Biotech Updates

USDA Funds Research to Convert Beetle-Killed Trees to Biofuels

November 13, 2013
News release:

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) has awarded nearly $10 million to a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University (CSU) to study the use of beetle-killed trees in the Rockies as a sustainable bioenergy feedstock.

The consortium will explore recent advances in scalable thermochemical conversion technologies for the production of advanced liquid biofuel and co-products on-site.

One of the challenges in the utilization of beetle-killed wood for renewable fuel production is the fact that wood source is typically located in 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.

The Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR), created by the CSU and its partners, will undertake comprehensive economic, environmental and social/policy assessment, and integrate research results into a web-based, user-friendly decision support system. The team is working with Cool Planet Energy Systems, whose 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.