Biomass gasification is being considered as a possible technology for converting 60 million acres of Texas brush into biofuel, according to Dr. Jim Ansley, Texas AgriLife Research rangeland ecologist in Vernon.

A study using an adiabatic bed gasifier to convert mesquite and redberry juniper species foundin the Southern Great Plains into usable bioenergy gases was conducted by Ansley and Dr. Kalyan Annamalai, Paul Pepper Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Coal and Biomass Energy Laboratory, Texas Engineering Experiment Station at Texas A&M University in College Station.

The team also included graduate students Wei Chen, Dustin Eseltine and Siva Thanapal in College Station, and Dr. Mustafa Mirik, AgriLife Research associate scientist at Vernon.

The first published paper on this study, which appeared at www.elsevier.com/locate/energy with Chen as lead author, determined the heating value of mesquite and juniper, as well as the effects of wood chip particle size and moisture content on gas composition and yields, Ansley said.

The study foundsome of the basic thermal properties of these solid fuels, including chemical composition and heat values, and various heating factors affected syngas yields, he said. Syngas, a mixture of carbon monoxide, ethane and hydrogen, can be used as a substitute for natural gas. A solid by-product of the conversion process, tar, may also be used for fuel or other chemical products.

With limitations for growing bioenergy crops on land normally used for growing food, Ansley is looking to the vast supply of unwanted woody plants on rangelands as a possible energy source. The down side would be increased transportation costs, because of the trees’ lower biomass density. One option might beto develop small-scale, localized gasification facilities to convert the treesinto usable bioenergy.