Chevron Corporation and the Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance have entered into a strategic research agreement to accelerate the production and conversion of crops for manufacturing ethanol and other biofuels from cellulose.
Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron USA, will support research initiatives over a four-year period through the Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance, a formal partnership combining the collective strengths of The Texas A&M University System’s two research agencies in agriculture and engineering: the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES) and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES).
According to a statement, the research initiatives will focus on several technology advancements including identifying, assessing, cultivating, and optimising production of second-generation energy feedstocks for cellulose and bio-oils with a focus on non-food crops; and developing advanced biofuels processing technologies.
‘Chevron believes that biofuels will fill an important role in diversifying the nation’s energy sources by providing a source of low-carbon transportation fuel,’ said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer, Chevron Corporation. ‘Bringing biofuels to large-scale commercial production is an enormous challenge that requires the combined efforts of industry, universities and research institutions, and governments. It is through partnerships like this that biofuels will be a viable part of meeting the energy challenges of tomorrow.’
‘The Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance has a broad, holistic vision focused on developing practical, near-term solutions to bioenergy related problems, in addition to performing the necessary long-term fundamental research,’ added Dr. G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. ‘Forming an alliance with Chevron fits well with our research initiatives and allows us to leverage our strengths in biomass and biofuels to transfer new technologies from lab to the public, providing real solutions that are economical, sustainable and environmentally friendly.’
Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance partners in agriculture have already developed high-yield cellulosic energy crops that can produce significantly more biomass per acre than most alternatives.
‘Cellulosic ethanol, as opposed to sugar- or starch-based ethanol, broadens the choice of feedstock without impacting food supplies,’ continued Rick Zalesky, vice president of Biofuels and Hydrogen, Chevron Technology Ventures. ‘Making it commercially viable poses a number of scientific and technical challenges — challenges which we believe the faculty, staff and students are well-equipped to overcome.’
Cellulose is an energy-rich carbohydrate that is the main structural component of green plants, found in the stems, stalks and leaves. One of the primary technical and scientific challenges of making biofuels from cellulose involves designing a low cost method for releasing sugar from cellulose that is bound in the plant cell wall for fermentation into ethanol or other biofuels.