September 08, 2018

What Does Hemp Biomass Actually Mean?

A veteran executive of both the biomass and hemp industry blasted the use of the term “biomass” by the nescient hemp industry during an interview with Cannabis Tech Media.

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“Increasingly, I see companies refer to the dried hemp flowers as ‘biomass’ as they seek to buy or sell hemp bud, but the correct definition of biomass is the stalk and potentially spent bud (post extraction),” noted Ask A Hempster host Carell, also known as Carl Lehrburger.  “Typically ‘biomass’ refers to non-food plant matter, including hemp and corn stalk residues, straws like wheat straw, coconut husks and seed hull, and woody biomass, which are all distinguished from the hemp flower and hemp seed, corn, and wheat kernels", he continued. 

Technically, lignocellulosic biomass, which refers to organic matter composed of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin, and biomass, have become synonymous with a broad range of plant-based materials. In the municipal solid waste stream, biomass, or “green waste,” consists of food, and often leaf and yard residuals, colloquial with waste stream.

Carell should know. Along with brother Ed Lehrburger, he founded PureVision Technology, Inc. in 1992 to convert biomass into valuable bio-products.  The pioneering company developed, and is scaling up, a new biomass conversion technology at their Fort Lupton, Colorado headquarters which rapidly turns biomass (non-food plant matter) into three intermediate biomass materials:

Cellulose (fiber and pulps)

Lignin (20% of the stalk)

Sugars (the two primary sugars in the stalk are xylose and glucose)

These intermediates are the foundation for the plant-based bio-economy, and each is the starting point for formulating and producing tens of thousands of bioproducts (as distinguished from fossil-based products).

“As someone with a background in the resource recovery, recycling, and hemp industry for decades, my advice for the hemp industry is to be more specific when referring to the major parts of the amazing hemp plant. For example ‘dried CBD bud’ refers to the dried flower and bud fraction without stalks and minimal stems; for example, <85% dried CBD-rich, low THC (prefer Cherry Wine) bud”, he said. 

“Looking at the cannabis plant we can further distinguish (1) marijuana, pot or ‘THC-rich’ varieties compared to ‘hemp’, high CBD, Low THC cannabis cultivars; (2) the three primary fractions (flowers, seeds, stalks without root); and (3) an application, market or product such as fiber, seed oil, cannabinoid extract,” Lehrburger stated.

For example, a broker seeking to purchase hemp cannabis for producing CBD-rich extracts for consumer products could write: “Seeking 1 ton/month supply for January and February of dried CBD flower/bud; specifically a high CBD (minimum 6% CBD), low THC (below 0.3% but above 0.1% THC) strain. Organic preferred.”

A grower might state: “Available in November-January - 8,000 pounds/mo., threshed and ~80% dry CBD rich, low-THC bud for CBDs. Grown in Colorado in organic (non-certified) soil, Cherry Wine and Auto-II cultivars available for delivery in 200-pound poly bags.”

A processor, on the other hand, might request: “Seeking 10 tons of dried whole hemp stalks for milling into hemp pellets. Cannabis seed and fiber varieties acceptable but cannabinoid cultivars (marijuana and CBDs variety stalks) are not.  Preferred delivery in round bales but will accept small square bales to (address). Biomass should be free of mold, grit, minimal (>.1%) non-hemp organic matter, and at least 85% dry.”

 “If we choose to refer to any part of the miraculous hemp plant as ‘biomass’ I’d suggest this refer to the nonfood and non-medicinal portion, primarily stalks, stems and remaining leaves.” 

“But for now, let’s get clear,” Carell reinforced. “Don’t use ‘biomass’ when referring to dried hemp bud and flowers for extraction applications, unless you want to come across as uninformed.”

For additional information on his explorations and discoveries, see Carell’s New History pages.  Find more info on hemp stalk processing at pure PureHemp Technology.