“Fuel for the new millenium”

Start-up opportunities exist in the fuel and fiber markets for the production of renewable feedstocks and environmentally friendly products and systems. There is a need for economical methods of producing and processing plant/crop-based renewable resources. This project addresses that need as well as our national dependence on non-renewable and foreign petroleum feedstocks for the industrial infrastructure.

Of economic concern are the ever-increasing costs associated with finding, transporting, protecting and delivering petroleum as a feedstock for transportation fuels, chemicals and manufacturing. An expanding population and concurrent increase in demand for consumer goods, coupled with a shrinking supply of petroleum reserves, will require new sources of raw feedstocks.

The project involves production, processing and marketing of products derived from the industrial crop, Hibiscus Cannabinus L., “kenaf”. With over fifty years of production development completed at Mississippi State University, Texas A&M University and others, kenaf is poised to become a major source of biomass for industry worldwide. Local production research has been underway for over forty years and kenaf has been proven a viable alternative crop for Arizona’s cotton farmlands. The innovation is to combine the production of ethanol with a state-of-the-art fiber separation process. By producing two high-value products at the same facility, the unit cost is reduced for each.

The proposed first processing step will produce a high-value 90-94% core-free fiber (33% of biomass). The second step of the process will convert the remaining 66% of biomass into ethyl alcohol and other chemicals using the latest state-of-the-art technology. The economic production of ethanol from cellulose feedstocks is a challenge that has been under intense research for many years; and great strides have been made recently. These developments enhance productivity enough to make the economic production of ethanol a reality when taken in context with this proposal. Several production and co-product opportunities exist which hold promise for future value added processing techniques.

Target production capacity will be to process 300,000 tons of kenaf into 100,000 tons of 90%-94% core free fiber and 5 – 20 million gallons of ethanol per year. In 1998 Arizona motorists consumed over 40 million gallons of ethanol. Consumption is predicted to double by population growth alone by 2020. Since there are no ethanol production facilities in Arizona, this will represent a 100% improvement to the local supply issue. There will be a further decrease in energy use across the board due to the short distance (50 miles) product will be shipped. A further incremental effect will also be realized on the national supply by reducing Arizona’s demand for imported ethanol. By perfecting agricultural practices, implementing this processing facility and developing markets, a renewable resource system for the nation’s future fuel and fiber requirements will be developed.

Markets for products of the system are transportation fuels, chemical co-products, oil absorbents, bio-remediation tools, insulation for cars and buildings, animal bedding and soil amendments. Markets for fiber are the automotive and composites industries, the pulp and recycled paper industries and the textile industry. Use the navigation bar directly below for this section.