KENNESAW, Ga., Sept. 27 (UPI) -- A Georgia company says it is developing a process to turn agricultural waste into vehicle fuel and other useful chemicals -- and the main ingredient is water.
The company, Renmatix, says the process involves treating wood chips, switchgrass and the non-edible parts of crops with compressed water heated to very high temperatures, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The so-called cellulosic biomass process could reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports for gasoline in favor of a less expensive source of energy, the newspaper said.
The biomass is comprised mostly of sugars that can be processed to make ethanol, other fuels or chemical feedstocks, but the sugars are extremely hard to extract.
In the Renmatix process, hardwoods are put into a small, pressurized chamber with high-temperature water to release and harvest one class of sugars, after which the remaining material is pumped into a second pressurized vessel where a longer treatment releases the remaining sugars.
The company began operating a pilot plant in Kennesaw, Ga., in 2009 that processes 3 tons of mixed wood chips a day into useful sugars.