Ethanol Plant "Brews" Grass Into Gas

Taylor Kennedy
for National Geographic News
May 16, 2006

A Canadian company has developed a new, more efficient process to make the alternative fuel ethanol from farm waste.

With today's high oil prices, experts hope the new technology could reduce demand on fossil fuels and increase energy security.

(Read "Powering the Future" in National Geographic magazine.)

"In the past, ethanol fuel use has been limited, because the cost of production was too high," said Jim Easterly, a Washington, D.C.-based bioenergy consultant.

"Ethanol produced from corn kernels and wheat grain has historically been more expensive than gasoline produced from oil."

Producing corn-based ethanol, for example, uses energy from oil and electricity for everything from growing the corn to powering the boilers in the ethanol plant.

Often the amount of ethanol created is equal to or less than the amount of fossil fuels needed to run the facility.

Enzyme Action

Now Ottawa-based Iogen Corporation (map of Ontario) might have solved these production problems.

Their researchers looked at a variety of enzymes and how they break down different plant fibers.

The innovative process they developed uses leftovers from crops grown for food, such as the straw left after wheat is harvested, to produce ethanol.

"The process is very similar to the way a brewery works," said Mandy Chepeka, an Iogen spokesperson.

Continued on Next Page >>


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