Every link in the production chain is being studied in detail by the project team – from the farmer right through to the biofuel distributor – to develop a commercially viable biofuel production process which has minimal impact on the environment.

The project brings together the expertise of eight partners; Aber Instruments Ltd, Alvan Blanch Development Co Ltd, Germinal Holdings Limited, IBERS, National Farmers Union (NFU), ONE 51 Plc, TMO Renewables Limited (TMO Renewables) and Wynnstay Group Plc.

It is supported by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) through the Renewable Materials LINK programme, and by the Welsh Assembly Government’s Academic Expertise for Business program, supported by European Structural Funds.

“The Grassohol project has only been made possible by the invaluable expertise that each partner brings to the table,” IBERS Research Scientist and Project Director Dr Joe Gallagher said. “It offers significant potential for biofuel production and the involvement of each partner demonstrates the commercial importance of the research as we move inexorably towards a bio-based economy.”

“Farmers in the UK are experts on growing pasture and the use of these crops for biorefining will make an important contribution to both farm income and the UK economy whilst maintaining the traditional look of the countryside,” added Gallagher.

The team are using high-sugar varieties of perennial ryegrass and experimenting with different soils, fertilizers and companion crops such as white clover, with the aim of reducing dependency on artificial oil-based fertilizers.

TMO Renewables Project Manager Dr Kirstin Ele supports Dr Gallagher’s enthusiasm for the research, commenting “This is a real opportunity to demonstrate the potential of a commercially relevant process using an abundant UK non-food crop feedstock and we are excited to be a part of this collaboration, working alongside other leading groups.”

Early results are promising and indicate that up to 4,500 liters of ethanol per hectare of ryegrass could be produced every year, comparable with other energy crops but with the advantage of being environmentally friendly, capable of growing on poorer land and with cheaper management costs.

Develop and manufacture high specification scientific instruments to monitor microorganisms and fibre digestibility during fermentation to improve the efficiency of the process and reduce costs.

An engineering and manufacturing company with extensive expertise in agricultural machinery for processing crops on farm. They will assess the economic viability of on-farm processing of grass juice into partially processed bio-ethanol.

Responsibilities include the harvesting, processing and fermentation of the grass juice and developing procedures to stabilise fibre fractions. IBERS will conduct the Life Cycle Analysis with input from each of the consortium members.

Advise on the economic and logistical viability of producing bioethanol from high sugar grasses. Through its network of professional advisors NFU provide important feedback on pasture management from the livestock sector.

Provide economic and logistical advice with emphasis on the transportation of liquid grass via tankers.

TMO Renewables’ high-temperature fermentation process boasts high efficiencies and fast conversion rates. In addition to providing laboratory and production facilities, the company will conduct pilot and large scale fermentation trials.