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The potential of straw for the energy mix has been underestimated
Date:10/21/2013

Sustainable use

It must be taken into consideration that cereal straw plays an important role in the humus balance of soils. For this reason some of the straw must be left scattered on the agricultural land to prevent nutrients from being permanently extracted from the soil. To calculate the humus balance of soils three different methods of calculation were tested by the team of scientists. Depending upon the method of calculation used, 8, 10 or 13 megatons of straw can be used sustainably every year for energy production i.e. without causing any disadvantages to the soils or other forms of utilisation. "To our knowledge this is the first time that a study like this has been conducted for an EU country, demonstrating the potential of straw for a truly sustainable energy use, while taking into account the humus balance", stresses Prof. Daniela Thraen, scientist at the DBFZ and the UFZ.

Greenhouse gas balances depend on utilisation forms

It can thus be said that straw can contribute to the future energy mix. The degree to which it will contribute to greenhouse gas reduction however will depend on how the straw is used. A reduction compared to fossil fuels can be somewhere between 73 and 92 percent when using straw for the generation of heat, combined heat and power generation or as second-generation biofuel production. The different greenhouse gas balances cast a differentiated light on the EUs goal of covering ten percent of transportation sector's energy use by using biofuels. Once again the study emphasizes how the use of bioenergy needs to take into account various factors. Given the conditions prevalent in Germany, the use of straw in combined heat and power generation would be best for the climate. "Straw should therefore primarily be used in larger district heating stations and/or combined heat and power stations, but technology must be developed for an environmentally-friendly utilisation", stresses Dr. Armin Vetter from TLL,
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Contact: Tilo Arnhold
presse@ufz.de
49-341-235-1635
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ
Source:Eurekalert  

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