Omnibus bill funding supports ethanol research

By Erin Voegele
The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009, or H.R. 1105, was recently signed into law. The $410 billion legislative package contains appropriations bills that were not completed in the 110th congress. Several biofuel projects, including those in Michigan, Minnesota and Louisiana, received funding under the legislation.

The bill awarded $1.4 million in U.S. DOE funding to the Michigan State University Upper Peninsula Tree Improvement Center in Escanaba, Mich. The funding will be distributed by the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and will allow MSU and Michigan Technological University scientists to research the use of woody biomass as a feedstock for cellulosic ethanol production.

According to Dave Reed, Michigan Tech's vice president for research, the funding will be used to complete a state-wide assessment of woody biomass resources to understand how much wood is available for use as a biofuel feedstock. "In this part of the country we have a surplus of woody biomass available," Reed said. "In fact, the growth is about three times what is being utilized today. The question is if we can-in a cost effective way-capture some of that low-value material and use it for biofuel production."

In Louisiana, the bill allocates $1.9 million in funding to the Clean Power Energy Research Consortium, which is a joint venture among Louisiana universities to promote alternative fuels. Participating universities include Louisiana State University, the University of New Orleans, Tulane, Southern University, Nicholls State University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

According to Donal Day, a professor at the Audubon Sugar Institute at Louisiana State University, a portion of the funding will be used to support an ongoing project that seeks to add cellulosic biorefining capabilities to existing raw sugar mills in the state. Part of that project includes investigating the pretreatment of cellulosic feedstocks.

An additional $427,250 in funding was awarded to Louisiana Tech University to support bionanotechnology research that will focus on alternative energy, including cellulosic ethanol. According to Les Guice, Louisiana Tech's vice president for research and development, the research on cellulosic ethanol will focus on using pioneering nanoassembly techniques to immobilize cellulose on the walls of bioreactors, thereby reducing costs.

The bill also awards $713,625 in funding to the Center for Renewable Energy at Minnesota State University, Mankato. A portion of the funding will be used to support ongoing research into producing cellulosic ethanol from alfalfa and wetland plants. The funding may also be used to develop program curriculum and support hybrid vehicle testing.

Source: Ethanol Producer Magazine