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Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA)

Objective

Using forest residues and construction waste as feedstock, the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) aims to create a sustainable industry to produce aviation biofuels and important co-products. The project in particular focuses on overcoming key obstacles that prevent wood-based jet fuel and petrochemical substitutes from being economically viable.

Category
Research & Development

Value-chain step
All

Type of pathway
Cellulosic feedstock

Starting time and duration
2011 -

Stakeholders
University, fuel producer, agencies

Regional scope
Regional

Involved countries
U.S.A.

Status
On-going
Description

Led by Washington State University, NARA has received a 40 M$ grant from the USDA-NIFA to develop a holistic approach to building a supply chain for aviation biofuel (biojet) with the goal of increasing efficiency in everything from forestry operations to conversion processes.
 
NARA includes a broad consortium of scientists from universities, government laboratories and private industry.
 
To meet its mission's goals, the Alliance is broken down into specific areas of focus:
  • Education, to develop biofuel knowledge among the public and help create a future workforce;
  • Conversion, for the development of economically viable wood residue to biojet and co-products industry;
  • Feedstock, to develop a sustainable production of woody biomass feedstock;
  • Sustainability Measurement, to assess the sustainability of the overall wood residual to biojet supply chain;
  • Outreach, for the transfer of science and technology to stakeholders.

NARA researchers envision developing a new, viable, aviation fuel industry using wood residuals in the Pacific Northwest where forests cover almost half of the region. The Northwest has established oil refining, wood processing facilities and distribution assets as well as a significant aviation industry.

The project will focus on increasing the profitability of wood-based fuels through development of high-value, bio-based co-products to replace petrochemicals that are used in products such as plastics. A major goal will be to address how to better understand and use wood lignin, a glue-like material constituting up to about 30 percent of some woods. Lignin is often considered to be one of the key issues adversely affecting economic viability for production of wood-derived plant chemical products.

Key challenges to be overcome by NARA include resolving various scientific/technical obstacles that prevent economic viability. Sustainability – economic, environmental, and social – is also key. NARA researchers will use specific metrics to assess and evaluate technological progress against critical milestones throughout the project.

Partners

Catchlight Energy, Facing the Future, Gevo, GreenWood Resources, Montana State University, National Center for Genome Resources, Oregon State University, Pennsylvania State University, Salish Kootenai College, US Forest Service, University of Idaho, University of Minnesota, University of Montana, University of Washington, Washington State University, Western Washington University, Weyerhaeuser

Achievements to date

Education: Funded a new “biofuels’ category for the Imagine Tomorrow high school science competition and expanded the participating regions to include Oregon, Idaho and Montana.  Created biofuels curricula and funded high school teacher training in biofuels curricula instruction. Sponsored summer undergraduate biofuels research. Utilizes undergraduate and graduate students to deliver project data in supply chain regions. Website, newsletters, one-page fact sheets and displays have been generated and promoted to educate public.
 
Wood residuals to biojet fuel: Coded and conducted sugar and chemical analysis for biomass samples collected throughout the NARA region. Optimized and generated mass balances for pre-treatment processes. Created a new long-term soil productivity site to provide for environmental and sustainability research. Cored over 300 Douglas-fir trees to determine chemical variability and select families with quality attributes for residual processing. Updated Oregon, Idaho and Montana mil residue and capacity information.
 
Supply Chain Coalitions: Established the western Montana Corridor as a strategic coalition region for the supply chain…extensive data collection and stakeholder involvement is underway. Additional strategic coalitions will be established in Oregon, Washington and Idaho. NARA has developed a formalized selection process to identify strategic supply-chain communities in the NARA region. Extensive outreach to communities and tribal governments has been on going.
 
Co-products derived from lignin: Batch lignin samples have been generated from the residual to biojet conversion process to be used as benchmark feedstocks for co-products work. Epoxy resins with excellent mechanical and thermal properties have been developed. A native lignin-based polymeric material has been produced.

Contact information