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Biomass feedstock a workable challenge

October 12, 2012, Vancouver, BC – We can overcome – at least in theory. That was the sentiment expressed during `Overcoming Regional Biomass Feedstock Supply Challenges with Public Policy and Science’, an October 11 plenary at the Pacific Rim Summit on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioenergy in Vancouver.


October 12, 2012
By Robin Brunet

Michael Rushton, chief operating officer for Lignol Innovations, remarked that “our technology is ready for commercialization so we’re starting to think of supply chains and sourcing.” Similarly, Desmond King, president of Chevron Technology Ventures told delegates that his company is studying the economics of becoming a biofuel producer. “But we need large scale and sustainable volumes of biomass.”

Anna Rath, president and CEO of biomass crop producer Nexsteppe, suggested while those volumes may exist on home turf, the ability to process huge volumes is problematic. “Many companies are locating in Brazil due to its facilities and experience,” she said.

Rath and King are confident that North America will eventually catch up, but the latter warned that “Just because legislators want certain goals achieved by a certain date doesn’t mean these goals will be met in the time prescribed.”

As for public policy’s role in facilitating biomass processing, Linda Beltz, director, technology partnerships for Weyerhaueser, said that in the face of global energy demand increasing by 50 percent by 2035, “the marketplace must be allowed to work. All types of biomass have to be made available and useful.”

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To which Rushton added, “Incentives provided by government have been inconsistently applied and influenced by interest groups.” Potential biomass players, he concluded, “are staying away until that landscape has settled.”


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