New Institute Will Turn AG Waste Into Energy

Four major Northwest research organizations are bringing together industry, processors, growers, universities and federal laboratories to develop new methods for converting agricultural and food processing residue and wastes into commercially valuable “bio-based” energy and industrial products.

Richland, Washington – July 26, 2002 [] Members of the new Northwest Bioproducts Research Institute include the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington; DOE’s Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory in Idaho Falls, Idaho; and Washington State University and the University of Idaho, both comprehensive land-grant universities. Each institution will bring its own unique capabilities, staff and facilities to the institute. Under terms of the agreement, the participating universities and federal research laboratories will collaborate to form a multi-disciplinary research and development program. They will examine and develop methods for converting agricultural and food processing residue and wastes into bio-based fuels, power and industrial products, such as chemicals for plastics, solvents and fibers. Industry, processors and growers will be able to use and profit from the institute’s products and technologies and, in some cases, will profit from the discoveries through licenses. Laboratory facilities at the four institutions will be used. The agreement also calls on the consortium to seek public and private support for new research facilities. A Bioproducts Advisory Committee that includes members from industry and grower organizations will be created to set research priorities and help ensure the rapid transfer of scientific discoveries to commercial products and processes. The collaborators noted the institute will help to more fully utilize the productivity of American farms, which are already the most productive in the world. It will explore new uses for food processing byproducts such as discarded culls, hulls, peelings or pulp and collected farm residues such as straw or manure. Currently the market for such residues is typically livestock feed, which provides a low economic return to the producer. In some cases, food processing and farm residues can become a financial liability if they require disposal. “Rural areas, including those in the Northwest, have missed out on the unprecedented national economic growth of the past two decades due to low commodity prices, increased environmental pressures and, more recently, increased energy costs,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. “New technology offers the potential to address all of these issues. Opening new markets adds value to agricultural production, converting farm wastes addresses water resource environmental issues, and producing energy may help keep power costs in check.”


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