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  #1  
Old 08/18/08, 03:34 PM
 
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cattail ethanol

Last week there was a guest on public radio who talked about all the different sources of ethanol. One thing that caught my attention was using cattails. According to the guest you can produce 7,000 gallons per acre.

I know there's a lot of starch in the roots from past reading. I suppose it would also be possible to power the root digger by converting the leaves to biogas.

He was hawking his book so I'm not taking his word as gospel but it sounds pretty promising just on the fuel production alone. Then when you add that cattails clean wastewater and could be used to clean livestock waste and floodwater along floodplains I can see some real promise.

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  #2  
Old 08/19/08, 12:10 AM
 
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You do know how much the enviro folks are on the warpath to save wetlands & cattails in this state? There is _no way_ those folk will ever let you harvest a cattail pond for energy production!

It would be worse than burning coal for electricity, and they are stopping the Big Stone II coal plant, you can not believe these people would let you harvest a cattail out of a wetland for power production?

I mean, fine idea on paper, I'd be for it, but no point putting any work into it - it will be banished forever.

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  #3  
Old 08/19/08, 12:21 AM
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the enviro folks let you harvest soybeans, corn and wheat. why would a cattail farm be any different? i think it has great potential for water purification alone and it could be a process that is incorporated into many livestock operations and sewage treatment facilities.

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  #4  
Old 08/19/08, 06:51 AM
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I think it would be a great idea unless they grow the cattails like any other crop. What will they do to keep other plants from growing in the cattail field? Around here they spray for weeds, and use chemical fertilizers. Besides the fields they use weed killer around the perimeter, this gets rid of broadleaf plants. Do we really want that in our water supply? I don't think there will be much water purification going on.

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  #5  
Old 08/19/08, 09:01 AM
 
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The cattails would be grown in shallow pond built specifically for that purpose. Very few plants can outcompete cattails in cattail habitat.

I can see a large number of environmental benefits to cattail production. They are already being used to do the final treatment of wastewater. The water leaving the marshes is drinking water quality. One thing that caught my eye is that cattails marshes eliminate nitrogen from water by the process of denitrification. That takes place in the tiny little anoxic spaces within the marsh. Nitrogen is THE source problem of the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

I'm as green as they come and I believe that cattail production would be promoted by environmental groups. The only question is if it makes a profit on just ethanol alone. It would be harder to convince people that reduced flooding, cleaner water, reduced Dead Zone, etc. have economic value and how to include those benefits to cattail production.

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  #6  
Old 08/19/08, 09:10 AM
 
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It cost me about $5 a linear foot to build my 5' tall 3:1 slope dikes in 2001. They required special construction so even with the high price of fuel now constructing 2' tall dikes on a level site wouldn't even be $5 a linear foot. The water doesn't need to be more than 1" deep for cattails to thrive.

I could see the roots being harvested with some sort of digger on floatation tires or better yet rubber tracks. Since cattails grow in shallow water, digging roots in waterlogged sandy soil wouldn't take much energy. I can force my hand into my dikes to pull the roots.

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  #7  
Old 08/21/08, 09:21 AM
 
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This looks interesting.

http://www.ethanolproducer.com/artic...1004&q=&page=4

"Texas A&M and Texas State University have been looking into the feasibility of cattail ethanol feedstocks, according to Korth. Also, in southern Texas, 20 cattail growers have created a production design of their own. Korth's WATER organization designs cattail-to-ethanol stills that produce the renewable fuel at 50 gallons per hour."

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  #8  
Old 08/21/08, 08:00 PM
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I think we will see a viable source of biofuel.Brazil has one.With a lot of caveats,but it works there.So it CAN be done,as they are doing it.

Wonder if this is one of them?

7000 gals per acre,shouldnt be hard to prove if thats possible or not.

Anybody heard any news on algae farms lately?

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  #9  
Old 08/21/08, 09:04 PM
 
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As studied as this plant has been there should be calculations on how many pounds/tons of starch and/or sugar per acre cattails store each season. From that point it should be pretty cookbook to convert that number to gallons of ethanol.

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  #10  
Old 08/23/08, 12:38 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mightybooboo View Post
7000 gals per acre,shouldnt be hard to prove if thats possible or not.
I believe cellulosic ethanol is in it's very early stages, and barely energy positive at this time.

So, any such figures as the 7000 gal is based on theoretical values of total sugars in the plant, with top yields of total plant matter assumed as 'always'.

