Global rice production is around 465 million tons (Jan 2013) , which results ±120 million tonnes of rice husks. The nutritional value of the husks is very low and they take very long to decompose, i.e. they are not appropriate for composting. The pentosan content of husks is suitable for furfural production, but its high silica content has in the past been 'blamed' as the cause for the failure of at least two furfural plants (one in the USA and one in Italy).
However, we (and other researchers) have found that the silica content does not affect the production of furfural. It can be dealt with by choosing the right material handling and combustion equipment.
A small plant in India has been producing furfural from rice husks for the last three years.
Our pilot plant testing of rice husks have that they make furfural 'beautifully' and that its lignocellulosic residue is better suitable for e.g. co-generation of electricity, than the husk itself. The resulting rice husk ash is very high (80-90%) in silica content, which would be suitable for a variety uses, for example:
Aggregates and fillers for concrete and board production.
Economical substitute for microsilica / silica fumes
Absorbents for oils and chemicals
Source of silicon
Insulation powder in steel mills
Release agent in the ceramics industry
Insulation material for homes and refrigerants
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Bagasse, Corncobs, Sunflower Husks and more ..
This article is part of a series on "biomass for furfural" production, which provides our clients with updates and analysis on the fundamentals and competitiveness of a variety of feedstock.