Aemetis harvests demo crop of optimized biomass sorghum in California for advanced biofuels; ~90 days from planting to harvest
Aemetis, Inc., an advanced renewable fuels and biochemicals company, has harvested 12- to 15-foot tall biomass sorghum grown in Central California that was produced using proprietary seed genetics from Nexsteppe, a provider of optimized sorghum feedstock solutions. Biomass Sorghum is a feedstock for low-carbon advanced biofuels.
The 20-acre demonstration crop of biomass sorghum was planted, grown, and harvested by Aemetis in approximately 90 days, validating the potential use of biomass crops for the production of lower-carbon, advanced biofuels or as a rotational crop in California.
The water supply for the biomass sorghum crop was lower-quality pump water containing salts that typically damage crops. The project was located in the western San Joaquin Valley, which has received a low water allocation from state and federal sources for the past several years.
In addition to the biomass sorghum demonstration, Aemetis is also a participant in the California In-State Sorghum program (CISS) through a $3-million grant awarded by the California Energy Commission. The CISS program combines research and market development to support the in-state growth of grain sorghum as a reliable low-carbon feedstock for California’s ethanol producers.
The CISS program has just completed the first harvest of grain sorghum at the CSU Fresno International Center for Water Technology.
Aemetis’ 60-million gallon per year ethanol plant in California converts sugars to biofuels. Aemetis has a multi-year strategy to transition its biofuel production from traditional starch-based feedstocks to renewable biomass feedstocks that can produce low-carbon, advanced biofuels. The transition is expected to evolve from corn to grain sorghum and ultimately to biomass sorghum and agricultural wastes available in California.
The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) currently mandates up to 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels per year by 2022. As of 2015, announced US cellulosic fuels producers’ nameplate capacity is about 85 million gallons. The cellulosic feedstock grown in the Central Valley can produce a variety of renewable fuels such as cellulosic ethanol, renewable diesel, renewable gasoline and renewable jet fuel.
Nexsteppe’s sorghum is uniquely capable of growing a large amount of biomass in a short period of time using land that lacks quality water and where other plants may not grow. Biomass sorghum can be converted to cellulosic ethanol or a variety of other renewable fuels through various available technologies. Aemetis has already processed about 80 million pounds of grain sorghum at its Keyes biorefinery, producing lower-carbon fuel ethanol.—Eric McAfee, Chairman and CEO of Aemetis
Nextsteppe currently is developing and commercializing “Malibu” sweet sorghum and “Palo Alto” biomass sorghum to produce feedstocks tailored for biobased industries. NexSteppe’s Malibu sweet sorghum hybrids have been optimized to provide an easily accessible source of fermentable sugars for the production of biobased fuels, chemicals and products. Malibu sweet sorghums can be used as a complement to sugarcane to provide additional feedstock for existing sugar-to-ethanol mills.
The Palo Alto biomass sorghum hybrids provide a high-yield, low-moisture, cost-effective feedstock for biopower, including biogas, and cellulosic biofuels. 20-feet-tall after only four months of growth, NexSteppe’s Palo Alto biomass sorghum hybrids are designed to have low moisture levels at maturity, thus significantly lessening the amount of water harvested, thereby reducing the harvest and transport costs that can be 50% or more of total delivered feedstock cost. Lower moisture levels also provide a higher effective energy density for combustion.