OSU researcher highlights public, private biomass work in Ore.

By Erin Voegele | January 18, 2012

Public and private enterprises in Oregon are working diligently to develop and expand a local biobased economy. During a presentation at the 2012 Pacific West Biomass Conference & Trade Show, Christine Kelly, an associate professor of chemical, biological and environmental engineering at Oregon State University, outlined the achievements made by private companies, research institutions and universities in the biopower, biomass, and biofuels sectors.

Kelly opened her discussion by highlighting the work of private companies within her state. Regarding biopower, Kelly said that Portland General Electric in Boardman recently came to an agreement with state authorities to phase out the use of coal at its power plant by 2020. As an alternative, Kelly said, the company has been considering fueling the plant with giant cane. Potland General Electric has been working with several entities within the state to develop the biomass feedstock, specifically by working with farmers and evaluating logistics and infrastructure needs.

Another Oregon company, HM3 Energy, is working to construct a plant to torrify biomass. The resulting fuel could be used by coal-fired power plants to offset the use of some fossil fuel. According to Kelly, construction of the plant is set to begin, as preliminary investigations have been completed.

Greenwood Resources is another company located within the state that is involved in the biomass sector. Greenwood, which grows poplars, boasts the largest tree farm in the U.S. While the resulting woody biomass has traditionally been used to produce wood for moldings, the farm recently agreed to supply feedstock to ZeaChem, which converts the biomass to produce acetic acid and ethyl acetate. The company also eventually plans to produce cellulosic ethanol.

Meanwhile, Kelly said Trillium FiberFuels Inc. is working on enzymatic isomerization. Essentially they are looking at how to increase yields by utilizing five-carbon sugars with traditional yeast. The process converts xylose so traditional yeast can ferment it.

The state of Oregon is also home to several first-generation biofuels companies, including Summit Foods Inc., which converts its fruit waste into ethanol. She noted another company, SeQuential Pacific, operates a 17 MMgy biodiesel plant in Salem that utilizes waste cooking oil as feedstock.

In addition to these private enterprises, Kelly noted that Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon are contributing to the biomass sector by pursuing research-oriented work in the areas of advanced ethanol development, biopower technology, biodiesel technology, woody biomass logistics, feedstock agronomy, biofuel enzymes, micro- and nano-scale technologies, and algae physiology and cultivation. 



1 Responses

  1. Erich J. Knight



    Carbon conservative combustion should be the only technologies considered for Co-Combustion with coal. Known pathways that burn only the Bio-Hydrocarbon oils & gas, but retains elemental biomass carbon char for the soil. To not conserve this elemental cell structure, preserved in biomass char is to forsake the work of the plants' fixing the carbon to start with. The Paleoclimate Record shows agricultural-geo-engineering is responsible for 2/3rds of our excess greenhouse gases. The unintended consequence, the flowering of our civilization. Our science has now fully realized the consequences of additional fossil emissions and has developed a more encompassing wisdom. Wise land management, afforestation and the thermal conversion of biomass can build back our soil carbon. Pyrolysis, Gasification and Hydro-Thermal Carbonization are known biofuel technologies, What is new are the concomitant benefits of biochars for Soil Carbon Sequestration; building soil biodiversity & nitrogen efficiency, for in situ remediation of toxic agents, as a feed supplement cutting the carbon foot print of livestock. Modern systems are closed-loop with no significant emissions. The general life cycle analysis is: every 1 ton of biomass yields 1/3 ton Biochar equal to 1 ton CO2e, plus biofuels equal to 1MWh exported electricity, so each energy cycle is 1/3 carbon negative. The Bio-refinery Technology to Harvest Carbon; The photosynthetic "capture" collectors are up and running all around us, the "storage" sink is in operation just under our feet, Thermal conversion reactors are the only infrastructure we need to build out. Carbon, as the center of life, has high value to recapitalize our soils. Yielding nutrient dense foods and Biofuels, Paying Premiums of pollution abatement and toxic remediation and the growing Dividends created by the increasing biomass of a thriving soil community. Since we have filled the air, filling the seas to full, soil is the only beneficial place left. Carbon to the Soil, the only ubiquitous and economic place to put it. Thank you for your efforts. ,


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