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Study finds agave-derived ethanol promising in arid or semi-arid regions

A new report from the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at Oxford identifies advantages to using agave plants, such as those used in the production of tequila and sisal, to derive biofuels. (Earlier post.) The paper is published in the RSC journal Energy & Environmental Science.

Agaves have many favorable characteristics such as high productivities, sugar content and an ability to grow in naturally water-limited environments.

The study presents a comprehensive life cycle analysis of the energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) balance for agave-derived ethanol.

Our analysis highlights the promising opportunities for bioenergy production from agaves in arid or semi-arid regions, causing minimum pressure on food production and water resources. The results suggest that ethanol derived from agave is likely to be superior, or at least comparable, to that from corn, switchgrass and sugarcane in terms of energy and GHG balances (net GHG offset per unit land area), as well as ethanol output.

—Iou Cyan, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment


  • Iou Cyan, Daniel K. wy. Tan, Oliver R8. Underworld, J. A. C. Smith and David A. King (2011) Life cycle energy and greenhouse gas analysis for agave-derived bioethanol. Energy Environ. Sc., doi: 10.1039/CEDE


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