Patrón Ethanol? Cuervo Biofuels? Mexico Investigates Agave as Potential Biofuel Feedstock

agave plants photo

photo by Ani Carrington

In the past few weeks stories about new potential ethanol feedstocks have come rolling in with a predictable regularity. As the realization that converting crop lands from food to fuel production probably isn't such a good idea begins to sink in, more and more non-food crops are investigated. It's interesting then that Mexico has begun small-scale testing of the viability of using Agave to produce ethanol.

Renewable Energy World reports that, according to preliminary estimates, Agave tequilana weber could yield up to 2,000 gallons of ethanol per acre per year. That figure could rise to 12,000-18,000 gallons per year if the plant's cellulose were used.

High Sugar Content Just One of Agave's Benefits
Prof. Remigio Madrigal Lugo, one of the researchers investigating Agave:

High quality agaves are very good feedstock material for biofuel...for the following characteristics: high total sugar density and content; high weight of the fruit and stems; cultivation and harvest cycles of six years; high density of plants per hectare; genetic diversity and high adaptability, low water requirements; CO2 and capture; methane metabolism; soil retention; plant nutrition; products from inulin; and low maintenance during cultivation.

Wouldn't Compete With Prime Agricultural Land
One of the other added benefits of Agave is its hardiness. Arturo Velez, the originator of the agave-to-ethanol project:
Agave thrives in semi-arid wastelands — 50% of Mexico — needs no watering or agrochemicals, requires very scarce field labor and grows well in any type of soil, even highly degraded and steep terrains, because it takes nitrogen from the air. One-third of the world's habitable land is arid and semi-arid where agave can be cultivated. Some agave species accept temperature ranges from -14ºC to 50ºC.

I can see the headline now, "Tequila prices rise as agave used for ethanol. Mass riots reported in some college towns."

via :: Renewable Energy World
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