While that does give a valuable number to shoot for down the road, it is far from a realistic actual number of what can be produced in the near future. No allowance is made for inefficiencies, bad crops, etc.

'Today' gallons produced might be 5-10 per acre; in 5-10 years we might be up to 500 gallons per acre.

As the process develops & improves, perhaps in 20 years we can get to 1/2 or more of the theoretical possibility.

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  #11  
Old 08/24/08, 07:24 AM
 
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Wouldn't yield numbers for using cattail starch and sugar be more reliable than those using cellulose since ethanol plants are already using them?

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  #12  
Old 08/24/08, 08:52 AM
 
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I would think working man-made wetlands for cat-tail production and harvesting would eat-up a lot of the energy that might be derives from the cat-tails. Where will the extra water be found?

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  #13  
Old 08/24/08, 05:34 PM
 
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The water could come from wastewater plants or even animal feedlot effluent or floodwater could be temporarily captured, cleaned and then released after the flood. One million gallons would flood 18 acres 2" deep. My little fish farm uses 15+ million a year in this drought. That would flood 270 acres of cattails. Of course there's evapotranspiration but there's also rain too.

It only takes a minimum of 2" of water to grow cattails and once they are established it would only be necessary to harvest the rhizomes and possibly the lower stalks. They would regenerate from the root fragments left over after harvesting or the billions of seeds they produce. The leaves could be harvested for bedding or possibly biogas production. It should be better bedding than straw if you don't include the seed head. The inside of the leaf is spongy and stays fluffed up better than straw. I don't think harvesting would be any more energy consumptive than harvesting corn or any other crop. A rubber tracked harvester should work just fine on most soils. I've pulled lots of rhizomes out of the my ponds with my bare hands and it doesn't take that much energy.

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  #14  
Old 09/02/08, 11:54 AM
 
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You are harvesting a very wet plant. So you need to haul more water around (within the cattail), at the huge volume of biomass we need. This is not a small issue if you realize the volume of material we are talking about. Storage of wet product also is a problem. Fuel producing plants need to work all year around, so a supply of cattails needs to be available all year long. But - you only get one, maybe 2 cuttings of cattails a year. Will you need to dry all these wet plants down as we do with grass hay for livestock these days? There are many problems with harvesting, hauling, and storing wet plants such as cattails.

Straw needs to be absorbant, not spongy. don't think it will make a better straw. Minor detail, I should think it would be used up in the conversion, and any fluff left over would be used to create heat for the plant. All that would be left is ash - fair fertilizer for growing crops.

Whatever biomass we use, we are talking millions and millions of acres. I don't think the tree huggers will allow us, in the end, to create more or modify exisiting wetlands to handle millions of acres of cattail production - we would disrupt some natural thing somehow.

I'm not against the idea; I just see social, ecconomic, and practical limits to it becoming widespread. These issues will be more difficult than actually making the science work, in my opinion.

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  #15  
Old 09/02/08, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by rambler View Post
I'm not against the idea; I just see social, economic, and practical limits to it becoming widespread. These issues will be more difficult than actually making the science work, in my opinion.

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I suspect you are quite right in that thinking.
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  #16  
Old 09/02/08, 02:59 PM
 
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I agree that there are things besides science to be considered. The important thing to remember is that it doesn't have to be THE solution.

There are enough environmental positives to this that I'll be surprised if it doesn't get legs. Actually it already has gotten started in TX. A group of farmers are already producing cattail ethanol I believe.

I would guess that a plant would use cattail starch and sugars during the summer and corn sugar in the winter.

I was thinking that cattail leaves would work better than straw for bedding because they don't absorb water as readily as straw and thus they don't compact into waterlogged bedding as quickly.

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  #17  
Old 09/03/08, 09:29 PM
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I believe this is putting the cart before the horse. The key is reducing demand. As stated above the amount of fuel needed to meet current demand would require HUGE amounts of biomass and all the logistical problems associated with that. Developing dependable hybrid vehicles and efficient mass transit options should be the first step.

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  #18  
Old 09/03/08, 10:39 PM
 
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I live 5 miles out of a rural town of small population, next biggest town in over 30 miles away. Studies have shown the town is too small to support mass transit - it barely supports the one taxicab in town.

