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Research on insect-derived feedstock receives grant

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded nearly $10 million (€7.3 million) to a consortium, led by Colorado State University (CSU), to study the challenges limiting the use of insect-killed trees as a sustainable feedstock for bioenergy and renewable fuels.

CSU researchers, together with other scientists from universities, government and private industry in the region, created the Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR) to address this issue.

‘Infestations of pine and spruce bark beetles have impacted over 42 million acres of US forests since 1996 and a changing climate threatens to expand the threat from bark beetle on our forest lands,’ says agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. ‘This research will help take the biomass that results from bark beetle infestation and create clean, renewable energy.’

It is believed the benefits to using beetle-killed wood for renewable fuel production include no cultivation, it circumvents food-versus-fuel concerns and is likely has a highly favourable carbon balance.

There have been reported barriers to its widespread use however, one being the potential feedstock is typically located far from urban industrial centres, often in relatively inaccessible areas, which increases harvest and transportation costs.

‘We thank the USDA for seeing the value in this project,’ adds Colorado governor John Hickenlooper. ‘Through the development of technology and other solutions, this initiative should now demonstrate a solution to this problem.’