Register for ABLC 2020!
December 6th, 2019

Register now for the Advanced Bioeconomy Leadership Conference (ABLC) to be held March 25–27, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Join leaders from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office for a discussion about the opportunities and challenges of enabling the U.S. bioeconomy.

Industry segments and innovative technologies featured at ABLC2020 include:

  • Advanced Agriculture
  • Biogas and Renewable Natural Gas Fuels
  • Renewable Chemicals and Biomaterials
  • Sustainable Aviation Fuels
  • Marine and Heavy Duty Biofuels
  • Process Systems Integration
  • Innovative Biomass Pretreatment
  • Low Carbon Intensity Fuels
  • Advanced Nutrition
  • Digital Biology
  • Algae Products
  • Plastics Recycling
  • Innovative Sensing Technologies
  • Performance Advantaged Biofuels
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence

Don’t miss this opportunity to hear from experts about innovative bioenergy technologies and exciting breakthroughs in biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower research.

Early-bird rates apply if you register for the conference before January 15, 2020.

Register now!

Repost from DOE BETO on December 4, 2019.

Heat and Drought Effects on the Oil Formation of Winter Canola
December 3rd, 2019

Winter canola is a potential bioenergy crop for the southern Great Plains (SGP) as acres planted in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Colorado have increased to record levels in recent years. These increases can be attributed to improved cultivars, observed rotational benefits to wheat, as well as growing U.S. demand for canola oil. However, drought and heat stress often limit grain production in the SGP. Canola is sensitive to drought and high temperatures at flowering period and grain fill as the crop progresses towards the summer months. Yield, oil content, and quality can also be severely reduced.

A short period of heat stress during canola flowering is more detrimental than drought stress exposure for the same duration. Several days of high temperatures can cause significant damage to canola yields. Drought can also decrease oil content if it occurs between flowering period and maturity. For this reason, specific climatic conditions that reduce oil content in winter canola are needed.

Agronomist Michael Stamm of the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University (KSU), teamed up with Drs. Krishna Jagadish (KSU), and Sangdu Angadi (New Mexico State University) to investigate the effects heat and drought stress on the oil formation and quality of winter canola. The project aimed to quantify the impacts of drought and heat stress on the production and quality of oil in canola seeds; identify cultivars that produce greater oil content and oil yield under challenging weather conditions; endorse best production practices under limited irrigation and dryland conditions that enhance oil formation; and manage limited irrigation resources to benefit canola yield, oil content, and oil yield.

“We quantified the impacts of high night temperature (HNT), high day temperature (HDT), and their combination (HDNT) on the formation and quality of oil in canola seeds. We identified cultivars that produce greater oil content and oil yield under elevated risk for low oil production,” Stamm said.

Four heat tolerant and high oil producing hybrid cultivars (46W94†, Edimax CL, Mercedes, and Popular) and two heat sensitive open-pollinated cultivars (DKW44-10 and DKW46-15) were identified by the research group.

“High night temperature (HNT) significantly decreased seed weight and oil content in susceptible open-pollinated cultivars more than in tolerant hybrids. Susceptible cultivars had significantly reduced biomass, total pod numbers, and total pod weight, while the same traits were not significantly affected in the tolerant hybrids,” Stamm added.

The research team observed that among the four unsaturated fatty acids measured, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and linolenic acid were not significantly affected by temperature treatments. However, HNT stress significantly reduced the gadoleic acid content in the seeds of susceptible cultivars. “Under optimum conditions, high oil producing cultivars are more likely to produce greater oil contents under stress conditions than low oil producing cultivars,” Stamm said.

Timing of stress events, particularly a delay in flowering, can significantly affect oil content. “We found that seed oil content and oil yield were substantially affected by inflorescence removal at the bolting and full bloom stages,” Stamm said. “Inflorescence removal at flowering stage produced seed with the lowest seed oil content and oil yield.”

“We also demonstrated best production practices, such as optimum swathing timing and direct cutting, which enhance or maintain seed oil content,” Stamm said. “We observed that swathing at the later stages of seed color change had a positive effect on oil content. Direct cutting harvest method produced highest oil content, but not the highest yield. Over two years of research, swathing resulted in higher yields than direct cutting,” Stamm added.

Researchers also assessed the effect of drought stress on biomass production, seed yield, and oil formation in three different winter canola cultivars. “Overall, drought stress reduced biomass and seed yield. Among the three cultivars tested, DKW46-15 cultivar had the highest oil content, although it did not have the highest seed yield,” Stamm said.

This project will enhance development of a biobased canola economy, develop potential heat and drought tolerant canola germplasm, and engage producers through extension and outreach to expand adoption of winter canola into wheat-based systems.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Alternative Water Sources for Bioenergy Crops Production on Marginal Lands
November 4th, 2019

Large scale biomass production that will permit a significant substitution for fossil fuels will require substantial irrigation water and land. While the southwest U.S. region such as west Texas and southern New Mexico has adequate marginal lands, finding reliable water sources to produce bioenergy crops is the main challenge. This challenge can be met by making marginal quality water (MQW) sources available for bioenergy crops production.

Hence, Dr. Girisha Ganjegunte, Associate Professor, Department of Soil and Crop Science, Texas A&M University (TAMU), collaborated with Drs. Genhua Niu (TAMU), Samuel Zapata (TAMU), Juan Enciso (TAMU), April Ulery (New Mexico State University (NMSU)), Yanqi Wu (Oklahoma State University), and Robert Flynn (NMSU) to evaluate the potential for alternative water sources to produce select biofuel crops on marginal lands.

“We evaluated salt tolerance of various cultivars of energy sorghum, switchgrass, and canola; crop performance and soil property changes under field conditions; and economic feasibility of bioenergy crops production using alternative waters on marginal lands,” Ganjegunte said.

“Our results indicated select cultivars of switchgrass, energy sorghum, and canola are relatively salt tolerant,” Ganjegunte said. “Among the switchgrass cultivars, “Alamo” was the most salt tolerant, while AR91004, DKL 30-42, Summer, and Wichita were the salt tolerant canola cultivars and ES5200 cultivar of energy sorghum,” Niu and Wu added.

“We also observed that biomass and seed yields obtained under saline MQW were comparable to that under freshwater irrigation. Soil salinity increased in saline water irrigation plots, but did not adversely affect the biomass and seed yields,” Ganjegunte said.

“Our economic analyses suggested that energy sorghum is the feedstock with highest probability of economic success followed by canola and switchgrass,” Zapata said. “A positive net return to farmers of $38.85 per acre is expected for energy sorghum,” Zapata added.

The information and best management practices developed as a result of this project should enable interested growers to undertake cultivation of bioenergy suitable for the study region. In addition to crop diversification, enhanced use of MQW can potentially extend the availability of existing freshwater resources in the region.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Software as a Service Platform Created using GLADIS for Modeling Next Generation Bioproduct and Bioenergy Market Logistics
October 7th, 2019

Thorough analysis of a feedstock supply chain requires a holistic system analysis that includes facility location optimization, supply chain cost analytics, and robust uncertainty analysis. End users like the producers, biorefineries, and investors need the ability to conduct these analysis using readily available software that allows the users to enter and modify their own parameter estimates to evaluate cost and profit predictions for new operations or modifying existing operations. A major challenge in these markets is the dynamic optimization of production, harvest, packaging, storage, transport, and pre-processing logistics. Market variables, such as feedstock availability, product value, product demand, and operating costs, can fluctuate based on environmental, political, and economic factors.

