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Webinar Series

Wood-to-Biofuel | Webinar Series

Led by Washington State University and funded by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) is helping to develop a sustainable industry in the Pacific Northwest that uses wood residuals to make bio-jet fuel and valuable co-products. The alliance includes public universities, government agencies, private industry and interested stakeholders and is tasked with delivering the following:

  • Sustainable aviation biofuel from woody biomass
  • Value-added polymer and carbon products from lignin
  • Regional supply chain coalitions
  • Rural economic development
  • Bioenergy literacy

In this final year of the project, NARA will be producing 1,000 gallons of cellulosic-based bio-jet (IPK) from Northwest forest residuals, the tree limbs and branches that remain after a forest harvest. Alaska Airlines will be flying a demonstration flight next year using NARA produced cellulosic-biofuel.

To disseminate findings of our research, NARA will be hosting a Wood-To-Biofuel Webinar series summarizing the research and results of converting slash to biofuel while recognizing and conducting sustainable analysis (triple bottom line).

Who is it for?

These webinars would benefit industry (primary and secondary manufacturers, chemical, and biofuel), researchers, contractors, land managers, policymakers, state and local agency personnel, NGOs, educators, and students – all who are interested and involved in operations converting forest-based biomass to biofuels and co-products.

Following are the upcoming and archived webinars hosted by NARA.


Production of Lignocellulosic Isobutanol by Fermentation and Conversion to Biojet

April 29, 2016 9:00 AM – 10:00 AM PDT

Andrew C. Hawkins, Ph.D. and Glenn Johnston | Gevo, Inc., Englewood, CO.

Gevo has developed fermentation and process technology to convert biomass sugars to isobutanol and further into renewable jet fuel through chemical processing. As a key member of the NARA project, Gevo has developed GIFT®, Gevo Integrated Fermentation Technology, to produce isobutanol at high productivity, titer, and yield using a yeast biocatalyst adapted to woody biomass hydrolyzate. Within NARA, Gevo has developed the lignocellulosic fermentation process, and independently from NARA developed isobutanol recovery technology. Gevo separately advanced chemical technology to convert isobutanol through a patented process (dehydration, oligomerization, hydrogenation, and fractionation) into Alcohol-to-Jet (ATJ) Jet Fuel blendstock. Gevo worked for over eight years with ASTM, a worldwide standards organization that develops and publishes voluntary consensus technical standards, to introduce Gevo’s ATJ technology into the specification D7566 “Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuel Containing Synthesized Hydrocarbons”. This newly-revised standard now supports isobutanol based alcohol-to-jet use in commercial aviation jet fuels. Gevo has supported the development of a bench-scale process and scale up of the conversion of lignocellulosic sugars from softwood biomass (Douglas Fir forest residuals and Western Hemlock fiber waste streams) from the Pacific Northwest. The specific tasks of the NARA project have been: (1) Characterize toxicity of a representative sample of pre-treated woody biomass (Douglas Fir) for fermentation; (2) Adapt yeast biocatalyst to pretreated biomass hydrolyzate; (3) Produce isobutanol in a 1L batch fermentation from pretreated biomass sugars using the adapted yeast biocatalyst; (4) Economic assessment of wood to isobutanol, jet; (5) Produce isobutanol in a 1L GIFT® fermentation from pretreated biomass sugars using the adapted yeast biocatalyst; (6) Analysis of isobutanol to close the mass balance and determine potential low-level impurities; (7) Support production of ≥1000 gallons isobutanol from GIFT® fermentations at 40,000 L-plus demonstration scale; and (8) Support conversion of lignocellulosic isobutanol to ≥ 1000 gallons ATJ jet fuel blendstock using Gevo patented technology for further testing.


hawkinsAndrew C. Hawkins, Ph.D.

– Dr. Andrew C. Hawkins, Team Leader for Gevo Inc., is serving as coordinator for the conversion efforts for the NARA project. The group aims to use yeast biocatalysts to convert pre-treated woody biomass feedstocks to isobutanol. The isobutanol can be converted to a jet fuel blend stock and other valuable products. Dr. Hawkins has 14 years of experience in the fields of microbiology, bioprocessing, and biotechnology. He was the first full-time scientist to join Gevo, Inc. when it began as a start-up company in 2006. Since joining Gevo, he has managed numerous scientists, senior scientists, technicians, interns, and support staff, coordinated the construction of a BSL2 laboratory per CDC guidelines, taken a lead role in intellectual property asset management, and is an inventor on over 50% of the company’s patent applications. He is currently a Team Leader in Gevo’s technology area, with focus on fermentation development and strain engineering. Prior to his employment with Gevo, Dr. Hawkins was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the California Institute of Technology and the University of Iowa, where he specialized in microbial physiology and metabolism, bacterial genetics, environmental microbiology, and directed evolution. During his graduate school years at the University of Iowa, Dr. Hawkins was a fellow at the University of Iowa Center for Biocatalysis and Bioprocessing, a National Science Foundation Trainee, and Course Coordinator for the prestigious Microbial Diversity Course at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

