Thursday, May 13, 2010

Rapid Growth of Biomass is the Key

The coming shift toward more sustainable liquid fuels and away from petro-fuels, depends upon the ability to grow massive amounts of biomass in a relatively compact area. Long-term hopes for such massive biomass growth focus on algal growing schemes. But various terrestrial and marine plants also possess rapid-growth properties. Many species of eucalyptus trees grow quite rapidly, but can be susceptible to damage from frost. New frost-resistant strains of eucalyptus hybrid are being readied by ArborGen for planting in seven US southeastern states. The USDA recently granted a permit to the company for field testing of the hybrid trees.
The tree being considered under the permit is a Eucalyptus variety that has been grown for many years sustainably in Brazil, but which has an introduced trait that enables it to withstand the type of freezing conditions experienced in portions of the Southeast of the United States.

The purpose of the release is to continue research on the efficacy of genetic constructs intended to confer cold tolerance, alter lignin biosynthesis and alter fertility. After assessing the application, reviewing pertinent scientific information, and considering comments provided by the public, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) concluded that “these field releases are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk, nor are they likely to have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment.”

ArborGen is hoping that the fast-growing varietal will provide a sustainable, high yield hardwood crop in the Southeast to meet growing needs for biomass and spur economic development in rural, timber-dependent communities. _GCC
Ligno-cellulosic biomass will provide the feedstock for a wide range of biofuels projects. Several thermochemical approaches to biofuels can utilise ligno-cellulosic biomass. Likewise, a number of microbial and moderate temperature catalytic approaches to biofuels will utilise organic biomass as feedstock.

The relatively low energy density of most biomass -- compared to coal, oil, and natural gas -- has led many analysts to assume that the energy costs of collection, concentration, and densification of biomass energy would always remain too high for biomass to ever compete with more concentrated forms of energy.

That shortcoming of biomass energy is the reason for the recent drive to develop high-yield biomass crops. Another likely trend will be the development of highly efficient semi-autonomous robotic equipment for the cultivation, harvesting, and pre-processing of energy crops.



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