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Enhanced Biofuels Production with Genetically Optimized Feedstocks by Multistage Pyrolysis with Catalytic Upgrading

2013 USDA-NIFA Seed Award

Principal Investigators and affiliations:
PI:  Dr. Laura Bartley (University of Oklahoma)
Co-PI:  Dr. Richard Mallinson (Chemical Engineering, University of Oklahoma)
Co-PI:  Dr. John Mullet (Texas A&M University)
Funded: $162,000
Start Date: 4/30/2013

End Date: 4/29/2015


Expected Outcomes

The long term aim of this program is to develop an optimal thermochemical biorefinery platform by optimizing the biomass feedstock characteristics, with switchgrass and sorghum as the primary foci of this project.


The projected outcomes from this project will be the data and understanding of the relationship between plant structure and composition and the yield, quality and refinability of bio-oil produced from a large number of switchgrass and sorghum varieties. This understanding will direct research toward the development of optimal feedstock-conversion biorefineries. Optimal includes not only economics, but as importantly sustainability. This will be achieved by maximizing the production of biofuels while minimizing the required agricultural resource inputs, acreage, water, fertilizer, etc. The deliverables will be publications, presentations and required reports, but also an impact on not only our research program, but of many of the alternative efforts for producing biofuels, e.g. those involving other thermochemical and biochemical pathways. The successful application of the results of this work, will add significant economic value to the agricultural industry by facilitating substantial new acreage, requiring more employment, equipment, etc. Displacement of imported petroleum fuels with US grown sustainable biofuels that are economically viable can enhance the energy and economic security of the US. Current commercial cellulosic biofuel are not yet economic and the advance brought from this research may dramatically improve these economics. Estimates from the Billion Ton Study suggest that perhaps 30% of petroleum transportation fuels could be displaces, assuming state of the art technologies (thermochemical and biochemical), with their low yields. Significantly increasing the yield could increase this to almost double, or 60% displacement, though this may be optimistic.

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