How much gas can Switch Grass switch, if we could switch gas with Switch Grass? Check out our analysis below the fold. In the mean time: Let the planting race begin.
Oklahoma Bioenergy Center (OBC), a state-initiative championed by Gov. Brad Henry, secured land to enable the planting of more than 1,100 acres of production-scale demonstration fields for cellulosic energy crops, such as switch grass and sorghum to contribute to the United States' bioenergy effort. Planting will take place within the next 45 days.
The critical piece of this effort is 1,000 acres of switch grass which will be planted near Guymon, Okla. in the state's panhandle. This switch grass field will be the first of its size anywhere in the world focused on biomass production. Additional acreage of sorghum and switch grass will be planted near Chickasha and Maysville in central Oklahoma.
By most reports, you'd think that the nation's future hangs on scale up of some secretly-developed, IPO-funded, car company-invested, chemical or biochemical cellulosic ethanol (Ceetoh) production process: whether the feed stock be wood chips or switch grass or whatever.
Chemical, physical, and biological feedstock processing, however, is only one segment of the "Ceetoh" product life cycle. Equally important will be the agricultural inputs and waste products, water consumption, land requirements, transportation of raw materials to processing centers, and processing plant effluents and emissions, for example.
Here's a predetermined outcome for the US 2009 budget.
Don't expect oil companies to be supportive of Congressional appropriations in support of Switch Grass if it is felt that small-scale processing operations will have to be distributed throughout the nation's 'grass belt.' That necessity would erode the traditional cost saving edge that massively scaled up petrochemical processing facilities can achieve.
The signal development for that particular scenario would be a request from the Texas delegation to underwrite development of grass pelletizing equipment and construction of "grass elevators" for regional storage of the pelletized switch-grass feedstock.
Image credit::Nassau County Museum, Mort Künstler, Oklahoma Land Rush - ©1988, Oil on canvas.