A holistic, multi-crop, cradle-to-grave software system is not readily available for bioenergy and bioproduct industries. Many of the previous models are presented as mathematical programming models using specialized software programs. Software that can generate techno-economic information, conduct robust sensitivity analysis of critical factors, and do so for the entire supply chain would help make bioenergy and bioproducts industries more competitive.

Dr. Rodney Holcomb, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University (OSU), collaborated with Dr. Michael Buser, Program Leader for Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Sciences at USDA-ARS, Maryland, and Dr. Bill Carter, State Director, OK Small Business Development Center to develop and test a publicly accessible Software as a Service (SaaS) platform using OSU’s Geospatial Logistics and Agricultural Decision Integration System (GLADIS) that can generate economic decision information based on user inputs from multiple databases and existing agricultural models.

“We modified GLADIS coding to better protect the viability of the system and to ensure access to the program by users. We also integrated revised modules to see how well the revised GLADIS system performed regressions with user-identified data and both user- and administrator-defined modules,” Holcomb said.

Holcomb’s research group developed an integrated modeling framework for holistic data analysis informed by stakeholder input that links current feedstock growth, financial, sustainability, and environmental models. “The framework uses collected data and provides opportunities for stakeholders to either use these developed models or modify these models to fit their intended needs,” Holcomb said.

Researchers also synthesized existing information to accommodate improved understanding of biofacility logistics modeling and guidelines for implementing this knowledge to produce more profitable bioindustries.  “The user-friendly modeling system is fully functional,” Holcomb said. “We will continue our efforts to make this online decision tool be publicly available making it easier for bioproduct/bioenergy researchers and stakeholders to perform risk analyses for entire bioprocessing chains under varying scenarios.”

The online decision tool does make it easier for interested parties to easily measure whole-chain system impacts with changes in farming, transportation, and/or processing technologies. This was evident in the work of Heydi Calderón-Ambelis, Holcomb’s graduate student, who presented a paper on “Economic analysis of Oklahoma’s potential as a bioenergy producer based on the optimization of a blended lignocellulosic biomass feedstock” at the recent Agricultural and Applied Economics Association Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Cloud-based Decision Support System to Optimize the Production of Second-generation Biofuels
September 3rd, 2019

Uncertainty and risk are two of the main challenges faced by biorefineries. A proper assessment of the uncertainties and risks related to emerging technologies, supply availability and quality, and opportunity costs when making long-term decisions is vital for the profitability and sustainability of the future bioeconomy.

Consequently, Dr. Krystel Castillo, Director of Texas Sustainable Research Institute and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering Department, The University of Texas at San Antonio, collaborated with Drs. Sandra Eksioglu (Clemson University), Mohammad Roni (Idaho National Laboratory), and Erin Webb (Oak Ridge National Laboratory) to develop a cloud-based decision support system (DSS) that integrates novel biomass quality control principles, uncertainty, and risk measures in bioenergy logistics systems optimization. This DSS aimed to facilitate the adoption of practices that use swtichgrass and woody biomass as sources of bioenergy.

“We developed two-stage stochastic programming models that capture the variability in biomass quality properties. Firstly, a hub-and-spoke model introduced variability in the biomass moisture and ash contents, to design a biofuel supply chain. Based on our case study in Texas, our results showed an impact on the investment and operation cost of approximately 8.31% due to the quality-related characteristics,” Castillo said.

“Secondly, we developed a comprehensive model using other considerations about biomass characteristics that affect the overall performance of the supply chain. The model accounts for seasonality in the biomass supply and links the dry matter loss with the time period between harvesting and preprocessing to get more accurate measure of the biomass degradation. Inventories at all levels were established to provide biomass supply during the year,” Brewer added.

Through extensive computational experimentation, researchers show that the incorporation of moisture, ash, and dry matter loss results in a 44.44% increase in the number of depots required in the network to densify the biomass and minimize the quality-related costs.

“The DSS that we developed allows us to compare different types of biomass conversion technology, so that a standardized and robust supply chain design (value stream) can be found. Additionally, new conversion technologies can be evaluated before being implemented in the supply chain,” Castillo said.

The cloud-based DSS is a web-based portal that allows analysis and visualization of the total value stream of a biomass-based project from a dynamic and stochastic point of view. This online DSS is available to the public through the following website: https://bioenergy.texasenergy.utsa.edu/

The models developed have the potential to positively impact society by supporting commercial scale biofuel production. The DSS will help researchers and decision makers undertake sound actions based on a holistic approach. These critical actions will impact stakeholders in the short, medium, and long-term periods. Determining economic sizing and feasibility of large-scale bioenergy projects will be possible by considering the biomass quality requirements, supply uncertainty, and risk measures.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Biochars from Excelsior Woody Biomass Residues for Improved Poplar Production
August 20th, 2019

Standard pallets were made from farm-grown hybrid poplar and tested for durability compared to those made from other wood species and other pallet designs. Hybrid poplar had the advantages of shorter growth rotations, easier harvest, and lighter-weight pallets. However, the lower wood density of hybrid poplars make the pallets more susceptible to failure, especially when combined with lower quality nails or fasteners.

Dr. Catherine Brewer, Assistant Professor, Chemical and Materials Engineering, New Mexico State University (NMSU), Las Cruces, New Mexico, collaborated with Drs. Delia Valles-Rosales (NMSU), Koffi Djaman (Agricultural Science Center (ASC), Farmington, NM), and Michael O’Neill (ASC) to study ways to improve the sustainability of wood products in the south central region: using fast-growing hybrid poplar from farms instead of pine or Aspen harvested from forests, converting wood residues to biochar and renewable heat energy through the use of pyrolysis in production facilities, and using woody residue biochar to improve soils used to grow hybrid poplar.

Woody residue sources and amounts within the pallet production facility were modeled to evaluate waste reduction options and the cost-benefits of adding a pyrolysis process. An Arena software facility model was constructed for the pallet production process, including material flows, waste amounts, and worker time.

“Potential process changes can now be inputted into the model to estimate production outcomes as a decision making tool,” Brewer said. “Modeling results of the pallet production facility will be used to make recommendations for facility layout and waste management options,” Brewer added.

Several dozen pallets were also produced from hybrid poplar, which included enough standard pallets to enable comprehensive durability tests and to construct pallet performance computer models, and enough pallets of several sizes to enable in-application testing of the pallets by the pallet company’s customers.

“Durability tests and modeling results of the hybrid poplar shipping pallets will be used for recommendations to pallet manufacturers about what properties to seek in farm-raised hybrid poplar, and what adjustments must be made in pallet design and fastener selection to maximize pallet performance,” Brewer said.

“Feedback from the pallet performance model and the customer application tests indicate that further development of hybrid poplar pallets is warranted and of interest to pallet users,” Brewer stated. “The pallet company is now exploring more options for local woody feedstocks and for investments to reduce and better use current wastes. Our industry partners are more engaged with research and development, asking more questions to find out what could be done to improve their business outcomes in the long term,” Brewer added.

“We also used biochar from excelsior residues  to amend an alkaline agricultural soil, which was used to grow hybrid poplar and was irrigated at two different levels,” Brewer said. Early tree growth and changes in soil properties were measured over two growing seasons to evaluate the potential of biochar application in arid Southwest agroforestry systems. “There was a positive trend observed in soil water use efficiency and increased tree leaf growth in our study, though not statistically significant; we will use this result to guide our on-going longer-term and future biochar application studies in agroforestry,” Brewer added.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Conversion-Ready Feedstock Webinar Series
June 6th, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and its National Laboratories are dedicating the months of May and June to public exploration of renewable biomass feedstocks, many of which can be found right outside your window. These feedstocks are used for production of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower in support of the U.S. bioeconomy.

