I don’t usually focus on feedstock but here are some interesting announcements and market studies that might be of interest…I have to do some draft box cleaning up before the New Year begins!
DOE finds gene for xylan extraction
Researchers with the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) have identified a gene in rice plants whose suppression can improve extraction of xylan from plant cell walls. Xylan is reportedly the most abundant biomass material on Earth and represents an enormous potential source of stored solar energy for the production of advanced biofuels.
Energy crop company Ceres announced that its Brazilian subsidiary Ceres Sementes do Brasil Ltda has signed a sweet sorghum market development agreement with Syngenta. The companies will work together to support the introduction of sweet sorghum as a source of fermentable sugars at Brazil’s 400 or more ethanol mills. Sweet sorghum is said to be a hardy crop that can extend the ethanol production season by up to 60 days in Brazil. Brazil’s government recently announced in its agricultural plan for 2012-2013 that sweet sorghum would be considered a strategic crop due in part to increased demand for ethanol and sugarcane shortages.
Gene for switchgrass to help ethanol
Scientists from the US Department of Agriculture has discovered a gene called corngrass from corn that can be inserted into switchgrass to create a new variety that keeps the perennial grass in its juvenile form. The starch in the transgenic plants stays inside the stem resulting in higher starch levels that can increase as much as 250%. The sugars making up the plant starch are more readily available for conversion into cellulosic ethanol.
ChloroFill, Chromatin partnership
Sorghum-based building material company ChloroFill has partnered with agbiotech company Chromatin for the supply of sorghum biomass for the production of ChloroFill’s building products. The partnership successfully grew a high-yielding 2012 season crop. This represents the first use of Chromatin’s proprietary sorghum for the manufacture of ChloroFill’s fiberboard panels.
High-opportunity for Lignin
Lignin could become the main renewable aromatic resource for the chemical industry that could address markets worth more than $130bn, according to consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. New developing technologies now allow the extraction of high-purity lignin that can be converted in various high-value chemicals and products such as BTX, phenol, vanillin or carbon fiber. The lignin business today represents $300m with supply exceeding 300bn tonnes, increasing annually by 20bn tonnes.
Global vegetable oil supplies still tight
Global stocks-to-use ratio for vegetable oils is at its lowest level in 38 years due to sustained growth in demand and weather shocks that set back a supply growth that was already barely keeping up, according to a report from Rabobank. Vegetable oil production is expected to increase by 3.3%/year for the next five years, lower than the 4.7% seen in the previous five years. Growth consumption for both food and fuel will slow relative to recent performance but the greatest reduction will come from the biodiesel side.