My state has decided to take 40% of the gas tax we pay and use it for mass transit in the Twin Cities area. So, hey, while my rural roads continue to crumble, and a road upgrade that was supposed to start in 1982 got put off it beyond their 2018 planning stage - you understand this overcrowded 2 lane state highway is going to be more than 36 years beyond obsolete??? - they are taking the taxes I am charged & shipping 40% of the money up to the 'Cities for their mass transit uses - something I have no use for.

So, mass transit is kind of a really bad word for me.

I understand it can be useful, and can save roads & fuel and all that.

but, let politicians get hold of something, and it no longer works the way it should....

As several have mentioned on this site over the years, small diesel cars have gotten better fuel milage than hybred vehicles - at far less cost and far less footprint. Designing 2 or 3 power systems for one small vehicle is real 'gee-wizz' but not always the best option for real use.

I don't mean to be so contrairian. I like gee-wizz products, love the engineering behind hybreds, etc.

Just, seems no matter what one wants to try, there are folks who are against it.

My little town is planning to put up wind generators, instead of a coal plant to make electricity. Now the land owners are all in a funk, don't want the windmills located by them.

Every good idea seems to be shot down, and every poor plan seems to go forward with lots of fanfare and negative results.

Kinda seems all a worthless spiral to nowhere.

I like the idea of cattails - or grass, or cornstalks for fuel use. I'm hoping the windmills get built - they will be 5 miles from me or less. (Not allowed to put them on the river bluff where the wind blows the most - would ruin the view from the town.... But they can take 217 acres of farmland for them - farmland is worthless dontchaknow?)

Seems we go in circles, no one cares but everyone needs to do something, let's take more money to do something.

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  #19  
Old 09/04/08, 01:04 PM
 
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Originally Posted by AC Spectre View Post
I believe this is putting the cart before the horse. The key is reducing demand. As stated above the amount of fuel needed to meet current demand would require HUGE amounts of biomass and all the logistical problems associated with that. Developing dependable hybrid vehicles and efficient mass transit options should be the first step.
I couldn't agree more! Negawatts or increased transportation efficiency are the low hanging fruit and the most probably profitable.
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  #20  
Old 09/05/08, 02:51 PM
 
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Well the auto industry has known for years we can cut our use of foreign oil completely by switching to fuel efficient diesel autos...Half of the cars in europe burn diesel...America was also slow to produce the low sulphur fuel..

Advances in bio diesel from algae mean that we realistically can switch over and 3/4 of all new vehicles could burn clean sulphur free bio diesel...With greatly reduced emissions... we would consume 40% less fuel overall and eliminate all oil exports...

Switching over to diesel autos...And yeah electric cars will increase... and there will be the diesel hybrids that start to realistically push 100 MPG...And making the fuel here out of algae... This means that corn fields will not be used to make fuel...And the price of food world wide would not be affected...

The demand for Oil and natural gas will decline in America and the price will level off and drop some... making electricity cheaper.

All of this would start with sound decision making and a reduction in our consumption... switching to diesel to fuel autos would result in 40% less fuel consumed... that would start the chain reaction of energy prices dropping....... Then we generate all our own diesel here with clean low pollution bio diesel from algae...and we end oil imports forever.

It all starts with a reduction in consumption and then using real world solutions to our problems... instead of waiting 20 years for pie in the sky hydrogen.. why not make our own cheap clean bio diesel that does not take farmland or food away from our tables.

the boone pickens plan shows that wind power can generate 20 % of our electrical needs in America... That part of his plan is correct... and brilliant...

We can generate 20% of our electricity with wind and replace 20% that is being currently generated by polluting coal....Absolutely brilliant plan if you ask me...

trying to convert all the cars in america to run on natural gas is not feasible...Natural gas is more efficiently used to generate electricity than to power automobiles...And it is efficient in home heating.

Bio diesel is the answer.... It is the answer because it is carbon neutral... when you make bio diesel with algae the algae consume massive amounts of carbon to make the fuel... So when you burn it diesel it becomes neutral...As the carbon from its burning has already been absorbed when it was created...

And the great thing about algae bio diesel is that we can feed the algae raw sewage and dirty water... even contaminated salt water.. it will clean and purify our water and the by product is clean sulphur free bio diesel.

This is a much better use for our sewage instead of dumping it into our oceans and killing marine life....We can use it to generate a clean bio fuel...and the byproduct of this will be clean water...

This makes so much sense from every angle it easily single handedly can solve all of our energy problems forever!

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