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Texas AgriLife, BP to Partner on Biofuel Feedstocks

Napier grass (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

Napier grass (National Renewable Energy Laboratory)

Texas AgriLife Research, part of Texas A&M University in College Station, and BP Biofuels agreed to develop and commercialize cellulosic feedstocks for the production of biofuels. Financial details of the three-year agreement were not disclosed.

The R&D project, says Texas AgriLife, combines plant breeding and production agronomics.  The plant breeding segment will develop new varieties of cellulosic grasses, such as pearl-millet napier grass and king grass, as well as energy cane and miscane suitable for growing as biofuel feedstocks along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

To expedite the selection of commercially robust feedstocks, candidates from Texas AgriLife’s plant breeding program will be scaled up for demonstration-scale production at a research farm in Texas. The integration of plant breeding and production agronomics is expected to enable BP Biofuels and AgriLife Research to develop genetic and production guidelines for future growers.

Texas AgriLife’s research on biofuel feedstocks includes molecular-level studies of high-tonnage biomass plants to develop more efficient manufacturing processes. Researchers in the labs have studied potential cellulosic feedstocks, such as sorghum and energy canes, as well as oil seeds including  jatropha, castor, cottonseed, and sunflower. In addition, Texas AgriLife has an operating biofuels pilot plant in Pecos, Texas.

BP says it is investing $500 million over 10 years to support the Energy Biosciences Institute, a joint venture with University of California at Berkeley, University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  The institute conducts both basic and applied research, including studies of non-food feedstocks for biofuels.

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