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Title: Sorghum to Ethanol Research

The development of a robust source of renewable transportation fuel will require a large amount of biomass feedstocks. It is generally accepted that in addition to agricultural and forestry residues, we will need crops grown specifically for subsequent conversion into fuels. There has been a lot of research on several of these so-called "dedicated bioenergy crops" including switchgrass, miscanthus, sugarcane, and poplar. It is likely that all of these crops will end up playing a role as feedstocks, depending on local environmental and market conditions. Many different types of sorghum have been grown to produce syrup, grain, and animal feed for many years. It has several features that may make it as compelling as other crops mentioned above as a renewable, sustainable biomass feedstock; however, very little work has been done to investigate sorghum as a dedicated bioenergy crop. The goal of this project was to investigate the feasibility of using sorghum biomass to produce ethanol. The work performed included a detailed examination of the agronomics and composition of a large number of sorghum varieties, laboratory experiments to convert sorghum to ethanol, and economic and life-cycle analyses of the sorghum-to-ethanol process. This work showed that sorghum has a very widemore » range of composition, which depended on the specific sorghum cultivar as well as the growing conditions. The results of laboratory- and pilot-scale experiments indicated that a typical high-biomass sorghum variety performed very similarly to corn stover during the multi-step process required to convert biomass feedstocks to ethanol; yields of ethanol for sorghum were very similar to the corn stover used as a control in these experiments. Based on multi-year agronomic data and theoretical ethanol production, sorghum can achieve more than 1,300 gallons of ethanol per acre given the correct genetics and environment. In summary, sorghum may be a compelling dedicated bioenergy crop that could help provide a major portion of the feedstocks required to produce renewable domestic transportation fuels.« less
 [1] ;  [2]
  1. Univ. of California, Parlier, CA (United States). Kearney Research and Extension Center
  2. National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States). Process and Analytical Engineering Group
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
National Sorghum Producers Association, Lubbock, TX (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
Contributing Orgs:
National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Country of Publication:
United States
09 BIOMASS FUELS sorghum; biomass; feedstock; composition; ethanol; bioenergy; cellulose; hemicellulose; glucan; xylan