The promise of second-generation ethanol production hinges on the ability to break down corn stover — the, tough, cellulose-dense husks, stalks and leaves left over after the harvest — and turn that inedible agricultural waste into fuel.
So building a new 2G plant in Hugoton, Kan., is a no-brainer, right? After all, there are cornfields as far as the eye can see in every direction.
Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
First off, while Abengoa’s new 2G plant is using corn stover to create ethanol at launch, it can actually be modified to take in a variety of cellulose-dense organic materials, including wheat straw, milo stubble and prairie grasses. Southwest Kansas has all these natural materials in abundance, allowing Abengoa to prove its technology on a variety of feedstocks through multiple harvests across multiple seasons.
So… it’s not all about the corn. In fact, it’s not even all about what’s in the fields.
Kansas’ biggest advantage to the bioenergy business may be its dry climate.
Naturally dry planting seasons mean more irrigated crops, which means more biomass per acre than might naturally occur. Even more beneficial: Kansas’ dry climate allows Abengoa to store the biomass for long periods in the open air with no ground preparation or cover required — and with very little natural decomposition.
The people of Kansas know there’s a lot more to the state than just corn — and now so do you.