glenn-johnstonGlenn Johnston

Glenn Johnston is the Executive Vice President of Regulatory Affairs for Gevo Inc. Mr. Johnston has over 25 years’ experience in the biotech/chemical global regulatory arena. He currently serves as the chair of the regulatory committee and board member of the Advanced Biofuels Association (ABFA) and Chair of the IES Biofuels Committee of Biotechnology Industry Organization. Mr. Johnston currently chairs the ASTM Butanol Task Group and is the chair of the ASTM Alcohol to Jet task force. Mr. Johnston has been recognized by ASTM with the “Award of Excellence” for his dedication and contributions to developing standards. Prior to joining Gevo, Mr. Johnston was Director of Regulatory Affairs with NatureWorks, LLC, where he managed product stewardship issues and integrated his work with global influences regarding toxicology, environmental, and safety. Preceding his tenure at NatureWorks, Mr. Johnston helped lead the regulatory effort in the plastics division of Sandoz Chemicals. During his long-standing career, he has gained extensive experience related to food legislation (FDA, EU, JHOSPA, KFDA, MERCOSUR, etc), chemical legislation (TSCA, EINECS, DSL, METI, KCL, and AICS), animal feed requirements (US FDA, AAFCO), and other regulatory laws that affect the biotech supply chain. He has worked with industry groups in Japan (JHOSPA), Taiwan (EBPA), the U.S. (BPI), the European Union (IBAW) and China (BMG). He is currently a Member of ASTM D02, and has also been a Delegate of ISO TC61 and CENTC249, and a Member of ASTM D20. Mr. Johnston has participated on the board of directors of various industry trade associations and has published papers and given speeches on biotech/chemical regulatory framework throughout the globe.

Pretreatment of Woody Biomass for Biofuel Production

January 19, 2016 | 9am PST

zhuJ.Y. Zhu, USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Lab

Biofuel production from woody biomass through the sugar platform requires efficient production of fermentable sugars either chemically and enzymatically by hydrolyzing polysaccharides in wood cell walls. Enzymatic sugar production is a mature technology that can produce high quality sugars but requires a pretreatment step to open wood cell wall structure to improve its accessibility to enzymes, because nature produces wood as a structural material that is not easily accessible to most microbes to deconstruct into basic building blocks such as simple sugars. Unfortunately, pretreatment is the most expensive step in biofuel production through enzymatic saccharification and fermentation. This is especially true for woody biomass due to its high lignin content and strong physical integrity. Pretreatment softwood and harvest softwood forest residue, the feedstock NARA project proposed to use, is even more difficult. Most existing pretreatment processes cannot produce good enzymatic digestibility from softwood. In this webinar, I will outline the basic principles of pretreatment, its limitations, and its effect on downstream co-product development. Especially, I will discuss the SPORL pretreatment NARA adopted for bio-jet fuel production, its versatility, performance, kinetics based process scale-up, and lignin co-product.


Using woody biomass to produce sugar/fuels, chemicals and fiber is a focus of Dr. Junyong Zhu’s work at the U.S. Forest Service and will be the focus of his work with the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance project. He is a scientific team leader at the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison Wisconsin and adjunct professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Specifically, Dr. Zhu’s research experience encompasses laboratory fundamental studies and commercial pulp mill demonstrations of his laboratory research findings, including commercial production of fibers using small diameter, softwood trees from forest thinning in the most modern thermo-mechanical pulp mill- Ponderay News Print (Usk, WA) in the United States. He is the co-inventor of the robust pretreatment technology SPORL for efficient sugar production from woody biomass, especially softwoods. Dr. Zhu serves as a technical editor of TAPPI Journal, the official scientific publication of the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry. Previously, Dr. Zhu was a faculty member with the Institute of Paper Science and Technology in Atlanta, Ga., and a scientist at Aerometircs, Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif. He holds an MBA from Georgia State University and a Ph.D. in engineering from the University of California at Irvine.

