When we think of feedstocks for biofuels, generally we think of harvesting something (corn, switchgrass, etc) that we grew in a field. But there is cellulose in all kinds of things, from newspaper to banana peels to, that's right, telephone poles.
Canadian biofuel company Enerkem is looking for a plentiful, cheap and interesting source for it's cellulose, and they've decided that telephone poles might be a good bet. In fact, telephone poles are what biofuels companies are starting to call "negative cost feedstocks" or anything that you get paid to take away.
Enerkem has a thermo-chemical process that turns wood into ethanol. And though old telephones are less ideal than new wood, because they contain various treatment chemicals, they're perfectly sutable for the process.
The plant will be turning old telephone poles into about 1.3 million gallons of ethanol per year after it goes online in a couple of months.
Of course, these negative cost feedstocks are only going to last so long, and won't be useful on a significant scale. But for helping cellulosic ethanol companies get their start and begin to scale up their solutions, they're perfect.
written by Marie-Helene Labrie, February 04, 2009
written by Rob Mida, February 16, 2009
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