Agrosil Energy to grow commercial-scale miscanthus

By Lisa Gibson
Colorado-based Agrosil Energy LLC has begun large-scale growing operations of Miscanthus x giganteus for use in producing heat and power, or liquid biofuels. The energy crop has been used for years in the U.K. and Europe, and Agrosil is in the lead position for commercial production in the U.S., according to Tom Harrington, Agrosil vice president of energy crops.

Harrington has been involved with miscanthus for several years, and Agrosil's process has been approaching commercialization for about two years, he said. Growing miscanthus involves propagating rhizomes on a smaller scale and transplanting them to large commercial acreage. Because the sterile hybrid produces no seeds, it is grown by planting rhizomes or transplant plugs that have been vegetatively produced.

Farmers in Missouri, Kentucky, Illinois and Kansas, who have production contracts with Agrosil, will receive plants and specialized equipment to plant a total of 20,000 acres in 2010, he said. Land for planting was chosen based on agronomic data developed in Europe, at the University of Illinois and other universities.

Custom harvesting crews and machines will harvest the cane and then transport it to a central facility for upgrading according to customer requirements, which could include turning it into pellets, condensed bales or cubes. "We can put it in whatever feedstock format conversion facilities require," Harrington said.

He expected the crops to yield about 15 tons per acre, with the first harvest in the spring of 2012. Long-term contracts for fuel delivery will begin in 2013.

Miscanthus lowers carbon dioxide by sequestering carbon in the rhizomes and by reducing combustion emissions.