beetle kill






On November 6th 2013, the US Department of Agriculture awarded nearly $10 million to fund research to develop renewable fuel and biochar production using insect-killed trees in the Rocky Mountain region as a sustainable feedstock. The award was provided to the Bioenergy Alliance of the Rockies (BANR): a consortium of academic, industry and government organizations led by Colorado State University.

BANR’s website can be found here.

The USDA press release announcing BANR can be found here.

BANR is the most recent Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) funded within the Sustainable Bioenergy challenge area by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). They are one of seven AFRI-CAP projects, including NARA, funded since 2011.

The regions served by NARA and BANR overlap in western Montana and Northern Idaho. To date, NARA leadership has met with BANR members and began the process of identifying efforts where the two organizations can share information and resources to accomplish the project goals.

“ We are still working out the details, but there will definitely be strong coordination between BANR and NARA”, says Michael Wolcott, NARA co-project director. “This coordination is very important to the USDA, our stakeholders, and to the success of both projects. We are very excited to have this opportunity to work with this strong team on issues of mutual interest to ourselves and our shared stakeholders.”

One significant distinction between the two projects is that BANR will explore the use of a thermochemical process called pyrolysis to convert insect-killed trees into biofuels and biochar; whereas, the NARA project is developing a biochemical conversion process which relies on yeast to convert sugars, produced from forest residuals, into biofuels. In contrast, the process relies on heat and pressure to convert the wood material into fuels. BANR has partnered with Cool Planet Energy Systems, whose mobile pyrolysis process can be tailored to the beetle-kill feedstock in a specific area.  This approach utilizes mobile conversion facilities that move into a centralized location for the duration of a forest treatment. This system is not small enough to fit at a logging site, but would locate in a central area close to utilities and transportation. The temporary siting differs from the stationary conversion concept developed by NARA, but is similar to depot sites currently under study.

Additional BANR partners include the University of Idaho, University of Montana, Montana State University, the University of Wyoming, U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and the National Renewable Energy Lab.