Energetic crop

A trial crop of a shrub commonly used for basketmaking is being grown for conversion into fuel for cars and a form of sugar.


According to a report in The New Zealand Herald, a trial crop of a shrub commonly used for basketmaking is being grown for conversion into fuel for cars and a form of sugar.

Auckland-based Genesis Research says the fuel, to be made from a type of willow called salix, could be available commercially in five years.

As well as yielding ethanols for vehicle engines, new patented technology will allow the company to extract xylose, a non-diabetic sweetener, and natural lignin, which can be used instead of petrochemicals in making plastics, resins and glues.

Genesis Research founder scientist James Watson hopes to choose the best variety of salix to start a commercial nursery within six months, after nearly two years of trial plantings on 16ha around LakeTaupo.

Through a yet-to-be-launched spin-off company named BioJoule, Genesis will set up a commercial refinery in the Taupo area to process the first 3000ha of salix. BioJoule will also license and sell the crop – and the technology to process it – internationally.

Dr Watson said salix could yield 11 to 16 times more energy for every unit of energy used to process it compared to corn, which has an energy yield of 1.6.