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Everyday grass could provide green fuel

A five year research project has come up with a way of generating green energy from a humble everyday grass.

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Dr Richard Lord, Reader in Environmental Geochemistry and Sustainability, (left) with Richard Green, BioReGen Project Officer.

Dr Richard Lord, Reader in Environmental Geochemistry and Sustainability, (left) with Richard Green, BioReGen Project Officer.


Researchers at the University’s Contaminated Land and Water Centre began the project in 2004 to see which plants could best be grown on brownfield sites as a way of improving unsightly blots on the landscape.

Now, the research by the BioReGen (Biomass, Remediation, re-Generation) project team has revealed that reed canary grass can be turned into an excellent fuel for biomass power stations and, on a smaller scale, boilers in buildings like schools.

The native British grass is turned into bricks and pellets. These not only burn well but also don’t add to greenhouse gases or contribute to global warming.

The team experimented with four types of plant, willow trees, the current favourite for biomass power stations, and the miscanthus, reed canary and switch grasses.

Tests were carried out on sites around the region with work supported by a 1.2m Euros grant from the European Union’s LIFE-Environment research programme.

Significant for areas like Teesside
Dr Richard Lord, Reader in Environmental Geochemistry and Sustainability, said: ‘We have narrowed the plants down to reed canary grass because it grows well on poor soils and contaminated industrial sites. That is significant because in areas like Teesside, and many similar ones around the country, there are a lot of marginal or brownfield sites on which reed canary grass can be grown.

‘Selecting such sites means that the grass can be grown without taking away land which would otherwise be used in food production, a key concern for those involved in the biomass and biofuel sectors.’

Having reached maturity, which takes two years, reed canary grass is harvested and baled up before being turned into bricks and pellets.

Dr Lord added: ‘The test burnings have shown that reed canary grass produces a good, clean fuel without picking up contamination from the soil.

‘Reed canary grass has great potential because it offers a suitable use for unsightly brownfield sites while producing an excellent fuel at a time when the world is crying out for new ways of producing green energy.

‘Our research also suggests that the end product is improved soil quality and biodiversity at the greened-up sites. We are now examining ways in which we can commercialise this idea and are already talking to a number of major biomass power station operators.’

16 February 2010

In the News

Greener Grass On The Other Side Of The Fence
L’Ambiente, 22/02/2011,
A five year research project at Teesside University has come up with a way of generating green energy from a humble everyday grass.


Grass for green fuel
Contact, 01/04/2010, p.33
Teesside University researchers have concluded a five year research project with the development of a method to source green energy from grass.


Grass can turn energy green
Cordis (Web), 01/03/2010
Researchers at Teesside university have been investigating the potential of reed canary grass, which can be grown on brownfield sites and then processed into fuel for use in power stations.


Tests show grass's biofuel potential
Yorkshire Post, 27/02/2010, p.9
Results of research at Teesside University have shown that reed canary grass has the potential to provide an alternative to established fuel crops on different types of land, as well as being a cheap way to create habitats suitable for wildlife.


Candidate crops for contaminated land biofuels crop considered
Environmental Data Interactive Exchange (Web), 23/02/2010
Researchers at Teesside University's Contaminated Land & Water Centre have concluded that reed canary grass is the perfect candidate for a biofuel that is to be grown on brownfield and polluted sites.


native plant of Britain can provide excellent green fuel
Topnews.in (Web), 22/02/2010
A research project conducted by Teesside University has revealed that reed canary grass can be turned into green fuel for biomass power stations.


Brownfield grass may be answer for biomass
Newcastle Herald & Post (Web), 22/02/2010
Research carried out by a team from Teesside University has revealed that fuel for biomass power stations could be obtained from reed-canary grass, which grows well on contaminated industrial sites and poor soils.


Reed canary grass can provide excellent 'green' fuel
Sify (Web), 22/02/2010
Research carried out by a team from Teesside University has revealed that fuel for biomass power stations could be obtained from reed-canary grass, which grows well on contaminated industrial sites and poor soils.


The greening of Teesside
Newcastle Herald & Post (Web), 19/02/2010
Research carried out by the Teesside University's Bio-Re-Gen team has revealed that fuel for biomass power stations could be obtained from reed-canary grass, which grows well on contaminated industrial sites and poor soils. Dr Richard Lord, reader in Environmental Geochemistry and Sustainability, who let the project, said: ‘Reed canary grass performed as it would on fertile agricultural land, we didn’t expect it.’


The greening of Teesside
Evening Gazette (Teesside), 19/02/2010, p.28
Research carried out by the Teesside University's Bio-Re-Gen team has revealed that fuel for biomass power stations could be obtained from reed-canary grass, which grows well on contaminated industrial sites and poor soils.


Brownfield grass may be answer for biomass
The Journal (Newcastle Upon Tyne), 22/02/2010, p.27
A five-year trail at Teesside University has suggested that reed canary grass may be able to provide good sources of biofuel. The plant can be grown on the poor soil of brownfield sites, thus negating the need for agriculture land to be lost to biofuel production.


The unexpected benefits of canary grass
Sideways News (Web), 18/02/2010
Research at Teesside University has indicated that reed canary grass can be used as a biofuel and grows well on brownfield sites. Its growth encourages biodiversity and improved soil quality, and the grass can then be processed into pellets or bricks for burning in power stations.


Reed-canary grass for fuel
The Engineer Online (Web), 17/02/2010
Research carried out by the Teesside University's Bio-Re-Gen (Biomass, Remediation, re-Generation) team has revealed that fuel for biomass power stations could be obtained from reed-canary grass, which grows well on contaminated industrial sites and poor soils.


Everyday grass could provide green fuel
Science Daily (Web), 17/02/2010
Research carried out by the Teesside University's Bio-Re-Gen (Biomass, Remediation, re-Generation) team has revealed that fuel for biomass power stations could be obtained from reed-canary grass, which grows well on contaminated industrial sites and poor soils.


Everyday Grass Could Provide Green Fuel
TheBioenergySite.com (Web), 17/02/2010
Research carried out by the Teesside University's Bio-Re-Gen (Biomass, Remediation, re-Generation) team has revealed that fuel for biomass power stations could be obtained from reed-canary grass, which grows well on contaminated industrial sites and poor soils.