Barley grain can be used to produce ethanol, says scientists with USDA

In Washington, Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service have found that barley grain can be used to produce ethanol, and the leftover byproducts-barley straw, hulls, and dried distillers grains (DDGS)-can be used to produce an energy-rich oil called bio-oil. The bio-oil could then be used either for transportation fuels or for producing heat and power needed for the grain-to-ethanol conversion.  The barley work was conducted by several scientists at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center at Wyndmoor, Pa.   The researchers produced bio-oil from all three barley byproducts using a technology called “fast pyrolysis,” an intense burst of heat delivered in the absence of oxygen.  In the lab, a kilogram of barley straw and hulls yielded about half a kilogram of bio-oil with an energy content of about half that of No. 2 diesel fuel oil. The energy content of bio-oil made from barley DDGS, including DDGS contaminated with mycotoxins, which can’t be used to supplement livestock feed, was even higher, about two-thirds of the level in No. 2 diesel fuel oil. However, the bio-oil was more viscous and had a shorter shelf life than bio-oils produced from straw or hulls.  The process also created a solid byproduct called “biochar” that might improve the water-holding capacity and nutrient content of soils.

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