Ethanol Feedstocks

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The seasonal nature of sugarcane production means that ethanol facilities are often dormant for around one third of the year and the development of alternative feedstocks would increase both production volumes and efficiencies. Sweet Sorghum, a cereal, is one potential feedstock as it is well suited to the dry, hot conditions present in many developing countries and can also be grown out of the sugarcane season. It also has the added advantage that whilst the stalks can be used for ethanol production the grain can be used as food. Other potential feedstocks include Cassava (a starch rich tuber), sugar beet, miscanthus, willow and poplar.

To date most commercial bio-ethanol has been made from plants which contain easily accessible sugars. However, plants also contain more complex sugars in the form of cellulose and hemi-cellulose, which are present in the structure of the plant. The technologies involved in converting these plants to ethanol are in their early stages and at present are uneconomic. But with further development it may be possible to convert low-value plant materials, such as agricultural and forestry residues, industrial waste, etc into fuels. This has the potential to vastly increase the volume of available biofuels without the various impacts of large scale mono-agriculture.


James Robinson 13 April 2007

Last edited by Miriam Hansen .
Page last modified on Tuesday September 28, 2010 12:53:50 GMT.
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