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University of Montana receives funds for biomass research

The University of Montana received $1.4 million (€1.24m) from the US Department of Agriculture and US Department of Energy’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative.

Researchers will use the grant to identify and overcome the barriers to using biomass from fuels-reduction and forest-restoration treatments.

University of Montana forestry Professor Beth Dodson and her team will look at the logistics, economics and sustainability of using an otherwise disposed resource as fuel for bioenergy operations.

"This research will substantially improve our ability to sustainably use forest-based feedstocks to offset fossil fuels for the benefit of society and the forest resource," Dodson said. "We will do this by improving the treatment design, harvest and handling of forest biomass to maximise environmental sustainability and human health while minimising costs."

Dodson will lead the operations team for the grant. John Goodburn, a UM forestry professor, will co-lead the silviculture team along with Michael Battaglia from the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Ching-Hsun Huang, a forest economist from Northern Arizona University, will co-lead the economics team along with Nathaniel Anderson from the US Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station.

"Research of this type demonstrates our forward-thinking faculty and their appreciation of the role forest resources, including woody biomass, play in meeting our increasing energy and product needs," said UM College of Forestry and Conservation Interim Dean Wayne Freimund.

Earlier this week, University of California researchers announced that they received $1.3m to develop biofuels from waste plants.

The University of Montana is one of seven institutions selected to receive a share of the $10 million joint investment by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) towards research that will drive more efficient biofuels production and agricultural feedstock improvements.

The awards were made through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint programme run by NIFA and DOE to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and bio-based products.

Earlier this week, the University of California Riverside’s Bourns College of Engineering (UCR) announced that it had received $1.3m to develop a biofuels project.

The USDA funded projects include the following: the UCR, University of Montana, Dartmouth College, State University of New York, and North Carolina Biotechnology Center, with the DOE providing funding to projects by Ohio State University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.