Educational webinars on June 13 and 20, 2019, will showcase research strategies that enable management of biomass feedstock variability and supply-chain improvements in biomass quality and consistency. Each webinar will feature 90 minutes of research presentations that discuss strategies to improve domestically produced bioenergy feedstocks that can be supplied to biorefineries.

Please plan to attend one or both sessions as each will present different studies that make feedstocks more conversion ready. Below are details on each webinar and links to register (the registration site will present the list of research topics for each webinar):

  • Conversion-Ready Feedstocks: Research Webinar 1 will be held on June 13, 2019, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Learn more and register for the webinar.
  • Conversion-Ready Feedstocks: Research Webinar 2 will be held on June 20, 2019, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time. Learn more and register for the webinar.

In preparation for these webinars, learn more about biomass feedstock research and development from BETO.

Learn more about the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on Facebook and follow Assistant Secretary Daniel Simmons on Twitter.


Repost from DOE BETO Bulletin on June 5, 2019 (https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USEERE/bulletins/24905ea)

EERE BETO Webinars: New research will be shared on conversion-ready feedstocks for lignocellulosic bioenergy industries
May 29th, 2019

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) within the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and its National Laboratories are dedicating the months of May and June to public exploration of renewable biomass feedstocks, many of which can be found right outside your window. These feedstocks are used for production of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower in support of the U.S. bioeconomy.

Information that will be shared in the months of May and June include:

  • Social Media: Watch for #mybiofeedstocks on your favorite social media platform to learn more about “Bioenergy Feedstocks Out Your Window.”
  • Webinars: New research will be shared on conversion-ready feedstocks for lignocellulosic bioenergy industries, which depend upon an economic and reliable supply of quality biomass.

BETO-Funded Feedstock Supply and Logistics R&D

Across the United States, BETO funds early-stage feedstock supply and logistics research and development (R&D) at DOE National Laboratories. This research focuses on technologies and processes that transform renewable carbon sources to conversion-ready feedstocks. Below are some examples of the world-class feedstock R&D happening at our national laboratories.

Idaho National Laboratory’s (INL) biomass feedstock R&D is focused on addressing barriers associated with efficiently, economically, and sustainably supplying large quantities of quality feedstock for biorefineries now and in the future.

beto-sample-displays-of-bioenergy-raw-feedstocks

A few examples of feedstocks INL researches are displayed in the above photo from left to right: switchgrass, corn stover, oak pellets, and bagasse.

Learn more about INL biomass feedstock R&D.

beto_miscanthus, used as a biofuel and carbon capture system

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers try to unlock the potential in today’s sustainable feedstocks to become tomorrow’s bio-based fuels, products, and power.

NREL researchers study dedicated energy crops like sorghum or miscanthus (pictured above), or agricultural residues, timber wastes, and algae to help strengthen the bioeconomy.

Learn more about NREL biomass feedstock R&D.

Upcoming Webinars in June

Webinars in June will focus on research strategies that enable supply-chain improvements in biomass quality and consistency through blending, preprocessing, diversity, and landscape design in development of conversion-ready, lignocellulosic feedstocks for production of biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts.

The webinars will be held June 13 at 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain and June 20 at 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain. Registration details to come.

View in browser

(Reposted from EERE BETO (May 28, 2019) https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USEERE/bulletins/247b83f)

US DOE WEBINAR: Technology Options for Catalytically Upgrading Biochemically Derived 2,3-Butanediol from Lignocellulosic Biomass Feedstocks to Advanced Biofuels and Chemical Coproducts” (Repost from DOE BETO energy.gov April 19, 2019)
April 19th, 2019

On April 24, join the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy (ChemCatBio) Consortium and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office for the “Technology Options for Catalytically Upgrading Biochemically Derived 2,3-Butanediol from Lignocellulosic Biomass Feedstocks to Advanced Biofuels and Chemical Coproducts” webinar.

Recent advances in the fermentative production of 2,3-butanediol (BDO) from mixed sugars generated via pretreatment and enzymatic saccharification of lignocellulosic biomass have positioned BDO as an attractive biochemically-derived intermediate for advanced biofuels and chemicals production. Within ChemCatBio’s Catalytic Upgrading of Biochemical Intermediates project, research teams from multiple national labs have been collaborating on the development of catalytic upgrading routes for this key intermediate.

In this presentation, multiple national laboratory investigators will discuss recent progress in collaborative efforts to develop economically-viable BDO catalytic upgrading technology options in a robust manner using commercially-relevant process streams.

Register Now!

(Repost from energy.gov https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USEERE/bulletins/23f66c8, April 19, 2019)

Non-thermal Plasma Gasification System Cleans Up Syngas
April 16th, 2019

Biomass gasification, which converts organic material into valuable gaseous product called syngas, is one of the efficient thermochemical process for the production of biopower, biofuels, and chemicals. However, one of the major problems of biomass gasification is the removal of tars from syngas. Tars can block the pipes and reduce the engine performance. Several approaches have been adopted to overcome the tar challenge, but are either very costly or generate hazardous by products.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE), Oklahoma State University (OSU), collaborated with Dr. Gerardo Diaz from the School of Engineering at University of California-Merced (UC-Merced) and Dr. Prakash Bhoi, former Postdoctoral Fellow at BAE, OSU, to develop a unique syngas cleaning system.

The research team from UC-Merced developed and incorporated a non-thermal plasma (NTP) generation system to the existing pilot scale gasifier at OSU to significantly reduce tars.

“Our results showed that NTP improved the syngas composition by increasing hydrogen content (from 4.3 to 6 vol. %) and decreasing heavy gaseous hydrocarbons”, Kumar said. “Non-thermal plasma significantly reduced syngas tars from 25 to 3 g/NM3 by ionizing tar molecules when tested with a syngas flow rate of about 0.5 standard cubic feet per minute,” Kumar added.

“Electricity consumption was also reduced because NTP typically operates at relatively low temperatures (much less than 1500 oC),” Kumar said. “Removal of tars and reduction of electricity consumption is expected to improve the economics of the gasification with plasma gas clean-up technology”.

The successful development and commercialization of this technology will reduce the need of secondary syngas cleaning methods and will economically benefit small-scale commercial application of biomass and waste gasification for electricity generation and fuel production.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

CARBON INITIATIVE SYMPOSIUM
March 12th, 2019

On the morning of Friday, March 15th, the Carbon Initiative Team will host a symposium “The Carbon Initiative: Capture, Store, Reduce, Reuse”, which will be held at Oklahoma State University’s Student Union. We have secured three nationally recognized speakers to highlight challenges and opportunities associated with carbon-related issues. The symposium is an open event with free registration beginning at 8:00 a.m.and the symposium starts at 8:30 a.m.

Click here for Symposium Program details.  Registration is FREE.

GLADIS Expansion for Modeling Next Generation Bioproduct and Bioenergy Market Logistics
February 11th, 2019

There is a critical need for a widely accessible, cradle-to-grave, software package that can integrate and utilize information from multiple distributed databases, and make use of existing agricultural models. Dr. Rodney Holcomb, Professor of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University (OSU), collaborated with Dr. Michael Buser, Program Leader for Natural Resources and Sustainable Agricultural Sciences at USDA-ARS, Maryland, and Dr. Bill Carter, State Director, OK Small Business Development Center to develop a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform using OSU’s Geospatial Logistics and Agricultural Decision Integration System (GLADIS), which can generate economic decision information based on user inputs and database information.

Researchers developed the SaaS system to integrate existing databases into a relational management system and utilize available agricultural models to produce a holistic software for switchgrass bioenergy logistics modeling.

