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Utilization of semi-natural grassland through integrated generation of solid fuel and biogas from biomass. I. Effects of hydrothermal conditioning and mechanical dehydration on mass flows of organic and mineral plant compounds, and nutrient balances

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The use of semi-natural grasslands for the production of renewable energy through conventional conversion techniques faces major limitations because of chemical and physical properties of the biomass. A new conversion procedure was developed which separates the biomass, as silage, into a liquid phase for biogas production and into a solid fraction to be used as fuel. Separation (mechanical dehydration) is carried out with a screw press after mashing with water (hydrothermal conditioning). The effect of hydrothermal conditioning at different temperatures (5, 60 and 80°C) and mechanical dehydration on mass flows of plant compounds into the press fluid was investigated for five grassland pastures typical of mountain areas of Germany. Results show that 0·18 of the crude fibre was transferred into the fluid, whereas more digestible organic compounds, such as crude protein and nitrogen-free extract, showed mass flows of 0·40 and 0·31 respectively. While 0·52–0·89 of potassium (K), magnesium (Mg) and chloride (Cl), which are detrimental for the combustion of the press cake, were transferred into the press fluid, more than 0·50 of calcium, which has positive combustion properties, remained in the press cake. Significantly (P <0·05) higher mass flows were detected at conditioning temperatures of 60°C (K and Mg) and 80°C (crude fibre and nitrogen-free extract) compared with the 5°C treatment. Because of the separation of solids and liquids, high proportions of P (0·61–0·74) and K (0·64–0·85) but only 0·32–0·45 of nitrogen exported from the grassland would be recycled with an application of the digestates from the anaerobic digestion of the press liquid.
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Keywords: bioenergy; biogas; nature conservation; semi-natural grassland; solid fuel

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Grassland Science and Renewable Plant Resources, University of Kassel, Witzenhausen, Germany 2: Landesbetrieb Landwirtschaft Hessen (LLH) Landwirtschaftszentrum Eichhof, Schloss Eichhof, Bad Hersfeld, Germany

Publication date: 01 June 2009

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