Burning grain for fuel has some way to go

Burning grain and straw pellets from combinable crops could halve heating fuel costs, but more work needs to be done to improve the process.

That is the latest finding from a joint Home Grown Cereals Authority and Rural Energy Trust project looking at a range of materials, including wheat, oats, oilseed rape and straw pellets.

“At current heating oil prices, wheat at £75 per tonne can reduce fuel costs by 50%,” said project leader, Richard Harvey.

“The use of lower value material, such as grain screenings, seems to be equally valuable as a fuel. However, the higher cost of a biomass heating system and the greater management time required to operate them, needs to be factored against this.”

All fuels tested in the study produced ten times more ash than wood fuels and also tended to form solid clinker in the burner section of the system – potentially reducing its working life.

But these problems could be overcome by selecting more suitable burner systems, setting control systems correctly and possibly using limestone as an additive, Mr Harvey said.

It was also found that burning grain can produce relatively high levels of nitrogen oxide greenhouse gases, although data from the study will be used to see whether this is offset by the environmental impact of growing the grain.

Full results from the project will be available in March 2007.