Biofuels miscanthus

Published on February 23rd, 2012 | by Christopher DeMorro

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Company Claims 12X More BioFuel Yield Per Acre Than Corn Ethanol

The argument about turning food into fuel generally revolves around corn ethanol, even though there are numerous other crops with better potential for making fuel. Among the many issues is the use of arable land to produce very little fuel. An acre of corn only yields about 330 gallons of corn ethanol.

But a breakthrough by CoolPlanet Biofuels claims that an advanced bioenergy crop, giant Miscanthus, allows them to create upwards of 4,000 gallons of cellulosic gasoline per acre, about 12-times better than corn ethanol. That means more fuel from less land.

CoolPlanet’s process utilizes coarsely-ground biomass from the specially-bred giant Miscanthus plant that takes about an hour to transform the biomass into usable gasoline. Total cost? About 60-cents per gallon. Furthermore, the left-over biomass can be returned to the soil to increase field fertility in the MidWestern fields where it is grown.

But wait, there’s more! Since CoolPlanet’s gasoline contains no oxygenates, it can be seamlessly blended with oil-based gasoline. The fuel has already been EPA approved for blending, and CoolPlanet hopes to get more refineries online with a mass production-ready modular refinery structure.

My question then…why is this the first I’ve heard of this? Sounds incredibly promising, and this could be the big break biofuels need.

Source: Green Car Congress


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About the Author

A writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs, can be found wrenching or writing- or esle, he's running, because he's one of those crazy people who gets enjoyment from running insane distances.



  • Ziv

    Here is a source quoting similar numbers for switchgrass/miscanthus. I am biased towards miscanthus because my family owned land that might be perfect for it, semi arid, prone to erosion and not suitable for irrigation. We no longer own that land but I am still intrigued by the potential. Plus, can you imagine the impact of growing miscanthus up to 8 feet high instead of regular wheatgrass?
    Plus Wikipedia has numbers up to 3250 gallons of ethanol per acre, which lends indirect support to the possibility that 4000 gallons is possible.
    http://grist.org/climate-energy/biofuel-some-numbers/

  • Tim Cleland

    “Total cost? About 60-cents per gallon.”

    But there’s got to be a catch, otherwise CoolPlanet Biofuels would be richer than Microsoft. Is this breaking news that they just discovered a few days ago?

    • T Adkins

      The catch would most likely be getting it to a commercial scale and then distribution infrastructure. Google has invested in them and they will be making small village scale sites in developing countries as well as working on commercial scale set up. They did a “solve for X” talk I had already watched before reading this article but didnt know this article and that talk were tied together until looking at the CoolPlanet Biofuels website.

      It was an interesting talk and the fuel is supposed to be carbon negative.

      • Ziv

        T Adkins, could part of the solution for ethanol production be adopting a ‘dance with the one that brung you’ approach? I.e. northern Plains states get E85 from Miscanthus, Pacific northwest states get it from wood chips, Florida from sugar cane, Arizona skips E85 almost entirely and just builds photovoltaic fields to fuel their BEV’s since their BEV’s work so well sans the winter reduction in range the northerners get….
        In other words, maybe we shouldn’t have a monolithic national energy policy, but a potluck approach with each region using a variety of fuel sources to work most efficiently towards fueling their vehicles with one of three fuel sources, E85, Electricity or BEV’s/EREV’s w/E85 gensets or natural gas powered vehicles. But could one fueling station come close to offering all 3 or would we have 3 different chains of fueling stations… Not sure how that would work out, but if it could it would be a way to accelerate our reduction of our reliance on foreign oil.

        • T Adkins

          If you want E85 it sounds ok to me. Although this company isnt doing ethanol they are making 109 octane gasoline from the Miscanthus and switch grass and agri-waste. I am not sure that just agri-waste will be enough to get the job done so they speak of Miscanthus and switch grass for soil errosion and it can be grown on more marginal land with fewer inputs to not compete with food crops, but they say they can use the corn waste, sorghum and sugar cane, I am sure they should be able to use wood chips. It would be nice to have local energy policies but currently we have national energy policy. A policy that asks for E10 and E15 gas blends.

          The video was interesting to me and is relevant to the article because they guy talking is the president and founder of the company being discussed in this article. That guy runs CoolPlanet Biofuels. The talk not only addresses replacing oil but dealing with the CO2 part of the green house gases and turning more land like deserts into farm land. It also talks about taking a poor poor village in Far-Off-istan and making them energy independent and increasing their standard of living by 800%. The talk also goes over this having the potential to replace all motoring fuel in the world, and how they have gone over the numbers with just percent of the earth, like 1% to fuel every car in the world, 2% to have carbon neutral emissions, 3% to lower CO2 by 100ppm over 40 years.

          Personally the northern plain might be better severed growing hay to replace heating oil, a carbon neutral heat source and that is already in the works. Sadly cane sugar in Florida is subsidized so that in the US it currently is paid a price that is 3 times the normal cost of the world market , and its agri-waste for the most part is burned in the production of sugar, that 3 times world average is one of the factors that allows corn-syrup to dominate the US as a sweetener/filler the other large contributor to that is the huge subsidies to corn to the point we pay less to buy corn than it cost to grow.

          I even have a feeling that if hemp were allowed to be grown, in the US once again, that it would be used right along with the switch grass.

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  • Marc P.

    It’s all a matter of being able to scale it up and getting investment capital.
    It’s not because it’s a good idea that it will automatically get funded and developed or because it’s a bad idea that it won’t. Just look at corn based ethanol…!

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