Using Corn Stover, Wheat Stalks to Create Bio-Based Chemicals Biofuels

The Sarnia Observer (February 10, 2015) -- Corn and wheat stalks will be gaining some sweet value in the future, thanks to the creation of Ontario's newest co-op.

A small group of farmers from Ontario's corn belt area of Chatham-Kent, Sarnia-Lambton and Middlesex have come together to form the Cellulosic Sugar Producers' Co-operative.

The goal is turn corn stover the leaves, stalks and other parts of the plant left over after corn kernels have been harvested and wheat straw into sugar for use in bio-based chemicals and biofuels.

This will reduce dependence on non-renewable resources as well as provide new revenue streams for what are currently considered agricultural waste products or under-used resources.

Murray McLaughlin, executive director of Sarnia-based Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, told QMI Agency recently that the objective is to see a commercial plant developed by 2018 that will likely located in Lambton.

Basically, we're going to evaluate a number of processes that are being developed to process biomass corn stover and wheat straw into sugars, with the whole premise of trying to determine what might be the best technology for our region, he said.

Its hoped this will result in being about to identify two or three technologies that would have the ability to produce sugars at the quality that is needed, McLaughlin said.

Forming the farmer co-op is an important step in establishing a new supply chain for a commercial cellulosic sugar plant.

McLaughlin said in a written release Tuesday that while most members are currently in the Ontario corn belt, we'd like to see this eventually go across the province.

There will be more than one mill needed in the future, he added.

He said in a previous interview that what a plant would cost depends on the technology used. He added a rough estimate would be between $50 million and $100 million.

Using corn stover and wheat stalk provides the quality of sugar at an affordable price, McLaughlin said, adding, quality and price are critical.

As long as we can meet those two criteria, and the supply that's needed, we'll have a ready market, I think, he said.

And getting sugar from corn stalks and wheat stalks takes us away from the whole food-versus-fuel debates, McLaughlin said.

- QMI Agency