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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Compatibility of High-Moisture Storage for Biochemical Conversion of Corn Stover: Storage Performance at Laboratory and Field Scales


Wet anaerobic storage of corn stover can provide a year-round supply of feedstock to biorefineries meanwhile serving an active management approach to reduce the risks associated with fire loss and microbial degradation. Wet logistics systems employ particle size reduction early in the supply chain through field-chopping which removes the dependency on drying corn stover prior to baling, expands the harvest window, and diminishes the biorefinery size reduction requirements. Over two harvest years, in-field forage chopping was capable of reducing over 60% of the corn stover to a particle size of 6 mm or less. Aerobic and anaerobic storage methods were evaluated for wet corn stover in 100 L laboratory reactors. Of the methods evaluated, traditional ensiling resulted in <6% total solid dry matter loss (DML), about five times less than the aerobic storage process and slightly less than half that of the anaerobic modified-Ritter pile method. To further demonstrate the effectiveness of the anaerobic storage, a field demonstration was completed with 272 dry tonnes of corn stover; DML averaged <5% after 6 months. Assessment of sugar release as a result of dilute acid or dilute alkaline pretreatment and subsequent enzymatic hydrolysis suggested that when anaerobic conditions were maintained in storage, sugar release was either similar to or greater than as-harvested material depending on the pretreatment chemistry used. This study demonstrates that wet logistics systems offer practical benefits for commercial corn stover supply, including particle size reduction during harvest, stability in storage, and compatibility with biochemical conversion of carbohydrates for biofuel production. Evaluation of the operational efficiencies and costs is suggested to quantify the potential benefits of a fully-wet biomass supply system to a commercial biorefinery.

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