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USDA grant to study beetle-kill wood for biofuel

November 6, 2013, Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it has awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University (CSU) and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy.


November 7, 2013
By Canadian Biomass

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November 6, 2013, Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) announced it has awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium
of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State
University (CSU) and their partners to research using insect-killed trees in
the Rockies as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy.

"Infestations of pine and spruce bark beetles have
impacted over 42 million acres of U.S. forests since 1996, and a changing
climate threatens to expand the threat from bark beetle on our forest
lands," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "As we take steps to
fight the bark beetle, this innovative research will help take the biomass that
results from bark beetle infestation and create clean, renewable energy that
holds potential for job creation and promises a cleaner future for America.”

There are many benefits to using beetle-killed wood for
renewable fuel production. It requires no cultivation, circumvents
food-versus-fuel concerns and likely has a highly favorable carbon balance.
However, there are some challenges that have been a barrier to its widespread
use. The wood is typically located far from urban industrial centers, often in
relatively inaccessible areas with challenging topography, which increases
harvest and transportation costs. In addition to technical barriers,
environmental impacts, social issues and local policy constraints to using
beetle-killed wood and other forest residues remain largely unexplored.

CSU researchers, together with other scientists from
universities, government and private industry in the region, created the
Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR) to address these challenges.
The project will undertake comprehensive economic, environmental and
social/policy assessment, and integrate research results into a web-based,
user-friendly decision support system. CSU will collaborate with partners
across four states to complete the project. Partners include: University of
Idaho, University of Montana, Montana State University and the University of
Wyoming, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, National
Renewable Energy Lab and Cool Planet Energy Systems. More information is
available on the project website at banr.colostate.eduThis is an external link
or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture
(USDA) website.

Specifically, the team will explore recent advances in
scalable thermochemical conversion technologies, which enable the production of
advanced liquid biofuel and co-products on-site. The project is working with
Cool Planet Energy Systems, which is based out of Greenwood Village, Colorado.
The company's prototype pyrolysis system can be tailored to the amount of
feedstock available and thus can be deployed in close proximity to stands of
beetle-killed timber. This localized production leads to significantly lower
costs related to wood harvest and transportation. Their distributed scalable
biorefinery approach is a key element in making the use of insect-damaged trees
as feedstock plausible.

 


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