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USDA awards Penn State $10M to develop biomass supply chains for liquid transportation and aviation biofuels in Northeast

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded Pennsylvania State University a five-year research grant valued at roughly $10 million to develop biomass supply chains for the production of liquid transportation and aviation biofuels in the Northeast.

The NEWBio Consortium will focus on the non-food biomass sources of willow, miscanthus and switchgrass, which can be grown on former strip mines and marginal floodplains. Through an integrated research, education and Extension approach, the consortium will address the entire biofuel production spectrum, including crop genetic development, harvesting, storage and processing techniques and sustainable production systems. The biomass research will develop sustainable production practices to improve yield by 25% and reduce costs by 20%.

By partnering with industry, the research will enable private-sector partners to produce advanced ready-to-use liquid transportation and aviation biofuels. The team aims to provide business support to generate at least 100 supply contracts and support more than 50 new supply chain businesses to harvest, transport and preprocess biomass.

The project will also address education and outreach to students, citizens, landowners and policymakers to increase their understanding of biomass alternatives— including the social, economic and environmental impacts of sustainable bioenergy in the Northeast.

Dr. Thomas Richard at The Pennsylvania State University will lead the team of researchers and staff from the following organizations: Cornell University; Delaware State University; Ohio State University; Rutgers University; West Virginia University; University of Vermont; Drexel University; American Refining Group; Ernst Conservation Seeds; Case New Holland; Praxair, Inc.; Idaho National Lab; Mascoma Biofuels; Primus Green Energy; Double A Willow; State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry; Aloterra Energy; Oak Ridge National Lab; and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service.

This is the sixth such award made through USDA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). In September 2011, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack five major AFRI grants for the formation of five regional systems in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest, Northern states, Southern states, and the Southeast. (Earlier post.)

AFRI’s sustainable bioenergy challenge area targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bio-energy and bio-based products that contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental, and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems. All grants are awarded over a period of five years, with continued funding contingent on annual project success.


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