IDX Webinar IV: Micronized Wood Facility @ Hermann Brothers Site

December 14, 2015

By the IDX team at Washington State University

The IDX team at Washington State University has been tasked with assessing the feasibility of valuating the potential of co-locating a micronized wood depot at the Hermann Brothers Site in Port Angeles, Washington. This webinar will present the SWOT analysis for the site and surrounding region.

IDX Webinar III: Liquid Depot Facility @ Port Townsend Paper Company

December 14, 2015

By the IDX team at Washington State University

The IDX team at Washington State University has been tasked with assessing the feasibility of evaluating the potential of co-locating a liquid depot at Port Townsend Paper Company (PTPC) in Port Townsend, Washington. This webinar will present the SWOT analysis for the site and surrounding region.

IDX Webinar II: Micronized Wood Facility @ Hermann Brothers Site

November 16, 2015

By the IDX team at Washington State University

The IDX team at Washington State University has been tasked with assessing the feasibility of valuating the potential of co-locating a micronized wood depot at the Hermann Brothers Site in Port Angeles, Washington. This webinar will present the SWOT analysis for the site and surrounding region.

IDX Webinar I: Liquid Depot Facility @ Port Townsend Paper Company

November 16, 2015

By the IDX team at Washington State University

The IDX team at Washington State University has been tasked with assessing the feasibility of evaluating the potential of co-locating a liquid depot at Port Townsend Paper Company (PTPC) in Port Townsend, Washington. This webinar will present the SWOT analysis for the site and surrounding region.

Incorporating Timber Product Output (TPO) harvest residue information and forest market models to evaluate biorefinery siting potential

November 19, 2015

Todd Morgan, Director, Forest Industry Research, Bureau of Business and Economic Research, University of Montana
Greg Latta, Assistant Professor, Senior Research, Forest Engineering, Resources & Management, College of Forestry, Oregon State University

NARA scientists have focused on building supply chain solutions demonstrating forest harvest residues as a viable source of woody feedstock for production of biojet. A key aspect in supply chain logistics is biorefinery siting, a fundamental component of which is knowledge of the current spatial allocation of the resource and how that allocation may change over time. U.S.D. A. Forest Service Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) TPO data is a consistent and comparable source of county-level harvest residue information. The Forest Industry Research Program at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research (BBER) collects and compiles logging utilization and TPO data for the 4-state project area. Since the NARA study began in 2011, BBER researchers have measured more than 2,500 felled trees within 108 logging sites. The NARA project uses this data to characterize how current forest harvest residues vary by region, county, ownership source, pulp removal, logging systems employed, and tree attributes such as species. To evaluate how that supply might change over time NARA utilizes spatially explicit economic models of forest products markets which balance harvests on FIA plots with demand for logs at regional mills. The resulting spatial allocation of logging operations for products such as lumber, plywood, and paper products is then further refined with the TPO data to assess future potential harvest residue availability. The combined information regarding current and potential future forest harvest residue supply coupled with collection and transportation cost data are used to generate supply cost estimates specific to any desired biorefinery site across OR, WA, ID, or MT.


morgan2Todd Morgan

Todd Morgan is the director of the Forest Industry Research Program at the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. His research experience is related to wood supply and utilization in the western United States. His program collects and reports timber products output data for 13 western states to the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Inventory and Analysis Program. In addition, Morgan’s program performs timber harvesting and hauling cost analyses for the Forest Service Northern Region, provides economic impact information related to timber harvest and utilization levels throughout the West, monitors timber processing capacity and mill operations in the West, and collects and reports quarterly delivered log prices and forest industry employment and production in Montana. Todd earned his M.S. in Forestry from the University of Montana in 1999, and his B.S. in Forest Science from Penn State in 1997.

greglattaGreg latta

Greg is an assistant professor, senior research within the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at Oregon State University. His research area of interest is the development and application of regional and national models of timber forest product markets. For NARA, he works within the biomass modeling and assessment group. Greg provides oversight of, and guidance for, the development of the market model and its extension to include biomass removals and transport within the NARA regions. As the project generates usable output, Greg participates in the authorship of reports and publications based on modeling results and analysis. Greg received a B.A. in economics at the University of California Santa Barbara, M.S. in forest resources at Oregon State University, and Ph.D. in forest and resource economics at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Long-term soil productivity and sustainability of forest harvest residue harvesting

October 30, 2015

By Jeff Hatten, Assistant Professor, Oregon State University; Scott Holub, Silviculture Research Scientist, Weyerhaeuser NR Company

