On the flat plains of Kansas, a stack of gleaming steel towers and pipes stretches 16 storeys into the sky. More than 1,000 construction workers toiled to complete the ethanol plant near the town of Hugoton, and its owners expect it to join a fermented-fuel revolution. But unlike most ethanol factories, in which yeast feeds on sugars in foodstuffs such as maize (corn) kernels, the Hugoton facility will make use of what has been, until now, agricultural waste: cellulose. Thousands of tonnes of corn stover — the leaves, stalks and husks left over after the maize harvest — are already waiting, stacked in square bales, at the 1.6-square-kilometre site. By June, the plant will begin processing the stover into ethanol, which will be blended with petrol and end up in vehicle fuel tanks. The plant, which is owned by multinational company Abengoa of Seville, Spain, is one of three US facilities that should start commercial production of cellulosic ethanol in the next few months (the others are both in Iowa, one run by POET-DSM Advanced Biofuels and the other by DuPont). The industry has long promised that this second-generation biofuel will cut greenhouse-gas emissions, reduce US reliance on
Nature – Nature Publishing Group (NPG)
Published: Mar 11, 2014
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