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Grain sorghum ethanol could qualify as advanced biofuel

By Kris Bevill | May 31, 2012

The U.S. EPA will soon be seeking comments on the recently completed greenhouse gas (GHG) life-cycle analysis the agency conducted on ethanol produced from grain sorghum, which could qualify as an advanced biofuel under the renewable fuel standard (RFS) in certain circumstances.

If finalized as proposed, the EPA would consider ethanol produced from grain sorghum using biogas and combined heat and power (CHP) at a dry mill plant as an advanced biofuel, allowing its production to generate D5 renewable identification numbers (RINs) that can be used to meet advanced biofuel RFS volume requirements. Ethanol produced from grain sorghum using natural gas or biogas as energy inputs would generate D6 RINs, which is the category for conventional biofuels such as corn ethanol.

According to the EPA, its life-cycle analysis modeling concluded that when a combination of biogas and CHP is used to produce ethanol from grain sorghum, the process’s estimated life-cycle GHG emissions is 53 percent less than the baseline for gasoline. The RFS requires biofuels to reduce emissions by at least 50 percent compared to the gasoline baseline in order to qualify as an advanced biofuel. When natural gas or biogas is used to produce ethanol from grain sorghum, the lifecycle GHG emissions associated with that process offer a 23 percent reduction compared to gasoline. The RFS requires biofuels to reduce GHG emissions by at least 20 percent compared to gasoline in order to generate D6 RINs under the conventional biofuels category.

Growth Energy CEO Tom Buis noted in a statement that, if approved, the EPA’s data on grain sorghum will signify the first time that grain ethanol qualifies as an advanced biofuel. Some members of the ethanol industry have urged the EPA to allow certain corn ethanol processes to qualify the fuel as an advanced biofuel but the EPA has yet to approve modifications for corn ethanol. Regardless, Buis said the EPA’s analysis for grain sorghum is “a tremendous accomplishment” and proves the importance of the RFS. “The potential for qualifying as an advanced biofuel is a testament to the ingenuity and competitiveness of U.S. ethanol production,” he said in the statement. “Ethanol continues to prove itself as a more efficient fuel.”

The EPA will accept comments for 30 days after the Notice of Available Data is published in the Federal Register. The EPA has made a pre-publication version of the NODA available which includes instructions for submitting comments.

 

 

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