Monday, November 10, 2008

Bill Drake on Tobacco as Ethanol Feedsock

Bill Drake posted this recently and he has assembled a detailed report on his website at:

The quoted figures apply to a tightly seeded field without any rows for picking access. The huge tonnages appear to be a result of multiple harvesting with rapid intervening growth.

This produced tonnage likely surpasses that of potential hemp volume and is surely more amenable to later processing.

The sugar and starch content is surprising. What we have is a crop that can produce ethanol easily, be refined for protein and whose cellulose byproduct will be easy to use for additional processing because of the low lignin content. We have already identified cattails for wetland exploitation and now we have tobacco as a crop resource on marginal croplands in particular.
We have already commented on the viability of hemp.

Both these plants suffer from been politically incorrect and proper research and recognition has been hampered accordingly. This will be over come, but it will take time and will lack enthusiastic support for some time.

We only have to look at the strides been made by biochar into media consciousness over the past year and a half since I began talking about it. It is now popping up in strange but very normal places as accepted knowledge.
This had a lot to do with the recent article in National Geographic.

No one s pushing the use of tobacco yet while there is a small effort on promoting hemp.

Corn remains the best biomass producer for pure biochar production, simply because of mass and separate starch production which pays for it. Hemp has value for the fiber, but that negates any value as a biochar source. Tobacco has the same problem and producing a crop purely for biochar is unlikely to ever be popular.

Producing tobacco as a source of feedstock for ethanol production appears to be very competitive. The lack of lignin will make even the cellulose fraction more easily available as an ethanol feedstock.

This is leading to a need to produce ethanol production hardware for operating farm. This will be in the form of digesters and tankage and separation gear scaled to handle the tonnages. One hundred and fifty wet tons per acre from a hundred acres turns into a weekly throughput of three hundred tons. That is a lot of material and storage to accommodate. A small operation could work around twenty acres easily and scale their operation on sixty tons per week.

It is important to do the first stage of production on the farm and sell either brew at the farm gate or an upgraded liquor using membranes if possible. It could even be collected through a pipeline and concentrated at a large processing plant for final finishing.

Posted on: October 5th, 2008 by biomasstobacco

Would you be interested in knowing about a previously uninvestigated biomass energy resource with extraordinary potential well beyond any plant currently being investigated?

I do understand that the claim of a major crop plant that has never been investigated for its bioenergy potential doesn’t make much sense, but after reading my web page, please search the ORNL database or any other bioenergy database you like – you will find not a mention of this incredibly high potential resource.

For your information, this unknown bioenergy resource is ordinary tobacco, grown as biomass. Tobacco grown for biomass is completely different than tobacco grown for consumption, and while biomass tobacco has never been investigated for its energy potential, other than my own work, it may turn out to be the cost-effective, unsubsidized biomass resource that the industry has been seeking for so long.

Here are just a few of the relevant characteristics of this potential biomass game-changer:

1. Because of its vigorous coppicing behavior, multiple harvests of tobacco for biomass per season mean that producers can expect a seasonal biomass yield of between 100-300 Metric Tons/Acre of (150-180 MT/Acre has already been demonstrated in trials at North Carolina State University).

2. The dry weight yield of this tobacco biomass will be 10-20 tons per 100 tons green weight

3. Of this dry weight, approximately 20% will be sugars, or approximately 2-4 tons of sugars per 100 tons of green weight.

4. Another 10% or so will be starches, or about 1-2 tons of starch per 100 tons green weight.

5. About 20% of the dry weight will be mixed proteins, which break down into what is called Fraction 1 and Fraction 2 protein, or between 2-4 tons of pure protein per 100 tons of fresh, green weight. These are HUMAN FOOD-GRADE proteins, and can be recovered after energy is produced from the biomass.

7. Also, since tobacco is about 40% cellulose, dry weight equivalent, 100 tons green weight will yield between 4 & 8 tons of very low lignin, easily fermented or digested cellulose.

8. Finally, this biomass crop can be grown on marginal land unsuitable for food crops, and has a wider geographic range than either corn or sugar cane.

If you would like to read complete details on my proposal to utilize this previously uninvestigated bioresource please visit my non-commercial web page

Best wishes – Bill Drake


Unknown said...

Hi Bill, I corresponded with you some 35 years ago regarding tobacco and rooms. You were kind enough to send me some seeds.Tobacco should not have such a bad rap and should be considered as a benificial product if utilized for it's best potential. Peace, would like to here from you. Will

Unknown said...

Hey Bill, I corresponded with you some 35 years ago when I read your Cultivator book ( wish I could find it) You were kind enough to send me some tobacco seed back then. Sure would like to hear from you. Peace, Will