Monday, March 21, 2016

Pilot program in Virginia aims to turn oil from tobacco plants into non-fossil jet fuel

A Virginia company has created a pilot program to extract oils from tobacco plants "to create non-fossil jet fuel," Denice Thibodeau reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Danville-based Tyton BioEnergy Systems begins its process with whole tobacco plants, some as high as 15 feet, that are "fed into a hammermill to shred the plant into small pieces. Once chopped up, the plants travel through ducts to the processing lab, where the equipment separates out the various elements of the plants—a sugar syrup, oil, proteins and bio char." Peter Majeranowski, the company’s president, told Thibodeau, “There is zero waste. That’s a big advantage.” (Register & Bee photo by Matt Bell: Tyton BioEnergy Systems grows tobacco to be used in the lab, where the equipment separates out a sugar syrup, oil, proteins and bio char)

Connor Hartman, chief operating officer and vice president of business development, said "the difference between Tyton’s process and more traditional biomass processing techniques is that there is no pretreatment required and far fewer processing steps," Thibodeau writes. "The plants have no nicotine, are not grown to taste good as a smoking product and are disease resistant. Different types of tobacco plants are bred for different uses." Hartman said "an acre of tobacco raised for high-sugar output can produce three times more sugar than an acre of corn, making it an excellent source for ethanol."

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