The research team compiled information, economics models, and supply chain relationships needed for robust evaluation of switchgrass bioenergy industry. “We gathered data needed for agricultural, sustainability, financial, and stochastic models relevant to system performance”, Holcomb said. “Using this information, we developed an integrated modeling framework for holistic data analysis based on stakeholder input that links current feedstock growth, financial, sustainability, and environmental models in a publicly-available online software program”, Holcomb added.

“The modeling framework provides opportunities for stakeholders to either use these models or modify these models to fit their needs. This software will help stakeholders estimate costs and profits, identify potential risks, and better understand how to optimize their specific supply chain system”, Holcomb said.

Construction of the online modeling software is underway. Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

CARBON INITIATIVE SYMPOSIUM
February 8th, 2019

DOE Scholars Program
November 12th, 2018

Being selected as a DOE Scholar offers stipends starting at $600/week for undergrads ($650/week for grads and post grads) during the internship period, limited travel reimbursement to/from assigned location, direct exposure to and participation in projects and activities in DOE mission-relevant research areas, and many other benefits.

Apply by December 17, 2018 5 pm EST. Learn more >>

 

DOE FY19 Phase I Release 2 Topics Webinar (Topics 7-18)
November 6th, 2018

The Department of Energy will be hosting a special seminar TODAY, November 6, 2018 @ 2 pm EST.

This webinar covers the following FY19 Phase 1 Release 2 topics (Topics 7-18) by the DOE Program Office: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
This is your opportunity to ask the DOE Program Managers question(s).
Click here to register.

Happy Bioenergy Day!
October 24th, 2018

Participating organizations across the country that support bioenergy will open their doors to their communities to demonstrate the many benefits that bioenergy provides on the local level.

Click here to view the 2018 Participants.

Patent Released for Method Improving Producer Gas Fermentation
September 21st, 2018

During gasification, biomass is converted into producer gas or syngas, which consists of carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), and carbon dioxide (CO2). Syngas can be fermented to liquid fuels and chemicals using microorganisms such as acetogenic bacteria (acetogens).

Gasification-fermentation technology used in converting biomass to alcohols is still an emerging technology. Two of the critical bottlenecks that reduce alcohol productivity and lower syngas conversion efficiency are low microbial cell density and gas-liquid mass transfer limitations. Optimum fermentation conditions are achieved when gas supply matches the kinetic capability of the active microbial cells. In addition, extending microbial cell activity, improving energy conservation and selectivity of the desired product are critical for stable continuous syngas fermentations.

Consequently, Dr. Hasan Atiyeh, Associate Professor, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in collaboration with Drs. Randy Phillips (White Dog Labs, Inc., New Castle, Delaware), Randy Lewis (Department of Chemical Engineering, Brigham Young University), and Ray Huhnke (BAE, OSU) developed and obtained a U.S. patent (10,053,711) on a novel method to sustain culture activity, gas uptake, and improve selectivity for ethanol production during syngas fermentation in the continuous stirred tank reactor.

The research team added a commercially available activated carbon to the fermentation broth to alter the mass transfer of the gas to the acetogen, thus, improving ethanol production.

“The addition of activated carbon sustained the acetogen’s activity, prolonged the fermentation process, and resulted in a very high specificity for and high concentration of ethanol produced”, Atiyeh said. “The increased ethanol production and fermentation stability was attributed to the effect of carbon in altering the mass transfer and presumably in retaining the nutrients to sustain fermentation activity.”

The newly patented method resulted in the production of twenty-six times the ethanol concentration compared to the conventional method. Overall, the operation of syngas fermentation with activated carbon exhibited higher stability, selectivity, and energy conservation than in previously reported results. The operational stability and selectivity of the acetogen for ethanol as the preferred product provided by the activated carbon is needed for potential commercial biofuel production. The activated carbon can be produced from the biochar made during syngas production by gasification.

“Our research efforts will impact conversion efficiency, cost of production, reactor design, and process development of the hybrid conversion technology for implementation in sustainable biorefineries in the nation and in the world,” Atiyeh said.

Funding was provided by the Department of Transportation-Research and Innovative Technology Administration through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Sun Grant/DOE Regional Feedstock Partnership: Final Technical Report
September 20th, 2018

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Sun Grant Initiative initiated the Regional Feedstock Partnership in 2007 primarily to address information gaps associated with the likelihood for realization of the sustainable and reliable production of a billion-tons of biomass annually to support the U.S. bioenergy industry by the year 2030. Publication of The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply in 2005, with its associated yield assumptions, led to the realization that the yield goals and assumptions utilized in that analysis required careful validation. To achieve the overall goal of validating key yield assumptions, the following objectives were developed: 1. Establishment of replicated field trials across regions to determine the impact of crop residue removal (primarily corn and small grains) on future grain yields and soil health; 2. Establishment of replicated field trials of some of the most promising dedicated energy crops (herbaceous annuals and perennials, as well as woody perennials) to demonstrate the potential performance of these feedstocks across the U.S.; and 3. Assessment of feedstock resources to be used to estimate a sustainable national supply potential. Teams composed of representatives from Land Grant Universities, USDA ARS, DOE National Laboratories, industry, and other federal agencies were identified and assembled to address each of these objectives. (Re-post from DOE OSTI, https://www.osti.gov/biblio/1463330/)

Click here to view the Sun Grant/DOE Regional Feedstock Partnership – Final Technical Report that has just been released.

Register Now for the Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium’s Webinar (repost from DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office, Sept. 11, 2018)
September 11th, 2018

Join the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office on September 26, 2018, from 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. MDT for a Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium (ChemCatBio) webinar entitled “CatCost: An Estimation Tool to Aid Commercialization and R&D Decisions for Catalytic Materials.”

CatCost is a catalyst cost estimation tool that has been developed to more accurately estimate catalyst costs during early stages of development. This webinar will detail the methods used by CatCost, discuss how the tool was validated using commercially available materials, and provide pre-commercial estimate examples. The webinar will also include a tutorial on how to use CatCost.

 

Register Today!

New Patent on Feedback Control of Gas Supply for Ethanol Production via Syngas Fermentation
August 10th, 2018

Syngas fermentation can be used in the production of biofuels and biobased chemicals utilizing the gases produced by gasification of lignocellulosic biomass, coal, petcoke and waste materials, or from gases present in industrial waste streams. These gases contain carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H2), and carbon dioxide (CO2), which can be converted to alcohols, organic acids, and chemicals using microorganisms such as acetogenic bacteria (acetogens). Commercial biological gas conversion processes require stable operation, high substrate conversion, product specificity and productivity.

One of the main issues in this gasification-fermentation technology is stabilizing the fermentation process. Syngas fermentation can become unstable due to pH sensitivity and substrate inhibition. Hence, Dr. Hasan Atiyeh, Associate Professor, Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE) at Oklahoma State University (OSU) in collaboration with Drs. Ray Huhnke (BAE, OSU) and Randy Phillips (White Dog Labs, Inc., New Castle, Delaware), developed and obtained a U.S. patent (10,017,789) on a novel control method to optimize gas supply to maintain constant pH for a stable continuous fermentation required for commercial production of alcohols.

“The pH of the medium is a highly sensitive indicator of optimal supply of CO and H2 to acetogens to make alcohols such as ethanol,” Atiyeh said. Atiyeh’s research team instrumented a 3-L continuous stirred tank reactor (CSTR) in which the gas flow was automatically adjusted by a proportional-integral-derivative (PID) process controller to control the pH in the fermentation broth.

