Agave bagasse is a similar material which consists of the tissue of the blue agave after extraction of the sap.
Production and use
A sugar factory produces nearly 30% of bagasse out of its total crushing. Many research efforts have attempted to use bagasse as a renewable feedstock for power generation and for the production of bio-based materials. One successful example has been to cultivate edible mushrooms, such as oyster or shiitake, on blocks or bags of chopped up bagasse.
Bagasse is often used as a primary fuel source for sugar mills; when burned in quantity, it produces sufficient heat energy to supply all the needs of a typical sugar mill, with energy to spare. To this end, a secondary use for this waste product is in cogeneration, the use of a fuel source to provide both heat energy, used in the mill, and electricity, which is typically sold on to the consumer electricity grid.
The resulting CO2 emissions are equal to the amount of CO2 that the sugarcane plant used up from the atmosphere during its growing phase, which makes the process of cogeneration appear to be greenhouse gas-neutral. However when a full audit of energy used in production is done, 75% of the energy required to grow and move the sugar cane (including bagasse) is from liquid fuel (petroleum or hydrocarbon based), leading to a 25% net gain from photosynthesis. Ethanol produced from the sugar in sugarcane is a popular fuel in Brazil. The cellulose rich bagasse is now being tested for production of commercial quantities of cellulosic ethanol. Verenium Corporation (VRNM) is currently building a cellulosic ethanol plant based on cellulosic by-products like bagasse in Jennings LA. They are using a biotech approach to improve ethanol production above and beyond the midwest corn based ethanol production method. This will allow regional cellulosic ethanol production getting around the problem of ethanol transportation. The Verenium approach will get ethanol and E85 fuel to the important markets in California and the Northeast.
Bagasse is also used as a tree-free alternative for making paper. This process requires no bleaching, is more biodegradable, easier to recycle, and overall has less impact on the environment. As in sugar production, the sludge left over after removing the cellulose fibers, is used to power the paper-mills. A number of commercial sites advertise such uses.
Bagasse is used to make insulated disposable food containers, replacing materials such as styrofoam, which are increasingly regarded as environmentally unacceptable (see styrofoam bans). Insulated disposable food containers made of bagasse are commercially available.
Workplace exposure to dusts from the processing of Bagasse can cause the chronic lung condition pulmonary fibrosis.
- The Potential of Bagasse-Based Cogeneration in the US, Kevin Ho, Columbia University, 2006.