A feedstock is a basic material from which a product is produced. Biomass is the feedstock for the production of biofuels and biochemicals. Biomass is biological matierial from living or recently living organisms. For energy production, biomass is commonly plant based material. This plant based material can be derived from starch-based or cellulosic materials.


Starch-based Biomass

Today nearly all biofuels and biochemicals are derived from starch- and sugar-based feedstocks. The sugars in these feedstocks are easy to extract and convert, making large-scale production economical. Corn is the leading U.S. crop and serves as the feedstock for most U.S. ethanol production. Small amounts of wheat, milo and sugarcane are also used.  Sugar based feedstocks include sugar cane and sugar beets.


Cellulose-based Biomass

Although starch- and sugar- based feedstocks are the simplest ways to obtain biofuel, cellulosic feedstocks are a much resourceful way of obtaining biofuel. Some advantages are that cellulosic feedstocks are more abundant in nature, could produce more ethanol, comes from waste products instead of food supplies, and can be less costly to grow, collect, and convert. Cellulose is a polymer of glucose that acts as a backbone to plants. The cellulose could be easily broken down into glucose, which then could be produced into ethanol when yeast is added. According to the U.S. Department of Energy Biofuels, 1 billion tons of cellulose could be collected each year, which could be converted into 67 billion gallons of ethanol, which would sustain up to 30% of the gasoline consumption in the United States.

Cellulosic feedstocks are non-food based feedstocks that include crop residues, wood residues, yard waste and other wastes. These feedstocks are composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin. It's more challenging to release the sugars in these feedstocks for conversion to biofuels and chemicals. Many companies are attempting to establish production processes to allow for large scale production of biofuels and biochemicals.

Cellulosic feedstocks offer several advantages over starch- and sugar-based feedstocks. They are cheaper and more abundant so they provide a solution for producing more substantial amounts of biofuels and biochemicals to replace fossil fuels.  
















2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update: Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry

The U.S. Department of Energy issued a report entitled - Biomass Supply for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry – describing the U.S. biomass feedstock potential. The report reviewed our nation’s capacity to produce a billion dry tons of biomass resources annually for energy uses without disturbing other vital U.S. farm and forest products, such as food, feed, and fiber crops. The biomass resources identified in the report could be used to produce clean, renewable biofuels, biopower, or bioproducts. According to the U.S. DOE, the feedstock resources identified could produce about 85 billion gallons of biofuels – enough to replace approximately 30 percent of the nation’s current petroleum consumption. (http://energy.gov/articles/department-energy-releases-new-billion-ton-study-highlighting-opportunities-growth)