Project in Tri-Cities Using Ag Waste to Create Biofuel Becoming Commercially Reliable
by Kristi Pihl (Tri-City Herald) A pilot project to produce biofuel using agricultural and organic municipal waste has reached levels that makes the process commercially viable, researchers say.
The project, paid for by the Department of Energy, is within six months of being able to demonstrate the capacity of the BioChemCat process to create biofuel, said Keith Thomsen, assistant director of Washington State University Tri-Cities’ Center for Bioproducts and Bioenergy.
This way of creating biofuel is fuel agnostic, and can be tweaked to use available agricultural waste from a variety of crops including hops, wheat and grapes, Thomsen said.
“We can take anything, and we are not competing with food,” he said.
This also has the potential to allow farmers to generate revenue from something that has little to no value currently, Thomsen said.
…The BioChemCat project takes agricultural waste, wood waste or organic materials from municipal solid waste. It uses a “novel” pretreatment method that requires heat and pressure to tear the structure of the waste apart, allowing microorganisms to convert it, Thomsen explained.
The pretreatment is the “heart and soul” of BioChemCat, Thomsen said.
Then, a mixed culture of different microorganisms is used to ferment the pretreated biomass, he said. Unlike with ethanol, the fermentation process is very robust, so sterilization is not needed. That cuts down on the costs, he said.
It takes 10 to 30 days to start the fermentation, but after that, it is continuous, with the process being fed and the platform molecules of carboxylic acid being extracted, he said. Platform molecules are chemical compounds that can be upgraded to more valuable chemicals or fuels, he said. READ MORE