As researchers in the U.S. consider alternative biofuel sources beyond grain feedstocks such as corn and soybeans, everything from alligator fat to herbivore excrement is being subjected to study.
Currently these initiatives are largely local in scope and are targeting waste generated by meat processing. Amtrak, is now running a daily train service from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas which uses 20 percent biodiesel rendered from local beef fat debris from slaughterhouses. The beef fat-derived biodiesel, given the availability of raw material, is proving a cheaper option than ordinary diesel, both in cost and carbon emissions, worldcrops.com website reported.
More exotic animal fat feedstocks are also being researched. University of Louisiana scientists recently published research indicating that the state’s 7,500 tons of alligator fat, thrown annually into landfill as a byproduct of alligator meat processing, could be converted into approximately 1.25 million gallons of biofuel with an energy content of 91 percent, as great as petroleum-based diesel.
Farther afield, Royal DSM researchers, examining the digestive processes and excrement of elephants determined that their stomachs’ enzymes could break down sugars that normally remain in the cellulose structure of plant cells. Research determined that combining elephant enzymes with another, compost derived enzyme allowed 90 percent of biomass, such as maize stalks or wheat straw, which is currently largely discarded, to be converted into ethanol at a rate nearly double those currently achieved.