Forest harvesting intrinsically removes organic matter and associated nutrients; these exports may impact soil productivity of managed forests. We will examine the effects of removing forest floor and harvest residues on soils and sustainable production in intensively managed Douglas-fir forests of the Pacific Northwest. We will discuss the amount and types of biomass being removed and how biomass harvesting impacts various nutrients (e.g. nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium). Nutrient removals may impact long-term production or growth in these forests, and we will use simple thresholds and nutrient budgets to examine this trend. Finally, we will discuss the limitations of this approach and opportunities for further research. Webinar attendees will come away with an understanding of the issues surrounding long-term sustainability in forest residue harvesting scenarios and the limitations of our knowledge on these issues.

holub jeffhattan

‘Woods-to-Wake’ life cycle assessment of residual woody biomass based jet-fuel

October 21, 2015

gangulyBy Indroneil Ganguly, Assistant Professor, Research, University of Washington

The residual woody biomass (a.k.a harvest slash) produced during forest harvest operations in the Pacific Northwest, is generally burned in the forest or left on the forest floor to decompose. Drop-in biofuel production from these residual cellulosic feedstock can provide an alternative to utilizing this unused resource and simultaneously displace fossil based fuels. Utilizing a ‘woods-to-wake’ (WTWa) Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodology, which is comparable to well-to-wake for its fossil based counterpart, this paper assesses the environmental implications of recovering these harvest residues to produce woody biomass based bio-jet fuel.

The woody biomass to bioconversion process presented in this paper uses a milder version of bisulfite pre-treatment of the feedstock liberating the C6 sugars which then go through enzymatic hydrolysis, saccharification and fermentation producing isobutanol (iBuOH). The isobutanol is then converted to bio-jet fuel (iso-paraffinic kerosene, IPK) using a proprietary biocatalytic fermentation and oligomerization processes. The woods-to-wake environmental impacts of woody biomass jet-fuel are then compared to WTWa impacts of fossil based jet-fuel. The results indicate that the woods-to-wake global warming impact of wood based bio-jet fuel represents a 60% or greater reduction as compared to WTWa of traditional jet fuel.

Characterization of forest residuals for bio-jet fuel production

October 19, 2015

marrs2By Gevan Marrs, Feedstock Sourcing, NARA

Softwood feedstock samples collected throughout the Pacific Northwest have been characterized for carbohydrate, lignin, and extractives content. Some of the samples have received exhausting testing through pretreatment, hydrolysis and fermentation into alcohols. In addition, the cost impacts associated with various feedstock processing options have been quantified in order to evaluate the economic impacts to deliver a “standard sized” feedstock product for conversion into bio-jet fuel and co-products.

Decision support for forest harvest residue collection

October 14, 2015

By John Sessions, University Distinguished Professor and Rene Zamora-Cristales, Post Doctorate, Oregon State University

Forest harvest residues are often available at roadside landings as a byproduct of the log manufacturing process. This residue is usually available for renewable energy production if desired, however there is a significant amount of residues that do not reach the landing during the harvesting process that could potentially increase the supply of forest biomass from each harvest unit. The proportion of recoverable residues depends on their collection costs which are a function of the distance from roadside landing, terrain conditions, and collection method as well as subsequent truck transportation costs. Residues close to landings and nearest to the processing center will usually have the lowest delivered costs. Tradeoffs between increasing truck transportation costs and increasing collection costs affect which residues will be collected to reach a supply target or residue payment price. A forest residue collection model using forwarders and excavator loaders is presented to estimate the potential cost of biomass extraction from the forest to roadside landings. Tradeoffs between increasing collection costs and increasing road transportation are examined. The impact of tax credits and site preparation savings are discussed. On flatter terrain, one excavator is efficient at short distances. As distance from landing increases, one excavator loading one forwarder becomes more efficient, and at long distances, one excavator loading two forwarders becomes more efficient.

sessions2 zamora

Estimating forest residue for biomass production

October 13, 2015

bostonBy Kevin Boston, Associate Professor, Oregon State University

The webinar will begin by describing the biomass supply chain and the issues with its management. This will lead to motivation of why measurement of forest residues is necessary for its successful management. The seminar will then describe various techniques used to measure biomass piles and the comparison among these methods. It will describe the logging process that are common in the Pacific Northwest and how they can influence the amount and location of biomass produced from harvesting operations. It will review the operations used to collect and process this biomass and suggest other equipment that might be useful to increase the amount of biomass available for energy production.