The agave plant, which is known for producing tequila in Mexico, could turn out to be one of the best bioethanol feedstocks, in terms of yield and efficiency, according to a research by Australia’s University of Adelaide.
The study says that this fast-growing, highly water use-efficient plant produces large amounts of sugar that is easily fermented to bioethanol and can also be used as a raw material for products such as paints, plastics and high value chemicals.
“Bioethanol yields from agave fermentation could rival the most successful biofuel feedstock crops around the world,” said associate professor Rachel Burton. The plant grows on marginal land under low rainfall and does not compete with food crops, the research notes.
The scientists modelled ethanol yields from analysis of whole plants, waste leaves from existing agave industries and agave juice. Whole plants are forecast to produce between 4,000 and 15,000 litres of ethanol per hectare a year. Burton said that the low end of the estimate still exceeded that for the earliest developed bioethanol feedstocks such as corn, wheat and sugarcane, while the higher end represented doubling the yields of the latest, more efficient feedstocks such as switchgrass and poplar.
The researchers are working with Australian company AusAgave, which has trial sites of agave in South Australia. Further research is underway.
Provided by SeeNews exclusively for Essentica.