“Syngas feed to fermentation using Clostridium ragsdalei was continuously adjusted under PID control to keep fermentation pH at 4.8 for 1400 h and 1500 h in two continuous runs with 1-2 g/L acetate and up to 25 g/L ethanol produced,” Atiyeh said. “Over 95% of the CO and H2 were converted into alcohol by the acetogen during continuous syngas fermentation. Ethanol production more than doubled using our novel control method compared to the conventional process.”

Atiyeh said, “The development of automatic control of syngas feed rate maintained constant pH, increased stability, ethanol selectivity and concentration, and this demonstrates the potential for applying this novel control method in commercial syngas fermentation.”

Research team’s invention enables future researchers and industry to implement this tool for various syngas fermentation bioreactors. This work also provides valuable guidance towards designing large scale bioreactors with increased alcohol productivity and syngas utilization, and further develops the hybrid gasification-syngas fermentation conversion of biomass to liquid fuels and chemicals that will likely make this hybrid technology economical.

Funding was provided by the Department of Transportation-Research and Innovative Technology Administration through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

USDA-NIFA Supports a Project from Oklahoma State University through the South Central Sun Grant Program
June 21st, 2018

AtiyehDr. Hasan Atiyeh, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, OK, received a USDA-NIFA Award through the South Central Sun Grant Program’s Regional Limited Competitive Grants Program to conduct a study on “Engineering Biocatalysts Consortium for Efficient Conversion of Lignocellulosic Biomass and Greenhouse Gas Mixture to Fuels and Chemicals”. Dr. Atiyeh collaborates with Dr. David Lampert from OSU’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Drs. Thaddeus Ezeji and Victor Ujor from The Ohio State University.

This study aims to develop a novel process for butanol production from switchgrass. The research team will also compare life cycle assessment of the environmental impacts of petroleum and corn-based butanol and jet fuel production pathways with the novel co-fermentation process from switchgrass.

USDA NIFA Grants Center Project to Expand GLADIS for Modeling Next Generation Bioproduct and Bioenergy Market Logistics
May 25th, 2018

BuserDr. Michael Buser, Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, OK, received a USDA-NIFA Center grant through the South Central Sun Grant Program to develop a Software as a Service (SaaS) platform using Geospatial Logistics and Agricultural Decision Integration System (GLADIS), a system developed at OSU, which can generate economic decision information based on user inputs and database information. Dr. Buser collaborates with Dr. Rodney Holcomb from OSU’s Agricultural Economics department and Dr. Bill Carter, State Director, OK Small Business Development Center.

Buser’s team will create a holistic software for switchgrass bio-energy logistics modeling. The research team expects this proposed software to help the stakeholders to estimate costs and profits, identify potential risks, and better understand how to optimize their specific supply chain system. The modeling software will also be published online and be available to other researchers for evaluation.

IEA Bioenergy Webinar (May 8th)– ‘Biofuels for the Marine Sector: New opportunities and new challenges’
May 2nd, 2018

The International Energy Agency (IEA) Bioenergy Technology Collaboration Programme (TCP) invites you to participate in an international webinar entitled, “Biofuels for the Marine Sector: New Opportunities and New Challenges,” presented by Claus Felby, Professor of Biomass and Bioenergy, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. The webinar will give an overview of the maritime transportation sector, including fuel and engine types, the fuel supply infrastructure, and the regulations on fuel specifications and CO2 emissions.

This webinar will be held on Tuesday May 8, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

For more information click here.

Optimization, Upscaling, and Economic Feasibility of GBTL Technology
January 8th, 2018

Fast pyrolysis is a promising technology for the production of liquid fuels or bio-oil through thermal decomposition of biomass or municipal solid waste in the absence of oxygen. Bio-oil can be converted into hydrocarbons and has potential application in the transportation sector. However, converting bio-oil into usable fuels and chemicals remains a challenge. Bio-oil cannot be used directly without being upgraded because of its unwanted properties (e.g. high oxygen, acidic, and low energy). Traditional bio-oil upgrading usually involves extensive hydrotreating, which is energy intensive and costly.

ajay kumarDr. Ajay Kumar, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Oklahoma State University (OSU), together with two other OSU professors, Drs. Allen Apblett (Chemistry) and Francis Epplin (Agricultural Economics) demonstrated that natural Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology that utilized co-conversion of biomass and methane with metal-loaded HZSM-5 catalysts significantly improved aromatic hydrocarbon yield in the bio-oil.

Kumar’s team then leveraged results from their earlier GBTL study to make this novel technology ready for scale-up. The research team aimed to optimize key co-pyrolysis reaction conditions to maximize yield and selectivity of hydrocarbons and to determine production costs of liquid biofuel.

Kumar and co-workers used fixed bed and pyroprobe reactors to investigate the effects of methane, temperature, and catalyst in weight yield, energy recovery, chemical composition, and aromatic hydrocarbon yield of bio-oil from eastern red cedar and municipal solid waste.

“We achieved a maximum bio-oil yield of 53 wt% with an energy contact of 10 MJ/Kg and

56 wt% when we used methane over MoZn/HZSM-5 catalyst at 650oC and 750oC, respectively,” Kumar said. “This indicated that introduction of methane in catalytic pyrolysis of biomass improved the quality of bio-oil.”

“We also found that biochar yield increased when temperature was increased from 650oC to 750oC during pyrolysis,” Kumar added.

The research team also conducted an economic analysis that focused primarily on the availability and cost of eastern redcedar biomass that can be delivered to a biorefinery. A mixed integer programming was used to determine the optimal location for an eastern red cedar processing plant. The model produced solutions for several combinations of annual feedstock requirements, proportion of existing redcedar biomass in a county available for harvest, growth rate of unharvested trees, harvest cost transportation cost, and discount rate.

“In order to support a biomass processing facility with a capacity of 500 Mg/day of eastern red cedar, between 18% and 24% of the available eastern redcedar would need to be contracted for harvest over a 20-year period, with the difference in contracted percentage depending on the annual growth of redcedar,” Epplin said.

“The estimated cost to deliver eastern red cedar to the factory ranged from $44/Mg to $58/Mg depending on the proposition of eastern red cedar biomass under contract as well as the quantity of biomass required per day,” Epplin said.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Two Projects from South Central Sun Grant Regional Gets Grants from USDA-NIFA
January 4th, 2018

Dr. Laura Bartley, Associate Professor from University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK and Dr. Qingwu Xue, Associate Professor from Texas A&M AgriLife Research at Amarillo, TX are the recipients of USDA-NIFA research grants through the South Central Sun Grant Program’s regional competitive grants program.

BartleyDr. Laura Bartley is collaborating with Drs. Lance Lobban (University of Oklahoma), John Mullet (Texas A&M University), David Hodge (Montana State University), and Zhanyuan Zhang (University of Missouri) to conduct research on “Switchgrass and Sorghum Biomass Optimization for Staged Conversion to Biofuels.” This project aims to develop efficient processes for lignocellulosic biofuel production that optimize carbon yields while maintaining favorable conversion economics. The successful application of this work will add significant economic value to the agricultural industry by providing economic support for perennial crops and crop residues.

Xue-pictureAnother grant was awarded to study drought tolerance and water use efficiency (WUE) in biomass sorghum under water-limited conditions. This project is led by Dr. Qingwu Xue in collaboration with Drs. Rob Aiken (Kansas State University Northwest Research-Extension Center), William Rooney (Texas A&M University), Jourdan Bell (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension), and Sushil Thapa (Texas A&M AgriLife Research). This study aims to better understand the physiological mechanisms of drought tolerance and WUE in biomass sorghum. This work will provide critical information for the development of bioenergy sorghum plus maintaining sustainable production of sorghum to ensure feedstock streams for energy conversion.

