USDA predicts total wheat production will be 2.1 billion bushels and pegged U.S. soybean production at nearly 3 billion bushels.
While most U.S. soybeans are used for food-grade oil and livestock feed, there also is demand from the energy sector. According to the National Biodiesel Board, the 500 million gallons of largely soy-based biodiesel produced last year, displaced 20 million barrels of petroleum.
Of course, other bio-based fuels also are helping to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil. This week, in the nation's top corn and soybean producing state of Iowa, officials pondered another homegrown fuel.
One company looking to tap into the renewable diesel fuel market is the Ontario, British Columbia -based Dynamotive Energy Systems. Through a proprietary process wood chips from the maple floor industry are heated to make a diesel oil replacement product called BioOil.
Already being used to help fire the boilers at flooring plants in Canada, Dynamotive is looking to increase use of BioOil around the world. The most recent potential customer is the State of Iowa. At the capitol complex in Des Moines this week the state is testing the innovative wood-based fuel in one of its boilers.
Tom Bouchard, Dynamotive Energy Systems: "We don't want to get into residential boilers has ph of 2.5 and it is slightly acidic, so you have to make sure that your tanks and pipes and your burners are set up with stainless steel and the right kind of gaskets so it's compatible with our bio oil, which is all very standard stuff but you don't want to get into thousands of conversions you want to get into a few conversions that take up a lot of volume, which is why were here at the State of Iowa looking to trial and then move forward with other boilers here."
Twice as many gallons of the renewable fuel must be burned to equal the same thermal value as one gallon of #2 diesel. Despite the increase, the tally for BioOil will still be 10 percent below the annual cost of normal diesel fuel.
Tom Bouchard, Dynamotive Energy Systems:"...there's no moral hazard associated with food crops with our raw materials, it's cheaper than number 2 fuel, and if there's carbon credits to be gathered you can use this for carbon credit trading. So when you go and you have that pitch then it becomes, how do we then take what you're doing today from an infrastructure point of view and run tests to switch to BioOil."
The proprietary process is optimized for wood chips but successful experiments by Dynamotive scientists have been done on corn stalks, palm fronds, sugarcane and switchgrass.
To make the product more cost effective, Dynamotive plans to construct processing plants in close proximity to cellulosic biomass sources. There are already plans to build bio-reactors in Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana.
Testing with the capitol complex boiler should be completed next week under the watchful eye of state officials. With data in-hand a decision will be made to see if Iowa will be the first state government to purchase BioOil in large quantities.