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Grassoline is a biofuel derived from plant material that is used as an alternative to ethanol. The term was coined by Matthew Scoggins, a graduate students of Bruce Dale, in 1991, to capture the idea of taking plant material and converting it into oil.
Grassoline can be made from switchgrass, which is more efficient than other energy crops such as corn, since it does not require as much water and can store sufficient amount of energy to be efficient. Unlike ethanol made from corn, grassoline can be made from the waste product of most plants. Grassoline generally receives criticism due to its efficiency and price of the fuel. Instead of producing cellulosic ethanol via fermentation from edible cereals(a grass from the monocot family) like corn, new techniques could produce grassoline from otherwise unused biomass. Cellulosic biomass(biofuel derived from living or recently living organisms) from wood residues, such as sawdust and construction debris and agricultural wastes, such as corn stalks and all the inedible stalks of other plants can be converted to any type of ethanol fuel, gasoline, diesel, and all the materials that derive from crude oil and its refinery. Energy crops such as switch grass and miscanthus provide high energy content and does not replace food like corn for energy. Miscanthus, however, does not self-fertilize and is permeable to frost, thus it may not serve as appropriate depending on the location.
Charris Ford is the founder of Grassolean Solutions and owns the web domains Grassoline.com and Grassolean.com, since 2001.
According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy, the United States can produce at least 1.3 billion tons of cellulosic biomass each year without decreasing the amount of biomass needed for our food, animal feed, or exports.
Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis
Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis is a fast process in which the Cellulose is broken down to grassoline. In the Catalynic approach the cellulose is heated to 500 degrees celsius in less than one second in a chamber to break apart the oxygen molecules. The catalyst forms chemical reactions that remove oxygen bonds and form carbon rings. After the reaction takes place gasoline is formed along with water, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide.
The Ammonia Fiber Expansion(AFEX) pre-treat process, hot concentrated 15 M ammonia is used to breaks down sugar molecules, cellulose and hemicellulose significantly more efficiently than enzymes. After, the rapid pressure release cools and ends the treatment. The result is minor biomass degradation with high yields The process was patented by Bruce Dale, Michigan State University professor. Unlike other process, AFEX is generally done in one step making it more efficient than other processes.
- AFEX Process Conditions
- Pressure: 20-30 atm
- Temperature: 70-140 C
- Residence time: 5-10 minutes
- Ammonia: biomass loading: 0.3 - 2.0 to 1 w/w
- Water: biomass content: 0.2 – 2.5 to 1 w/w
Regional Biomass Processing Center
Regional Biomass Processing Center is a conceptual place where the AFEX treated biomass can go to biorefineries, farms and forests, and animal feeders. This will improve the value of cellulosic biomass for animals and biofuel production. This will reduce the density of the biomass for easier transport, simplify contract issues, and increase the land use for biofuels
Potential Energy Grasses
Switchgrass is a bunch grass native to North America that grow naturally under warm weather with wide adaptation capability and easy germination, allowing the switchgrass to grow quicker; however, it has a low relative yield compared to other energy crops
Sorghum are cultivated in warmer climates, mostly in the tropical regions. Sorghum has the pottential to be an energy grass because it requires low water usage and can make a large yield. Sorghum, however, has an annual cultivation and is difficult to establish to an area and requires alot of input from fertilizers and pesticides.
Miscanthus are native to the tropical regions of Africa and Southern Asia. Miscanthus can grow up to 3.5 meters and has been trialed as a biofuel since 1980s. The benefits of using miscanthus is it can live more than two years and requires low input eliminating the need for extra irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides. The problems with miscanthus arise from the time it takes to establish to an area.
Cost of Change
The cost for petroleum to change to grassoline, would depend on how fast the use of grassoline grows. Change will also be needed in automobiles to be compatible with grassoline. UC Berkeley's Somerville(professor of alternative energy) estimates that a large investment over $325 billion will be needed to build biofactories that can produce the 65 billion gallons of biofuel needed to meet 2030 national goals.
Grassoline is highly debated between the public. Some speculate that plant material is needed for fertilization for next harvest. Common misconceptions concerning grassoline is the fuel could have been used as food for livestock, transportation of the material may be counter productive, and the price of biofuels cost more than gas. Farmers also would not get as much money if they supply biomass rather than food since the cultivation of biomass depends on the location and climate and a large investment over $250 million is needed for a cellulosic ethanol biorefinery. Supporters of grassoline believe it could suppress air pollution, eliminate the need to import energy, eliminating the need of high compression engines used for ethanol fuel and more jobs since the work would be obsolete
- Schmuhl, Emily (2 December 2009). "'Grassoline' is the future for spotlighted LDS scientists". Mormon Times.
- Huber, George H.; Dale, Bruce E. (9 April 2009). "The Fuel of the Future Is Grassoline". Scientific American (34).
- Gura, Trisha. "Driving Biofuels from Field to Fuel Tank". Cell Press.
- Huber, George W. "Grassoline at the Pump". Scientific American.
- Dale, Bruce E. "AFEX Pre-treatment Process Can Reduce Cost of Cellulosic Ethanol".
- Dale, Bruce E. "GRASSOLINE IN YOUR TANK: WHY CELLULOSIC ETHANOL IS NEARER THAN YOU THINK". Retrieved 11 November 2013.
- Dale, B.E. (2008). "Grassoline in Your Tank: Myths and Realities about Biofuels". Microscopy and Microanalysis: 1484–1485.
- Franklin, Caissie, Jared, Brennan. "Grassoline: A Feasibility Study". Retrieved 11 November 2013.