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Photo: Clint Sanders (left) and Greg Holt evaluate eight different pellet fuels for efficiency, pollutant emissions, and ease of handling. Link to photo information
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Read the magazine story to find out more.

A Recipe That Will Really Warm You

By Don Comis
April 2, 2002

Add a little cottonseed oil to a lot of the cotton plant “trash” removed during ginning and you will have a recipe for delivering about 9,000 British thermal units (Btus) of heat per pound of fuel pellets. By comparison, firewood gives off approximately 4,000 to 5,000 Btus per pound.

Pellet Fuels Institute figures show that 57 firms produced bagged fuel pellets--typically made of sawdust, wood chips or wheat straw--and sold 730,000 tons during the 2000-2001 heating season. This was a 14 percent increase over the previous season.

Cotton ginners would like their share of this market, and the Agricultural Research Service has patented the way for them--the COBY (Cotton Byproducts) process. It turns cotton plant parts and added ingredients into a workable mixture that can be shaped into pellets for use as fuel, livestock feed and fertilizer, or left as loose mulch for home gardens.

ARS agricultural engineer Gregory A. Holt and colleagues at the Cotton Production and Processing Research Unit, Lubbock, Texas, helped develop COBY. The process uses a hot, gelatinized starch solution to hold the cotton waste together and to act as a lubricant to smooth the mixture’s flow through extrusion equipment.

The heating kills any possible weed seeds or fungi, making it safe to apply as a fertilizer or mulch. It also improves nutrient availability when used as feed.

Three evaluation trials of different COBY products are under way:

  • At Lubbock, ARS scientists are burning different types of cotton pellets in two commercial pellet stoves conveniently located near their test cotton gin.
  • At a Texas Tech University feedlot in Lubbock, ARS and university scientists are beginning a 62-day feeding trial with 100 to 120 heifers, using the COBY product as a roughage source in a conventional feed ration.
  • At a local university’s test facility in Illinois, Summit Seed, Inc., and the Lubbock scientists are testing the COBY-treated cotton waste as a loose mulch on flower beds.

More information on the COBY research can be found in the April 2002 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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