DOE awards funding for biomass research

By Lisa Gibson | October 08, 2010

The U.S. DOE has awarded a total of about $4.5 million to three projects that will demonstrate important steps to design, model and implement sustainable biomass production systems across different regions of the country and looking at a variety of feedstocks.

North Carolina State University will receive up to $2.09 million to evaluate the impacts of biomass feedstock cultivation on hydrology, water quality, wildlife, plant diversity, soil productivity, carbon budgeting, economics and safety, according to the DOE. The university has project sites in Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina where it will investigate biomass production options compatible with forest management with an emphasis on pine and switchgrass intercropping.

Purdue University in Indiana will receive up to $1.6 million to conduct a sustainability assessment of energy crops such as miscanthus, switchgrass and hybrid poplar, and examine the impacts of removing crop residues within watersheds representative of conditions in the upper Midwest, according to the DOE. The project will gauge sustainability in relation to soil erosion, biomass yield and aquatic biodiversity impacts and develop methods to optimize watershed landscapes to improve water quality and associated ecosystem services.

The University of Minnesota will be awarded up to $791,000 to analyze the Mississippi River watershed and determine what bioenergy feedstocks to use, where to produce or collect them, and what environmental impacts they will have in terms of climate change or other environmental shifts, according to the DOE. The goal is to estimate the biophysical and economic impacts of different placements of feedstock production operations on the landscape in order to maximize net benefits returned to farmers, biorefineries and the public.

In announcing these Sustainable Bioenergy Feedstock Production awards, the DOE also announced the investment of up to $12 million in four projects over three years for Advanced Biofuels Technology Development. Recipients include W. R. Grace & Co. in Maryland, $3.3 million; Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington, $3.1 million; the Gas Technology Institute in Illinois, $2.4 million; and the Batelle Memorial Institute in Ohio, $3.2 million. 

Together, the $16.5 million will support the expansion of renewable transportation fuels production through advanced thermochemical conversion technologies and the designing of landscapes that produce feedstock while protecting air, soil, water and wildlife.