U.S. Frees $10 Million to Develop Biomass Energy Program

U.S. Frees $10 Million to Develop Biomass Energy Program

Under a new Department of Energy program, more than $10 million is earmarked for developing technology to produce industrial chemicals and a host of everyday consumer goods such as plastics, paints, and adhesives from biomass sources. Biomass includes agricultural crops, trees and agricultural and forest "wastes."

In addition to the $10 million, another $675,000 is being made available for research and development in the area of "biomass co-firing," which combines renewable biomass sources such as wood and wood residues with fossil fuels such as coal for electricity production.

The program is a result of President Clinton's August 1999 Executive Order to triple the U.S. use of biobased products and bioenergy by 2010. According to the Energy Department, biomass provides about three percent of U.S. primary energy.

"Biomass is a growing field which is creating new economic opportunities for rural America, enhancing U.S. energy security and helping to meet environmental challenges such as global warming," said Energy Secretary Bill Richardson in announcing the funding.

"Crop residues and wood byproducts are going to be one of this century's major answers to the demand for renewable energy resources and materials for consumer products."

World Biomass Conference and Exhibition

Highlighting the increasing global importance of biomass power and fuels, the international scientific community from 72 countries is gathered this week in Seville, Spain for the first World Biomass Conference and Exhibition on Biomass for Energy and Industry.

Assistant Secretary of Energy Dan Reicher addressed the delegation in a keynote address saying, "Bioenergy can help usher in a new era of economic growth in both developing and developed nations, without the environmental consequences of traditional fuels. And that, I believe, is a formula for peace, prosperity and sustainability for generations to come."

The $675,000 in grants for research on co-firing will be used for small-scale research and feasibility studies in the heating plants of the University of North Dakota, the University of Pittsburgh, Penn State University, Texas A&M University and Iowa State University.

Co-firing is substituting renewable biomass such as wood and wood residues for a percentage of fossil fuel such as coal to produce energy in utility or industrial boilers.

The $10 million solicitation will award funds over three years for collaborative partnerships to pursue research, development, and demonstration projects on technologies that benefit the emerging plant-based renewable bioproducts industry.

The goal of DOE-supported renewable bioproducts research and development is to increase the technical and economic feasibility of using crops, trees and agricultural and forestry residues to make industrial chemicals and a host of everyday consumer goods such as plastics, paints and adhesives.

The Energy Department news release noted that the Department will help fund three to six research projects that address the processing or use of bioproducts as identified in the industry's Technology Roadmap for Plant/Crop-based Renewable Resources 2020, in the amount of $400,000 to $750,000 annually for up to three years. At least 50% of the projects' funding must come from non-government sources.

The solicitation is available at the U.S. Department of Energy.