the power of plants
Send a link to a friend
URBANA -- A recent conference in Orlando on industrial
biotechnology and bioprocessing drew twice as many people as
anticipated. Industry representatives and scientists came together
to look at options for the future of fuel and bio-based products.
Judging from the attendance, interest in biofuels and bio-based
products appears to be high.
sense," said Hans Blaschek, a microbiologist from the University of
Illinois who was in attendance at the Orlando conference. "You start
with something that costs zero, or even minus if people are willing
to pay to get rid of it, and convert it into a valuable product.
It's just the process, the technology that's holding it up. We need
to get the price of producing an end product down and make it
economically competitive to petroleum products."
Blaschek has been
working with Archer Daniels Midland to produce butanol from corn
waste at their plant in Decatur. "Due to the recent ban of MTBE in
California, ethanol and butanol are looking better and better as
fuel alternatives because they can be derived from biomass instead
of petroleum and emit a cleaner end product from a car's exhaust
pipe," said Blaschek. He added that the product currently marketed
in Illinois as ethanol is really only 10 percent ethanol, but even
at that low level it can help reduce air pollution.
It's just a matter of
time before biofuels and bio-based products become economically
competitive said Blaschek. Already companies such as British
Petroleum and Shell Canada are getting on board, considering the
development of bio-refineries. And corn byproducts aren't the only
thing being looked at. The Canadian company Iogen is converting hay
and straw and other plant products into ethanol.
[to top of second column in
"We have an estimated
20 million tons of cellulose in the Midwest," said Blaschek.
He said that the
petroleum industry is so well-established that the biomass industry
couldn't compete. Now, it seems companies are seeing that biofuels
and other bio-products could be produced at a competitive price and
want to get into the game. It's a matter of developing relationships
and synergies to move the process forward.
"There's a huge list
of products produced from petroleum, but the list of potential
products from bio-refineries is growing too," Blaschek said.
In addition to ethanol and butanol, bio-refineries are producing
lactic and acetic acids and acetone and exploring other possible
"The future is in making the production
of biofuels and other bio-products more economical."
of Illinois news release]