WASHINGTON, March 31, 2016 - Continuing efforts to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels and bio-based products, a $4-million study funded by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office will allow the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon (CRC) and its partners to explore in greater detail feedstock supply and logistical issues.

With the goal of producing feedstock at a targeted cost of $80 per dry ton or below, the development team will work to find the optimal feedstock available from a combination of southern softwood residuals and purpose-grown energy crops, such as switchgrass and hybrid poplar.

The project is also expected to develop and demonstrate a state-of-the-art biomass processing depot to reduce sources of variation along the supply chain of multiple, high-impact biomass sources and to deliver a consistent feedstock optimized for conversion in different platforms.

“Biorefineries need a guaranteed supply chain, and the research seeks to determine if blending feedstocks could play a role in increasing the performance of feedstock available to biorefineries while lowering the cost,” says Tim Rials, project leader and CRC director.

Rials says the industry has made great strides in the last 10 years, including in feedstock production, but opportunities remain to further improve the system. Rials says the synergy between the partners and the research infrastructure established by this large project is key to long-term success.

“Developing biofuels and bio-based products requires solving a complicated set of scientific and technical problems. You have to be able to grow the different feedstocks efficiently, then harvest and deliver them to biorefineries at a cost that will make it worthwhile to industry to transform the feedstocks into usable industrial products and affordable fuels. Each step from production to harvesting to transportation to chemical conversion presents its own unique challenges, and opportunities to improve the overall system.”

Partners in the effort include Auburn University, North Carolina State University and the Idaho National Laboratory. Industry partners Genera Energy, PerkinElmer and Herty Advanced Materials Development Center are providing guidance regarding the commercial implementation of the harvesting, pre-preprocessing and refining technologies.

“This collaboration will take us one step closer to a valuable new biobased economy,” says Rials. “The goal continues to be a biobased economy as opposed to a petroleum-based economy, with affordable, renewable fuels and products.”


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