Identifying conversion technologies

Iowa State University, ConocoPhillips and NREL are working together to identify promising cellulosic biomass conversion technologies.


Iowa State University, ConocoPhillips and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are to work together to identify promising cellulosic biomass conversion technologies.


The collaboration will bring three independently established programs together to help identify the most efficient and cost-effective methods for making liquid transportation fuels from plants.


Transportation fuels today primarily come from petroleum, corn grain or food crops. The collaboration between NREL, ConocoPhillips and Iowa State will develop conversion technologies that will use cellulosic materials such as corn stalks, stems, leaves, other non-food agricultural residues, hardy grasses and fast-growing trees as feedstocks for future transportation fuels.


The processes that will be examined in the collaboration include gasification, pyrolysis and fermentation.


‘The thermochemical and biochemical conversion of cellulosic biomass into liquid fuels has great promise to be a clean and renewable source of energy that doesn’t compete with our food supply,’ said Robert Brown, the Iowa Farm Bureau director of the Bioeconomy Institute at Iowa State.


The collaboration could lead to projects that could provide publicly available, peer-reviewed papers and models. Each party is providing its own time and resources and the collaboration is expected to produce an initial report by January 2009.