You can't tell from this lush
landscape, but the seed industry that provides lawns for parks, golf courses
and homes produces millions of tons of straw every year. Click the image for
more information about it.
The Last Straw? Making Gas From Crop
Residue By Laura
McGinnis August 31, 2006
Illegal to burn and expensive to move, straw creates serious disposal
problems for the grass seed industry. Thats why two Agricultural Research
Service (ARS) labs are collaborating with
scientists from the Laramie, Wyo., Western Research Institute to
develop a small-scale gasification reactor.
The Pacific Northwest grass seed industry that provides seed for lush
lawns for homes, parks and golf courses also produces millions of tons of straw
every year, only a fraction of which can be used as mulch for conservation.
ARS researchers at the
Seed and Cereal Laboratory in Corvallis, Ore., and the
Conversion Science and Engineering Laboratory in Wyndmoor, Pa., are
developing technology for converting that straw into synthetic gas that can be
used to produce electricity or liquid fuel.
Within the prototype reactor, straw is reduced to charsmall
particles of carbon and residueand converted into a mixture of vaporized
gases that can be used to produce liquid, synthetic gas.
Gary Banowetz (left) and farmer Don Wirth examine grass seed straw after
harvest. Straw like this could someday be an important source of energy.
Click the image for more information about it.
The scientists believe the research will enable them eventually to
develop an economically feasible method to dispose of straw because it
eliminates the expense of transporting straw off property.
The technology is still undergoing trials to improve its effectiveness
and economy. ARS chemical engineer
Boateng, at Wyndmoor, and plant physiologist
Banowetz, at Corvallis, believe that in the near future, the small-scale
gasification system will provide not only an environmentally beneficial
alternative to field-burning grass straw, but an economically competitive
alternative to fossil fuel-derived energy.
Based on the carbon content of straw, Banowetz estimates that
synthetic gas produced in the reactor could be converted into about 60 gallons
of fuel per ton of straw. With 7 million tons of excess grass and cereal straw
generated each year, the Pacific Northwest has the potential to produce 420
million gallons of liquid fuel.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.