio-ethanol extraction process from sugars, occurring in the fruits and the plants of these two species.

the CDIT (Centre for the Development of Industrial Technology) macro-project Research and Development of Ethanol for Automotive Applications (I+DEA) brings together 25 companies and 27 national research centERs, which aim to promote the introduction of bio-ethanol in the Spanish fuel market while it positions the Spanish industry as a leader in the technologic sector and the production and use of bio-ethanol as fuel.

The scope of the project covers the complete cycle of bio-fuels.


Henry Gibson

Prickly pears were planted in Spain for cattle feed. I am sure that everyone in Spain is well fed and no one needs any food. Ethanol is a food itself. ..HG..


Think of it this way. If you have ethanol in your gas tank - there's no need to pack a lunch.

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