Saint Mary´s University: Natürlicher Treibstoff aus Rüben?
News vom 26.07.2010
Dr. Kevin Vessey, Biologieprofessor an der Saint Mary´s University, untersucht seit Jahren die Möglichkeit, Treibstoff aus Zuckerrüben zu gewinnen.
Zwar werde das nach eigener Aussage nicht das Klimaproblem lösen, sei aber ein guter Ansatz zur Weiterentwicklung der entsprechenden Technologien.
Sweet Alternative to Fossil Fuel Digging In
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Can we grow our own gasoline?
That’s the question Saint Mary’s Biology Professor Dr. Kevin Vessey has been tackling for the past three years. As his prepares to move his research on sugar beets from the lab and the greenhouse into commercial trial in the field, he continues to believe the answer may be yes.
“This won’t be the silver bullet that solves the energy crisis that is barreling down on us, but it could be part of the solution as we transition to more environmentally sound options replacing fossil fuels.”
Corn was once considered the crop most likely to prompt a commercially viable bio-fuel industry, but it has fallen out of favour because it takes a lot of "old" fossil energy to make it: diesel to run tractors, natural gas to make fertilizer and fuel to run the refineries that convert corn to ethanol. There are also grave concerns over the loss of prime agricultural lands for food production.
Sugar beets are a viable alternative. There is surplus production capacity and the plant’s sugar concentration can be 25 per cent higher than sugar cane with yields that can be 10 times greater than corn and wheat.
To create an environmentally bio-fuel that can replace gasoline, sugars and starches are fermented to produce alcohols which are then distilled to produce ethanol. The result is a sustainable source with the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 50-70%, compared to regular unleaded gas.
Despite the advantages beets offer, its reliance on nitrogen fertilizers decreases its attractiveness as a biofuel feedstock. To address that problem Dr. Vessey and his team have been developing ways to inoculate sugar beets with a naturally occurring bacterium that can naturally add vital nitrogen.
“We’ve had good success in the greenhouse, but we need to take it field to prove that it is commercially viable,” he said. “With the field trials, we should be able to provide estimates of potential sugar beet yield around which a business case can be built.
Federal and provincial funding agencies have already contributed over $100,000 to his lab work and for patent assistance. Recently Springboard Atlantic provided an additional $20,000 to help him work with a commercial partner on the field work.
Interest in sugar beet as an alternative fuel source is attracting global interest. There are significant sugar beet-to-biofuel industries in Europe. A sugar beet-energy plant that opened in England in 2007 has an annual production capacity of 70 million litres; made from 110,000 tonnes of sugar that is surplus to the needs of the food market.
One report out of a North Dakota university recently suggested 500,000 methanol fuel cell vehicles could be powered by the pulp produced by US sugar beet refineries.
The federal government is actively supporting the developing biofuels and has mandated renewable content in gasoline and diesel/home heating fuel by 2012.
Quelle: Saint Mary's University, Media Release, 28. Juni 2010
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