 

NATIONAL BIOENERGY DAY 2017
October 18th, 2017

Bioenergy day 2-17

We’re uniting organizations across the country that support bioenergy.

On October 18, 2017, participating organizations will open their doors to their communities to demonstrate the many benefits that bioenergy provides on the local level.

To learn more, please click here.

National Bioenergy Day 2017
September 25th, 2017

During its fifth annual National Bioenergy Day on Oct. 18, 2017, the Department of Energy (DOE) will celebrate bioenergy, a form of renewable energy derived from biomass—organic material—that can be used to produce transportation fuels, products, heat, and electricity. This is an opportunity to showcase bioenergy facilities and the bioenergy supply chain around the United States. The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) will celebrate National Bioenergy Day by hosting a bioenergy exhibit and displaying posters in the DOE’s Forrestal building in downtown Washington, D.C., and in DOE’s Germantown, Maryland location.

Throughout the month, BETO will also be sharing stories about the people and technologies that are helping to drive the industry forward. Follow this celebration on Facebook and Twitter using hashtag #BioenergyDay.

For more information, click here.

USDA-NIFA Grants Center Project to Develop a Novel Two-Stage Reactor for Syngas Fermentation
July 6th, 2017

AtiyehDr. Hasan Atiyeh, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, OK, received a USDA-NIFA Center Award through the South Central Sun Grant Program to conduct a study on “A two-stage reactor and cell recycle system for enhanced alcohol production from syngas”. Dr. Atiyeh collaborates with Dr. Ralph Tanner from the University of Oklahoma and Dr. Leon Popik of LeMar Industries.

Atiyeh’s team will develop a stable and efficient two-stage syngas fermentation producing at least 40 g/L ethanol with a residence time of 40 hours or less. The team also aims to identify the operating parameters for the two-stage reactor that results in the highest ethanol titer and productivity.

This project will contribute to the development of viable conversion processes for sustainable production of fuels and chemicals at commercial scale.

Deadline Extended: Submit Technical and Poster Session Abstracts for Bioeconomy 2017 by May 26!
May 19th, 2017

Don’t miss your chance to present at Bioeconomy 2017: Domestic Resources for a Vibrant Future! The deadline to submit abstracts for the Bioeconomy 2017 Interactive Poster Session and Open Technical Session has been extended to May 26, 2017.

This year’s poster session will again offer a platform to engage directly with conference attendees as all posters will be required to feature an interactive element. Interactive elements can include voting or polling, social media, games and challenges, or any other activity that will involve the audience’s participation.

Technical presentation abstracts should address one of the following topics:

  1. synthetic biology and novel pathway engineering for the emerging bioeconomy
  2. enabling technologies and strategies to engineer net-zero or negative carbon utilization pathways.

For more information, visit the Interactive Poster Session and Open Technical Session web pages. Register for Bioeconomy 2017 now or through June 9 for our early bird price!

GBTL Technology for Liquid Hydrocarbon Production
March 1st, 2017

To supplement the demands of petroleum fuels and chemicals using existing infrastructure of engines, pipeline and fuel delivery, it is logical to target producing compatible hydrocarbons from biomass resources. Bio-oil produced from biomass fast pyrolysis technology can be converted into hydrocarbons. However, this conversion process remains a major challenge due to the instability of bio-oil, making it challenging to store, transport and convert into useful fuels and chemicals. In addition, high oxygen content in bio-oil makes it very unstable. Oxygen must be removed and additional hydrogen must be added to maximize hydrocarbon production.

ajay kumarTraditional bio-oil upgrading usually involves extensive hydrotreating, which is energy intensive and costly. Hence, Dr. Ajay Kumar, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE), Oklahoma State University (OSU), collaborated with another OSU Professor, Dr. Allen Apblett from Chemistry, to demonstrate proof-of-concept of a novel natural Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology that will synergistically use biomass (e.g. switchgrass and eastern red cedar) and methane to produce liquid hydrocarbons that are compatible with existing infrastructure. Kumar’s research team used a synergistic reaction system consisting of activation of methane and deoxygenation of pyrolysis-derived volatiles with metal-loaded HZSM-5 catalysts.

“We found that methane GBTL-Kumarsignificantly improved the yield and selectivity for the formation of aromatic hydrocarbons in the bio-oil obtained from catalytic pyrolysis of biomass,” Kumar said. “Methane did not show effective improvement in the yield of aromatic hydrocarbons from cellulose and hemicellulose in the presence of molybdenum modified HZSM-5 catalysts, but significantly improved the aromatic hydrocarbons from lignin,” Kumar added.

Torrefaction pretreatment on switchgrass did not increase the aromatic hydrocarbon yield. “Torrefaction infavorably altered the biomass composition by reducing cellulose content while increasing lignin content. The aromatic hydrocarbon yield decreased as the torrefaction temperature increased from 230 to 270 oC,” Kumar said.

This project shows that direct co-conversion of biomass and methane with an appropriately designed catalyst leads to significant improvements in hydrocarbon yields. Kumar said, “the direct conversion of biomass pyrolysis volatiles and methane in a catalytic reactor is a unique approach that makes it possible to produce hydrocarbon fuels more efficiently than traditional pyrolysis-based refinery processes.”

Demonstration of the proof-of-concept through optimization and analysis of economic feasibility is underway. Dr. Kumar collaborated with two other OSU Professors from the Department of Agricultural Economics, Drs. Francis Epplin and Phil Kenkel, for this part of the study. Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

USDA-NIFA Supports Two Projects from Texas A&M University through the South Central Sun Grant Program
February 1st, 2017

Dr. Girisha Ganjegunte, Associate Professor, Texas A&M Agrilife Research at El Paso, Texas, and Dr. Bruce McCarl of Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, are the recipients of USDA-NIFA research grants through the South Central Sun Grant Program’s regional competitive grants program.

ganjegunteGirishaDr. Ganjegunte collaborates with Drs. Yanqi Wu (Oklahoma State University), April Ulery (New Mexico State University), Samuel Zapata (Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service), Genhua Niu and Juan Enciso (Texas A&M Agrilife Research) to conduct a study on “Developing Alternative Water Sources for Bioenergy Crops Production on Marginal Lands”. This study aims to evaluate the effects of marginal quality water irrigation on the performance of switchgrass, biomass sorghum, and canola as well as on irrigation use efficiency and salinity.

Another grant awarded will model McCarl-Band analyze the logistics of supplying biomass for biofuel and biopower. This project is led by Dr. McCarl in collaboration with Drs. Stephen Searcy and Neil Geismar (Texas A&M University) and Dr. Jeffrey Vitale (Oklahoma State University). McCarl’s team aims to develop methods to improve efficiency of biomass supply chains with the goal of reducing final product cost by 15 % to make industries and bioenergy market penetration more viable.

Soil Health Remediation Potential Using Bioenergy Crops: Miscanthus and Switchgrass
January 25th, 2017

Degraded soils that are economically marginal and environmentally vulnerable are unsustainable with the current cropping systems. To attain sustainable production on marginal soils, new cropping systems that minimize long-term economic and environmental risks are needed to restore soil health and sustainability of these soils.

newell kitchenDr. Newell Kitchen, Soil Scientist of USDA-ARS, Columbia, Missouri, teamed up with coworkers at USDA-ARS: Drs. Ken Sudduth, Bob Kremer, Matt Yost, and Kristen Veum; Drs. Allen Thompson, Stephen Anderson, Ray Massey, and Brenton Myers (now with DuPont Pioneer) of University of Missouri; and Dr. Emily Heaton from Iowa State University to determine soil health remediation and production potential when growing miscanthus and switchgrass on marginal claypan soil.

