Non-Food ‘Cellulosic’ Ethanol Could Be Price Competitive With Gasoline By 2016.

Cellulosic ethanol production.According to research company Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), ethanol produced from non-food materials (inedible parts of plants, woods, and grasses) will be price competitive with corn-based ethanol and gasoline by 2016. It’s a second generation biofuel called cellulosic ethanol and for years, figuring out how to cost effectively produce ethanol from non-edible plants has been a challenge. From BNEF:

“The survey collected data and predictions on the production costs of 11 leading players in the cellulosic ethanol industry. All use a technique, commonly called enzymatic hydrolysis, to break down and convert the complex sugars in non-food crop matter, and a fermentation stage to turn the results into ethanol. The results showed that in 2012, the cost of cellulosic ethanol production was $0.94 per litre, around 40% higher than the $0.67 per litre cost of producing ethanol from corn, which dominates the US biofuel market and is competitive with US gasoline. By 2016, respondents thought the price of cellulosic ethanol would match that of corn-based ethanol.”

Why is the move to cellulosic biofuels so important? From BusinessGreen:

“Cellulosic biofuels are widely regarded as critical to the development of the biofuels industry, as they allow developers to produce fuels from waste material or fast-growing grasses removing the need for energy crops that have been blamed for eating into agricultural land and driving up food prices.”

Another benefit of cellulosic ethanol is that its production can reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by up to 85% over reformulated gasoline according to a study conducted by Michael Wang of the Argonne National Laboratory. Starch-based ethanol made from corn reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 18-29% over reformulated gasoline. [BusinessGreen and BNEF]

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