BP Biofuels targets Gulf Coast for energy crop production

By Luke Geiver | September 06, 2012

A new research effort by BP Biofuels has reaffirmed the energy giant’s role in the Gulf Coast region’s economic health. Through a three-year project, BP Biofuels will work with Texas AgriLife Research to develop advanced biofuel feedstocks well-suited for the Gulf Coast. “The goal,” according to Tom Campbell, technology vice president at BP Biofuels, “is to develop a pipeline of genetics for biomass feedstocks and production guidelines.” If appropriate, Campbell added, “BP Biofuels will have the opportunity to commercialize this feedstock program through a license.”

The research team at AgriLife Research will focus on two main areas: plant breeding and production agronomics. Craig Nessler, director of AgriLife Research, said both areas require an equal allocation of resources. “For plant breeding,” he said, “it is important that a pipeline of genetics is developed for crop adaptation, improved yield and abiotic/biotic stress tolerance.” Agronomics, he also said, need to allow for technology transfer to a producers field, and, it needs to offer consistent guidelines for production ranging from feedstock establishment to harvest logistics. “This is imperative to the success of this this industry.”

The feedstock research will focus on new varieties of pearl-millet, napiergrass, kinggrass, energy cane and miscane, according to AgriLife Research, all breeds that would thrive in the region. Campbell said the ability of the AgriLife Research team, along with the research team’s leading role in the field helped BP Biofuels make the decision to work with the scientists. “This collaboration allows both parties to develop a strong and robust track record of data,” he said.

BP Biofuels currently owns and operates a demonstration facility in Jennings, La., a research center in San Diego, and is working to establish an energy crop plantation and production facility in Florida.