BURNING CEREALS could be more energy efficient than distilling crops to produce bioethanol, according to one expert.

Production of bioethanol can be very energy intensive, whereas cereal grain itself has a high energy concentration per kilo, similar to that of wood, said Peter Kettlewell of Harper Adams University College.

“The distillation process used to produce bioethanol consumes three times as much fossil fuel energy as growing a wheat crop,” he explained.

The technology is already in place to co-fire grain with coal, added Colin Snape, director of the Nottingham Fuel and Energy Centre.

But, although the price of grain would not have to come down for grain to compete with other energy producing materials, there are still some production issues to resolve, Dr Kettlewell said.

“The important questions are technical ones, such as can grain be co-fired directly or would it need pulverising to powder like coal does?”

Direct burning of cereals could potentially consume several million tonnes of grain a year, he believed.

Further details on the direct burning of cereals can be found in the next edition of Crops magazine (October 2).