Washington's Forest Biomass Initiative to pilot bio-aviation fuel

By Lisa Gibson | January 11, 2011

Peter Goldmark, commissioner of public lands for the Washington Department of Natural Resources, didn’t conceal his pride while discussing his Forest Biomass Initiative at the Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show Jan. 11 at the Sheraton Seattle Hotel.

While his keynote address was interrupted by two loud protesters clearly ignorant of the biomass industry’s workings, Goldmark paused only briefly and then continued more loudly to be heard over their chants as they were escorted out.

There was no doubt about Goldmark’s excitement over the initiative as he outlined to the 400-person crowd the successes of two of the four pilot projects established under phase one. One is a combined-heat-and-power plant at the Port Angeles Nippon paper mill and the other, in Borgford, produces wood oil through pyrolisis. The others hit insurmountable challenges, he said, and are not proceeding. The initiative was launched with multiple goals in mind including job creation and clean energy production.

“Today, I’m proud to announce phase two of this initiative,” he said. Goldmark plans to roll out his bill this week or next for an aviation biofuel pilot facility, he said, adding that it has the support of Washington State University, Boeing, and state agencies and businesses. The project will use biomass from state trust lands and help clean up emissions from an industry that continues to grow exponentially. “There’s ample market here, folks,” he said, citing increased numbers of airline passengers and amounts of fuel used. “We don’t have to worry about that.”

Goldmark’s bill will not only work to establish a pilot bio-aviation facility, but will mobilize stakeholders in developing a woody biomass supply chain. They will analyze existing and potential sites from which to source material, identify sustainable supply amounts, and address jobs that can be created through such a supply chain. “I’m really excited about this opportunity for phase two,” Goldmark said. “I believe biomass transportation fuels have a great and bright future here in the state of Washington.”

Goldmark also took advantage of the prime opportunity to announce an upcoming supply study by Washington State University. “It will help landowners realize how much they can use sustainably,” he said. “And I say that word ‘sustainably’ over and over again.”

All these advancements, plans and projects make it an exciting time in biotechnology, he said. “We have an amazing opportunity in front of us with aviation biofuels to combine the traditional industries of aviation and forestry here in Washington that can serve as a model for developing partnerships, collaboration and innovation for a new industry.”

Imagine a future where homes are powered by solar energy, vehicles run on electricity from wind and airplanes run on oil from biogenic sources, he coaxed, while the audience looked at a picturesque slide displayed behind him of mountains covered in rich green trees. We must act now, he prodded. “My hope is that each of you succeeds because we must find new ways to power everything from your iPhones to your airliners.”