North Carolina funds ethanol projects

By Ryan C. Christiansen | March 05, 2009
Web exclusive posted March 19, 2009, at 1:33 p.m. CST

In an effort to promote North Carolina's renewable fuels standard (RFS), the Biofuels Center of North Carolina has awarded a total of more than $850,000 to five ethanol-related projects within the state. The Biofuels Center has been tasked to implement the state's RFS, which mandates that by 2017, 10 percent of the liquid fuels sold in North Carolina should come from locally grown and produced biofuels.

The North Carolina State University Mountain Horticulture Crops Research and Extension Center near Fletcher, N.C., has been awarded $171,293 to evaluate the performance of sugarcanes, Miscanthus, and related hybrids in North Carolina. The project will also breed and develop improved varieties, identify best practices for growers, and improve the efficiency of converting the biomass feedstocks to ethanol.

North Carolina State University in Raleigh, N.C., was awarded $183,802 to characterize the variety of industrial sludges produced from papermaking processes in North Carolina for their potential as a feedstock for ethanol production. The research will evaluate fractionating the sludge into both a carbohydrate-rich stream that can be used for ethanol production and a carbonate-rich stream that can be applied to croplands. The study will also evaluate converting the carbohydrate-rich stream into ethanol using a continuous pilot process. Research will include completing an economic evaluation to determine the feasibility of an ethanol plant that would use the feedstock.

The University of North Carolina in Charlotte has been awarded $150,295 to work with the Catawba County Regional EcoComplex and Resource Recovery Facility southwest of Newton, N.C., to develop a fungal biopulping technology to improve cellulosic ethanol production using waste products derived from crop agriculture and lumber mills in North Carolina.

The Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at North Carolina State University was awarded $183,468 to develop a sweet sorghum-to-ethanol conversion industry that would grow the feedstock on marginal lands in North Carolina. The department has been cultivating sweet sorghum near the communities of Plymouth, Wallace, and Clayton, N.C.

North Carolina State University has been awarded $162,438 to work with Lignol Energy Corp. to determine the economic impact of producing ethanol from varieties of pine wood. The researchers will compare varieties to determine the yields of fermentable sugars, which will be used to project the cost-efficiency of producing ethanol from pine wood. The economic model will also estimate the capital costs for building an ethanol plant that would utilize the feedstock. The results will be compared with a similar analysis that has been completed for using poplar as a feedstock for ethanol production.