Aemetis harvesting biomass sorghum in California

By Aemetis | September 29, 2015

Aemetis Inc., an advanced renewable fuels and biochemicals company, announced the harvesting of 12- to 15- foot tall biomass sorghum grown in Central California that was produced using proprietary Nexsteppe seed genetics. Biomass Sorghum is a feedstock for low carbon advanced biofuels. The 20 acre demonstration crop of biomass sorghum was planted, grown, and harvested by Aemetis in approximately 90 days, validating the potential use of biomass crops for the production of lower-carbon, advanced biofuels or as a rotational crop in California. The water supply for the biomass sorghum crop was lower-quality pump water containing salts that typically damage crops.  The project was located in the western San Joaquin Valley which has received a low water allocation from state and federal sources for the past several years.
In addition to the biomass sorghum demonstration, Aemetis is also a participant in the California In-State Sorghum program (CISS) through a $3 million grant awarded by the California Energy Commission.  The CISS program combines research and market development to support the in-state growth of grain sorghum as a reliable low-carbon feedstock for California’s ethanol producers.  The CISS program has just completed the first harvest of grain sorghum at the CSU Fresno International Center for Water Technology.
Aemetis’ 60 million gallon per year ethanol plant in California converts sugars to biofuels.  Aemetis has a multi-year strategy to transition its biofuel production from traditional starch-based feedstocks to renewable biomass feedstocks that can produce low-carbon, advanced biofuels.  The transition is expected to evolve from corn to grain sorghum and ultimately to biomass sorghum and agricultural wastes available in California.
The federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) mandates up to 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuels per year by 2022. As of 2015, announced US cellulosic fuels producers’ nameplate capacity is about 85 million gallons. The cellulosic feedstock grown in the Central Valley can produce a variety of renewable fuels such as cellulosic ethanol, renewable diesel, renewable gasoline and renewable jet fuel.

“Nexsteppe’s sorghum is uniquely capable of growing a large amount of biomass in a short period of time using land that lacks quality water and where other plants may not grow,” said Eric McAfee, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Aemetis.  “Biomass sorghum can be converted to cellulosic ethanol or a variety of other renewable fuels through various available technologies. Aemetis has already processed about 80 million pounds of grain sorghum at its Keyes biorefinery, producing lower-carbon fuel ethanol.”

“Growing high-yield biomass sorghum in California is a milestone in the production of low-carbon feedstocks for biofuels,” stated Anna Rath, CEO of NexSteppe.  “NexSteppe is focused on designing industrial sorghum feedstock solutions to support the growing biobased economy.”