What is Lignocellulosic Biomass?

Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vor...
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First-generation biofuels (produced primarily from food crops such as grains, sugar beet and oil seeds) are limited in their ability to achieve targets for oil-product substitution, climate change mitigation, and economic growth. Their sustainable production is under scanner, as is the possibility of creating undue competition for land and water used for food and fibre production.

The cumulative impacts of these concerns have increased the interest in developing biofuels produced from non-food biomass. Feedstocks from ligno-cellulosic materials include cereal straw, bagasse, forest residues, and purpose-grown energy crops such as vegetative grasses and short rotation forests. These second-generation biofuels could avoid many of the concerns facing first-generation biofuels and potentially offer greater cost reduction potential in the longer term.

The largest potential feedstock for ethanol is lignocellulosic biomass, which includes materials such as agricultural residues (corn stover, crop straws and bagasse), herbaceous crops (alfalfa, switchgrass), short rotation woody crops, forestry residues, waste paper and other wastes (municipal and industrial). Bioethanol production from these feedstocks could be an attractive alternative for disposal of these residues. Importantlylignocellulosic feedstocks do not interfere with food security. Moreover, bioethanol is very important for both rural and urban areas in terms of energy security reason, environmental concern, employment opportunities, agricultural development, foreign exchange saving, socioeconomic issues etc.

Economically, lignocellulosic biomass has an advantage over other agriculturally important biofuels feedstocks such as corn starch, soybeans, and sugar cane, because it can be produced quickly and at significantly lower cost than food crops. Lignocellulosic biomass is an important component of the major food crops; it is the non-edible portion of the plant, which is currently underutilized, but could be used for biofuel production. In short, lignocellulosic biomass holds the key to supplying society’s basic needs for sustainable production of liquid transportation fuels without impacting the nation’s food supply.

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5 thoughts on “What is Lignocellulosic Biomass?

  1. Thank you Salman for this straight forward and clear article about next generation biofuels. Biofuels of the 1. generation are really just the beginning and I agree that the following generations have a huge potential which we have to release out of ecological and economical reasons!

    As far as I know we still have no working plant for cellulosic-ethanol on a commercial scale right now. But especially in the U.S.A. there are different concepts (POET, Coskata, DuPont…) which are short before being succesful on this mission. Lets hope, that biofuels out of lignocellulosic biomass will reach the market better today than tomorrow, so that the advantages you were talking about in the article will come up.

    1. Thanks for your kind words. Ethanol production from lignocellulosic biomass holds potential for countries which generate large amounts of crop residues. I am hopeful that worldwide research in this field will lead to mass deployment of cellulosic ethanol plants in countries like India, Indonesia, Thailand, China etc. in the coming years.

  2. Would be great to see cellulosic ethanol plants for organic residues soon. I think especially in South-East Asia with its huge biomass potential the cellulosic ethanol plants might help to produce biofuels which are more sustainable (e.g. the problems with the rain forests in Malaysia and Indonesia).

  3. yes, i am also researching about biofuels , from university of engineering and technology lahore. chemical engineering department.

  4. Very well informed.

    Maybe you should be alerted to the developments in Malta and then elsewhere around the Mediterranean with the Applied Biofuels project.
    Malta is about to start off with funding shortly to be finalised on a Biomass to Ethanol plant that will turn 300,000 tonnes of Ligno-Cellulose Biomass into over 85 Million litres per year of Ethanol for Transport Fuels by 2015/2016. This is exactly what you are saying is needed and it is recorded in the very press items by Bloomberg and elsewhere in 2011. This will be useing alkali-pretreatment and then dilute-acid hydrolysis as is the cheapest method available. No GMOs or Enzymes as these are not good for the Environment. I read that when this is finally finance it will be built at around €86 Million or so with a 20% contingency and this will be available with a financial IRR of 55%.
    They are also looking at Libya Italy and Tunisia.

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