24 März 2009

Canada: Breeding Hemp as a Crop for Bioenergy

Stonehedge Bio-Resources to build hemp processing facility

According to a report in the Biomass Magazine, the Canadian company Stonehedge Bio-Resources Inc. is looking to convert hemp into a viable biomass energy crop. In January, the Ontario-based company received $2 million from U.K. investors to construct an industrial hemp processing facility in Northumberland County, Ontario.

According to John Baker, founder and chairman of Stonehedge Bio-Resources, the company has been involved in the plant genetics and breeding of various hemp species for more than a decade, and has been commercializing the crop for myriad industrial uses for the past three years. “We have found that hemp has multiple uses as a biomass crop,” he said. “It can also sequester carbon and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.”

Baker anticipates breaking ground for the facility in April or May. Commissioning and start-up could begin within 12 to 15 months after that. The plant may employ up to 27 people within the next two years, he added.

Hemp straw would be sourced from an area of 15,000 to 20,000 acres within a 60-mile radius of the processing facility. The company’s equipment would be capable of processing approximately seven dry tons per hour, depending on the amount of shifts and downtime needed during its first year of operation. “We are aiming at an output of about 40,000 to 50,000 tons of hemp derived from 17,000 acres in our first year of operation, but it will take time to ramp up,” Baker said.

According to Baker, hemp is a desirable biomass feedstock due to its variety of applications in different industries. It could serve as a replacement for pink fiberglass insulation in houses; it could be used to produce “hemcrete,” a biobased masonry composite containing hemp and concrete; and it could be a biodegradable and recyclable fiber-based composite in automobile door panels.

Baker said the company will initially market hemp in Canada as a pelletized fuel that could be implemented at coal-fired plants looking to reduce their carbon footprints. Stonehedge Bio-Resources may also look into hemp as a cellulosic ethanol feedstock due to the plant’s inherently high cellulosic value.

Source: Biomass Magazine, 2009-03.


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