Getting More From Bio-refineries

Getting More From Bio-refineries

Getting More From Bio-refineries. I’m Greg Martin as Line On Agriculture presents the Harvest Clean Energy Report.

Diversification has always been the smart way of doing things. The old axiom of “putting all your eggs in one basket” is very true and Craig Frear, Assistant Research Professor with Washington State University says that is equally important when it comes to bio-refineries.

FREAR: There are many different types of bio-refineries that could be out there. By definition a bio-refinery is some technology or project that uses biological means to produce a variety of products and energy, not just one product like fuel. An example of that people see in the news is turning wood material and wheat straw into ethanol. If all they were doing was just making ethanol you really couldn’t call that a bio-refinery. And it wouldn’t be sustainable or economical.

He says it is important that these facilities produce many other by-products in addition to ethanol.

FREAR: But many of these bio-refinery approaches although there’s considerable research undergoing and industry is starting to develop some pilot scale plants, most of these have not been proven economically viable in the commercial world yet. But one exception is anaerobic digestion technology particularly utilizing dairy manures or swine manures.

These facilities need to be producing not only energy but a number of other by-products that might surprise you.

FREAR: The new generation of anaerobic digesters need to make more than just electricity and they can. There are still a considerable amount of nutrients in animal manures. A high level of nitrogen and a high level of phosphorus and right now those anaerobic digesters do not harness those so we envision new digester technology that still makes the power and electricity but is also making a concentrated bio-fertilizer.

That of course is a win-win scenario where not only can the bio-fertilizer be put back but can be sold off as another revenue stream and Frear says that is only one example.

FREAR: We can make better use of the fiber material that’s in the manure that presently isn’t being digested. They could be used for peat moss replacement – again peat not being a sustainable product and which has large climate implications. It can also be used to make fiberboards, fiber products, the list kind of goes on and on. And as each of these subunits are developed you end up now building an anaerobic digester that is a true bio-refinery.

For additional information on clean energy and the upcoming Harvest Clean Energy Conference, visit That’s today’s Line On Agriculture. I’m Greg Martin on the Northwest Ag Information Network.

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