Kitchen’s research team SPARC Plotsutilized the already-established Soil Productivity Assessment for Renewable Energy and Conservation (SPARC) plots near Columbia, MO (See photo) for this project.

Kitchen’s group found that miscanthus rhizomes planted on eroded soils performed well. On eroded claypan soils, only about 30% of the time required N fertilizer to maximize Miscanthus yield.  Relative leaf chlorophyll concentration was found as an accurate indicator of fertilization need.

Switchgrass had greater water use efficiency (WUE), about 50% greater N recovery efficiency and about 50% less run-off compared to corn. In addition, soil hydraulic properties of the marginal claypan soils improved when switchgrass was grown (3% lower bulk density, 73% greater hydraulic conductivity, and 53% larger proportion of soil macro pores) compared to corn-soybean cropping system.

Kitchen’s group also determined that switchgrass planted on degraded soil with shallow topsoil had greater quasi-steady infiltration rate and field saturated hydraulic conductivity than row-crop management. “When our results were applied to 24-hour USDA NRCS Type II storm model, switchgrass enhanced estimated infiltration, reduced estimated run-off and decreased estimated water ponding time when compared to row crop management,” Kitchen said.

In terms of the production relative to the topsoil thickness of claypan soil (depth-to-claypan or DTC), net return was greater for corn and soybean over most DTC, while switchgrass was only able to compete on very shallow DTC (<5 cm). Conversely, ethanol production from switchgrass increased with greater DTC for drier than average years and with N fertilization.

“These findings will help farmers know where to grow perennial bioenergy crops instead of grain crops, especially on eroded claypan soils, in order to improve production and minimize negative environmental effects associated with perennial plant bioenergy production”, Kitchen said.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Mushroom Pretreatment Promotes Lignin Degradation During Storage of Switchgrass
November 29th, 2016

Mark WilkinsDr. Mark Wilkins, former Professor at Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (BAE), Oklahoma State University (OSU), collaborated with two other OSU faculty Drs. Michael Buser (BAE) and Stephen Marek (Entomology and Plant Pathology), and Dr. Julie Carrier from Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at University of Tennessee to investigate whether oyster mushrooms, Pleurotus ostreatus, could be used to break down lignin in switchgrass in a controlled storage environment. The research team aimed to develop and optimize an integrated switchgrass storage fungal pretreatment system, which could aid in lignin degradation and reduce the severity of subsequent thermochemical pretreatment processes, which are necessary for preparing switchgrass from enzymatic hydrolysis.

Small square bales of “Kanlow” square bales set upswitchgrass were used to test the effect of fungal application on lignin degradation and sugar content during storage. Three different rates of oyster mushroom spores were applied to the switchgrass bales prior to storage in a moisture and temperature controlled laboratory. Degradation of lignin, cellulose and hemicellulose was monitored every 27 days during storage of bales with and without fungus applied.

Wilkins’ group found that the use of fungus promoted lignin degradation compared to controls in bales stored at 50% and 75% moisture content. However, significant degradation of cellulose occurred if switchgrass was stored with fungus for more than 55 to 60 days. “In order to preserve cellulose, fungal pretreatment should not continue beyond 60 days. The timing of storage is important since storing bales for more than two months resulted in significant loss of cellulose, which is the most valuable portion of the grass,” Wilkins said.  “In small bales, degradation of lignin, cellulose, and hemicellulose occurred in control bales due to microorganisms already present in the bales, but degradation of lignin and hemicellulose was less than that observed in bales to which fungus was applied,” Wilkins added.

Wilkins’ group also added copper, manganese and glucose to switchgrass along with the fungus to determine if these supplements would improve lignin degradation by P. ostreatus as other literatures suggested that these supplements would boost lignin degrading enzyme activity.

“All of the supplements added decreased lignin degradation compared to no supplementation. This result indicates that all of the nutrients needed for fungal growth are present in switchgrass, and costly supplementation is not required”, Wilkins said.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

Enhanced Biofuels Production with Genetically Optimized Feedstocks using Multistage Pyrolysis
October 28th, 2016

Thermal processing of biomass is a rapid, low-cost method to produce bio-oil that can be refined to renewable transportation fuels. Major challenges in the utilization of bio-oil for producing biofuels include chemical complexity, acidity and instability. The goal of this work is to simplify biomass thermal product streams to make them more amenable to catalytic upgrading and subsequent use as fuels, optimizing carbon yields.

BartleyDr. Laura Bartley, Associate Professor of Microbiology and Plant Biology, University of Oklahoma (OU) together with Drs. Richard Mallinson and Lance Lobban (Chemical Engineering, OU) and Dr. John Mullet (Biochemistry and Biophysics, Texas A&M University) conducted a study to examine how chemically and physically altering switchgrass and sorghum biomass relates to yields of thermal products under two different temperatute regimes, torrefaction and fast pyrolysis.

This project successfully gathered detailed data on a set of compositionally diverse switchgrass samples and predicted the thermal pyrolysis products of switchgrass and sorghum collections. Bartley's Fig 1The team also distinguished among possible associations between composition and products by measuring the thermal products from selectively altered switchgrass biomass, specifically biomass that had been chemically pretreated with water, base, or enzymes and biomass that has been genetically modified to deplete S-lignin and hydroxycinnamates (HCAs) via down-regulation of the phenylpropanoid biosynthesis gene, COMT. Results showed that low S-lignin and low HCA switchgrass releases less methoxyphenols into the torrefaction product stream (Fig.1) but does not reduce overall carbon yields. These results provide new directions for improving thermochemical biofuel production by rendering the torrefaction product stream more acceptable to catalytic upgrading.

Funding of this project was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the South Central Sun Grant Program.

 

USDA-NIFA Awards $750,000 for Five Research Grants through South Central Sun Grant Program
October 19th, 2016

U.S. Department of Agriculture- National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) awards research grants through the South Central Sun Grant Program’s (SC-SGP) regional competitive grants program. A total of $750,000 is allocated to fund five projects from across the South Central region. This year’s grant provides support for multi-institutional and multi-state research, extension and education programs that are aimed at developing alternative biobased energy sources and products.

The grants awarded are as follows:

  • Butanol Production with High Yield and Carbon Conversion Using Novel Biocatalysts led by Hasan Atiyeh, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University.
  • Biochars from Excelsior Woody Biomass Residues for Improved Poplar Production led by Catherine Brewer, Assistant Professor of Chemical and Materials Engineering, New Mexico State University.
  • Cloud-based Decision Support System Integrating Biomass Quality, Uncertainty and Risk to Optimize the Production of Second-generation Biofuels led by Krystel Castillo, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering, University of Texas-San Antonio.
  •  Low temperature plasma gasification to utilize diverse carbonaceous feedstocks led by Ajay Kumar, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, Oklahoma State University.
  •  Heat and Drought Effects on the Oil Formation of Southern Great Plains Winter Canola led by Michael Stamm, Associate Agronomist (Canola Breeder), Kansas State University.

These research grants are indicative of USDA-NIFA’s continued commitment to enhance bioenergy and biomass research and development program through Sun Grant Program.

Today is National BIOENERGY Day
October 19th, 2016

To celebrate the 2016 National Bioenergy Day, join the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) today at 12:00 p.m. Eastern Time for a Facebook Live tour of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility (IBRF). To watch the live broadcast and submit your thoughts and comments, visit EERE on Facebook today, October 19th, at noon. NRELThe IBRF enables researchers and industry partners to develop, test, evaluate, and demonstrate processes and technologies for the production of biobased products and fuels.

