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Consortium to Develop Northeast U.S. Biofuels Supply Chains

Miscanthus (Oak Ridge National Lab)

Miscanthus (Oak Ridge National Lab)

Pennsylvania State University in University Park will lead a consortium of institutions, national labs, and companies to develop biofuel production and supply chain demonstration projects in the U.S. Northeast. The $10 million, five-year project is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

The Northeast Woody/Warm-season Biomass Consortium, or NEWBio, will design production systems and supply chains for non-food feedstocks such as shrub willow, and warm-season grasses switchgrass and miscanthus. These feedstock crops can be grown on marginal and abandoned lands, such as floodplains and reclaimed mine sites, so that they do not compete for resources with food production. The project will cover the northeast section of the U.S., from New England through West Virginia.

Tom Richard, professor of agricultural and biological engineering at Penn State and NEWBio project leader says, “The Northeast has substantial demand for transportation fuels, an educated and capable rural workforce, and more than 3 million acres of marginal, degraded and abandoned land that could become productive, profitable sources of biomass with improved management.”

NEWBio is expected to address crop genetics and harvesting, as well as storage and processing techniques and sustainable production practices to improve yields by 25 percent and reduce costs by 20 percent. The project will build four commercial-scale demonstration projects each with biomass production and supply chains, geared to produce produce 500 to 1,200 tons per day of wood or grass biomass suitable for manufacturing advanced transportation fuels.

As part of the project, nine companies are participating as industry partners. The project aims to develop at least 100 supply contracts and support more than 50 new supply chain businesses to harvest, transport, and pre-process biomass. The industry participants are Aloterra Energy, American Refining Group, Case New Holland, Double A Willow, Ernst Conservation Seeds, Mascoma, Praxair, Primus Green Energy, and Terra Green Energy.

Academic participants in NEWBio include Cornell University, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, West Virginia University, Delaware State University, Ohio State University, Rutgers University, Drexel University, and University of Vermont. The federal labs taking part are the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Eastern Regional Research Center and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Idaho National Laboratory.

NEWBio is the sixth regional biofuels consortium. In September 2011, USDA awarded grants totaling $136 million to establish similar regional projects in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest, Northern states, Southern states, and the Southeast.

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