Wheat as a feedstock for alcohol production


Cereals & Oilseeds
Project code:
01 July 2004 - 30 June 2005
AHDB Cereals & Oilseeds.
Project leader:
T C Smith1, D R Kindred1, J M Brosnan2, R M Weightman1, M Shepherd3, & R Sylvester-Bradley1 1ADAS, Boxworth, Cambridge CB23 4NN 2Scotch Whisky Research Institute, The Robertson Trust Building, Research Park North, Riccarton, Edinburgh EH14 4AP 3Green Spirit Fuels Ltd., Henstridge Trading Estate, The Marsh, Henstridge, Templecombe, Somerset, BA8 0TN



About this project


UK fuel-alcohol production from wheat is expected to begin in 2008. If current plans are realised, this requirement will soon add at least 2.5 million tonnes of grain to the 0.7 million tonnes already required for potable alcohol. Other fuel-alcohol markets are based on sugar cane or maize, so wheat-based production methods are not well-developed.

Information is reviewed here to support industry development and to identify R&D requirements on growing wheat for alcohol production. Initially, growing and processing will be based on feed wheat standards, but as expertise develops and as carbon accreditation is introduced, criteria will be applied to maximise alcohol yields and processing efficiency.

'Benchmarks' proposed for current production of fuel-alcohol from UK feed wheat (dry basis) are 7.4 t/ha grain, 11.5% protein, 69% starch, 3% sugar to yield 435 litres alcohol per tonne or 3,220 litres per hectare. Variation in alcohol production per hectare largely arises in the field through differences in grain yield and starch content; new plant breeding initiatives and better use of N fertilisers should improve these parameters and reduce variation in alcohol yield. Efficiency of fuel alcohol processing can also be enhanced. It is expected that best practice will soon exceed 4,000 litres alcohol per hectare, and that this will continue to increase through new R&D.