 

(Repost from DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office’s “Catch the Facebook Live Tour of the Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility on Bioenergy Day”. Photos courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.)

South Central Region Sun Grant Program Announces 2016 Request for Applications
December 9th, 2015

The South Central Region Sun Grant Program (SCR-SGP) announces its request for applications for 2016 projects that will be funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through the Competitive Grants Program of SCR-SGP. Pre-proposals for this solicitation are due on February 1, 2015.  Please see RFA details at www.sungrant.okstate.edu under “Funding Opportunities”.

USDA-NIFA Awards Grant to Support GBTL Technology for Liquid Hydrocarbon Production
September 3rd, 2015

Dr. Ajay Kumar, Associate Professor of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering at Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, OK, received a USDA-NIFA Center Award through the South Central Sun Grant Program to conduct a study on “Hydrocarbon Fuels, Chemicals and Intermediates from a Novel Biomass Pyrolysis Technology”. Dr. Kumar collaborates with two other OSU professors, Drs. Allen Apblett (Chemistry) and Francis Epplin (Agricultural Economics).

Kumar’s team will conduct this study to demonstrate proof-of-concept of a novel natural Gas and Biomass to Liquids (GBTL) technology that will synergistically use biomass (e.g. switchgrass and eastern red cedar) and methane to produce liquid hydrocarbons.

This project will directly contribute to the creation of compatible hydrocarbons from biomass in the production of renewable fuels and chemicals while supplementing the demands for petroleum fuels and chemicals.

Energy Department Announces $10 Million for Innovative Technologies for Bioenergy Technologies Incubator 2 Funding Opportunity Announcement
August 28th, 2015

Source: Energy.Gov/eere/bioenergy/articles/energy-department-announces-10-million-innovative-technologies-bioenergy

The Energy Department today announced up to $10 million in funding to advance the production of advanced biofuels, substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and bioproducts made from renewable, non-food-based biomass, such as algae, agricultural residues, and woody biomass. This work supports the Energy Department’s efforts to make drop-in biofuels more accessible and affordable, as well as to meet the cost target equivalent of $3 per gallon of gasoline by 2022.

The Energy Department encourages industry to invest in the production of cost-competitive, advanced biofuels and bioproducts from renewable, abundant biomass. Advancing and commercializing cost-competitive biofuels will help the Energy Department work toward its goal of reducing current petroleum consumption in the United States by approximately 30%, and, in turn, enhance U.S. national security and reduce carbon emissions.

The funding announced today will support projects in two topic areas: Topic Area 1 awards (anticipated at 2–4 selections) will range from $1–$2 million and focus on the development of novel, non-incremental technologies that facilitate the goals of the Algae Program, but are not represented in a significant way in the current Algae Project Portfolio. Topic Area 2 awards (anticipated at 3–6 selections) will range from $1–$2 million and will focus on the development of novel, non-incremental technologies that facilitate the goals of BETO, but are not represented in a significant way in the current Terrestrial Feedstocks Supply and Logistics Program or the Conversion Technologies Program.

Learn more information about this funding opportunity and application requirements at theEERE Exchange website. An informational webinar for potential applicants will take place on September 2, 2015, at 1 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

 

USDA Awards Grants to Regional Projects through South Central Region Sun Grant Program
March 17th, 2015

U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) through South Central Region Sun Grant Program awards grants up to $324,000 for three regional projects that aimed at enhancing perennial grass production and biomass conversion into biofuels. The funds will supplement research activities of three existing projects that resulted from the 2012 USDA-NIFA S.C.R. Sun Grant’s competition. The Integrated Award recipients are:

  • Dr. Laura Bartley of the University of Oklahoma (OU), Norman, will receive up to $110,000 to determine how chemically and physically altering sorghum and switchgrass biomass impacts production of biofuels using two‐stage thermal processing. This project will generate data and understanding of the relationships between plant structure and composition and yield, quality and refinability of bio-oil produced from switchgrass and sorghum varieties. This understanding will directly contribute to the development of optimal feedstock-conversion biorefineries. This project is a collaborative effort with Drs. Richard Mallinson and Lance Lobban (OU) and Dr. John Mullet (Texas A & M University).
  • Dr. Newell Kitchen of USDA-ARS and University of Missouri, Columbia, will receive up to $103, 962 to assess soil health remediation and production capacity of miscanthus and switchgrass bioenergy cropping systems on marginal and vulnerable soil landscapes in Missouri and Arkansas. Knowledge gained from this research will quantify the effects of switchgrass and miscanthus on soil health and biomass production, and will generate several bioenergy crop best management practices (BMPs). Dr. Kitchen is collaborating with Drs. Kenneth Sudduth, and Kristen Veum of USDA-ARS, Dr. Emily Heaton (Iowa State University), Drs. Robert Kremer, Allen Thompson, Brenton Myers, and Ray Massey (University of Missouri).
  • Dr. Mark Wilkins of Oklahoma State University (OSU), Stillwater, will receive up to $110,000 to develop a practical and low cost handling and pretreatment protocols that enhance the enzymatic digestibility of polysaccharides that are contained in cellulosic feedstocks while minimizing concentrations of generated inhibitory sugar and lignin degradation products. Researchers expect to: 1) reduce pretreatment severity and energy use while achieving fermentable sugar yields, 2) reduce production of inhibitory compounds, and 3) develop operating parameters and techniques to apply fungal pretreatment during switchgrass storage in a biorefinery setting. This project is a joint effort with Dr. Julie Carrier (University of Arkansas), and Drs. Michael Buser and Stephen Marek (OSU).
Energy Department Announces $7 Million to Develop Advanced Logistics for Bioenergy Feedstocks
December 4th, 2014

The Energy Department announced today up to $7 million for two projects aimed at developing and demonstrating ways to reduce the cost of delivering bioenergy feedstocks to biorefineries.  Examples of bioenergy feedstocks include corn stover, switchgrass, and woody biomass. By investing in this type of research, development, and demonstration, the Energy Department is supporting the production of renewable and cost-competitive biofuels. The projects, located in New York and Tennessee, will focus on developing advanced machinery for efficient and low-cost harvesting, collection, and transportation of high-quality bioenergy feedstocks.

  • The State University of New York—College of Environmental Science and Forestry of Syracuse, New York will receive up to $3.5 million to lower the delivered cost of short rotation woody crops; rapidly, accurately, and reliably assess feedstock quality; and improve harvest and preprocessing operations to produce feedstocks that meet key biorefinery partner specifications.
  • The University of Tennessee of Knoxville, Tennessee will receive up to $3.5 million to study how blending feedstocks could play a role in increasing the amount of available feedstock within a given delivery radius. The project will 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 (pine and switchgrass) and deliver a consistent feedstock optimized for performance.

Source: energy.gov/eere/articles/energy-department

 

 

USDA Supports Sun Grant Program for the Next 5 Years
August 31st, 2014

The 2014 Farm Bill provided the authorization to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) in establishing the Sun Grant Program (SGP) through a competitive grant process. The existing five Centers formed a consortium to compete for the opportunity of continuing as the SGP.  The consortium was awarded the 5-year, approximately $2.3 million per year program.  Continuing the existing Centers’ practice, 75% of the grant funds received will be used to provide competitive grants within each region. These grants will be multi-institutional and integrated, multistate research, extension, and education programs on technology development and technology implementation and address bioenergy, biomass, or bioproducts research priorities.  Of the remaining funds, 21% will be used to develop bioenergy research leadership and programs at each Center. The South Central Center, Oklahoma State University, anticipates the next regional RFA will be released fall 2015.