Cane waste, raw material to generate energy

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The project is led by the Sugarcane Research Center (Cenicaña), whose task allows the country to be on the international radar.

On the road to diversification, for some years the Colombian agribusiness of the cane has set its sights on agricultural crop residues (RAC) to produce briquettes / pellets in order to generate electricity.

The project is led by the Sugarcane Research Center of Colombia (Cenicaña), and whose task allows the country to be on the radar internationally, since the implementation of briquetting technologies would open the doors of the European market, one of the main importers of products densified from biomass.

The scientists of the mentioned center affirm that the briquetting allows that the behavior of the combustion processes is similar to that of the coal, facilitating its use in the boilers of the factories of the mills.

Since 2010 the research center began to develop equipment for densification and in 2016 technologies such as briquetting were evaluated looking for the RAC, with a density of 21 kg / m3, to have characteristics similar to commercial briquettes: between 700 to 800 kg / m3.

After several experimental evaluations, RAC briquettes with a density of 1100 kg / m3 were achieved. Currently Cenicaña is also evaluating the production of RAC pellets, whose diameter ranges between 4 and 8 mm.

In the evaluations, RAC briquettes had comparable values ​​to commercial wood or wheat straw in their diametral resistance, calorific value and ignition and combustion times.

Although these characteristics are associated with the handling, storage and performance of briquettes as fuel, achieving them is an important advance in the search for added value to the by-products of agribusiness.

In addition, from these investigations today it is known how each manufacturing parameter affects these characteristics.

“The understanding of the RAC briquetting process will allow to continue with the selection of technologies at pilot and commercial scale to evaluate the production of briquettes and their performance as fuel in the boilers of the sector”, explained Julián Lucuara, mechanical engineer of the Cenicaña Factory Process Program.

The RAC is mainly composed of three types of polymers: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin, which through biochemical processes can be transformed to obtain a material with a high content of fermentable sugars to produce ethanol or other compounds.

So that the Colombian agribusiness of sugarcane moves towards the production of second generation ethanol from the RAC, Cenicaña works on adapting methodologies to quantify the structural carbohydrates, ashes and moisture present in the cane residues.

Experimentally, cellulose to glucose conversion was achieved up to 65%, which demonstrates the good response of commercial yeasts for the production of organic or bioplastic acids using enzymatic hydrolyzed substrate of crop residues.

The investigation will continue with the evaluation of different conditions to maximize cellulose hydrolysis and obtain hydrolysates with a high content of fermentable sugars that can be transformed into ethanol.

Although the results of these investigations are still preliminary and many stages have to be overcome so that the use of the RAC on a commercial scale is a reality, the truth is that the Colombian cane industry has the potential to participate in new markets and continue to provide sustainable solutions to society

Cali Valle del Cauca

Source: BRIEFCASE. JANUARY 31, 2020 - 08:44 PM
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