Laboratory and field-scale studies of corn stover degradation, and implications for feedstock cost to lignocellulosic biorefineries

Bearden, Rachel
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Industrial producers of biorenewable products require an economically stable biomass feedstock in order to compete with petroleum based processing. All components of the supply chain: harvest, transportation, and storage must each be implemented at the lowest cost. This research is focused on reducing the storage cost of baled corn stover. Field-edge storage of baled corn stover may be cheaper than aggregated satellite storage, because field-edge storage eliminates material cost to level, drain, and lay a rock base on undeveloped land. Furthermore, field-edge storage eliminates transportation to a satellite location, significantly reducing the total transportation cost. Offsetting these beneficial cost savings is the potential degradation of field-edge storage, due to lessened protection.

Chapters 3 and 4 of this writing focus on evaluating the tradeoff of reduced protection in terms of biomass quality and degradation. Environmentally controlled furnaces were used to simulate the degradation of baled corn stover and evaluate the impact that two rate influencing factors of microbial metabolism have on material quality. Production scale stacks were monitored to evaluate commercial scale degradation within field edge storage for various methods of coverage. Dynamic trends of degradation were monitored using a thermistor temperature logging system and real time vertical temperature profiles were generated to evaluate the spread of microbial activity. Weather data and moisture sampling found that temperature shifts coincided with rainfall events and increased moisture content. Deconstruction of the stacks generated final moisture profiles and permitted assessments of dry matter loss after 1 year of storage. The trends and profiles developed from these findings support recommended best practices to limit microbial degradation in storage of baled corn stover.

Biomass, Cost, Degradation, Feedstock, Lignocellulosic, Storage