Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Miscanthus-based ethanol boasts bigger environmental benefits, higher profits

05.03.2015

A recent study simulated a side-by-side comparison of the yields and costs of producing ethanol using miscanthus, switchgrass, and corn stover. The fast-growing energy grass miscanthus was the clear winner. Models predict that miscanthus will have higher yield and profit, particularly when grown in poor-quality soil. It also outperformed corn stover and switchgrass in its ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"One of the reasons for interest in these second-generation cellulosic feedstocks is that if they can be grown on low-quality soil, they wouldn't compete for land with food crops, such as corn. This study shows that although miscanthus yield was slightly lower on marginal, low-quality land, a farmer would have an economic incentive to grow miscanthus on the lower quality land first rather than diverting their most productive cropland from growing corn," said University of Illinois agricultural economist Madhu Khanna who co-authored the study along with a team of economists and environmental and crop scientists from the Energy Biosciences Institute at U of I.


This image shows miscanthus and switchgrass.

Credit: University of Illinois

According to Evan DeLucia, professor in integrative biology at the University of Illinois, "There has been skepticism about whether energy crops can be grown on low-quality land. What's been lacking is a side-by-side analysis that isolates the effect of soil quality on yield. In this study, we do that. We were able to keep all of the conditions the same and only change the soil attributes," he said.

The study used real data from the University of Illinois energy farm and other locations across the country to calibrate the model so that the findings are generalizable. The model simulated yields and greenhouse gas savings under 30 years of variable weather conditions as well.

Another goal of the study was to examine the cost and greenhouse gas implications of using these sources of biomass for biofuel production. The study found that even if corn stover is harvested responsibly (removing only 30 to 50 percent depending on tillage choice) there was still a loss in soil carbon and the overall savings in greenhouse gas emissions were much smaller than those with switchgrass and miscanthus.

"It's tempting to use corn stover because it's already there--farmers who grow corn don't have to plant another crop to produce biofuel feedstock," Khanna said. "But in some cases corn stover is only about 59 percent cleaner than gasoline while miscanthus is about 140 percent cleaner. So if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lower the carbon intensity of our fuel, energy grasses such as miscanthus and switchgrass are going to result in the biggest reductions, not corn stover."

Making the choice of miscanthus-based ethanol more pleasing at the pump for consumers is another consideration. Khanna says that a price on carbon would be one way to equalize the cost of using gasoline and ethanol for consumers when filling up their tank.

"Ethanol made from miscanthus would need a much smaller carbon price to make it desirable to produce and for consumers to purchase as compared to ethanol from switchgrass and corn stover. Even though corn stover may in some cases be cheaper to produce, it is a much more expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than energy grasses," Khanna said.

###

"Cost of Abating Greenhouse Gas Emissions with Cellulosic Ethanol" was written by Puneet Dwivedi, Weiwei Wang,Tara Hudiburg, Deepak Jaiswal, William Parton, Stephen Long, Evan DeLucia, and Madhu Khanna. The article was published in Environmental Science and Technology.

This research was supported by funding from the North Central Regional Sun Grant Center at South Dakota State University through a grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biomass Programs and from the Energy Biosciences Institute, University of California, Berkeley.

Media Contact

Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880

 @uignome

http://aces.illinois.edu/ 

Debra Levey Larson | EurekAlert!

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Smart Data Transformation – Surfing the Big Wave
02.12.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Angewandte Informationstechnik FIT

nachricht Climate change could outpace EPA Lake Champlain protections
18.11.2016 | University of Vermont

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>