Poplar trees represent a viable and sustainable feedstock for the production of cellulosic ethanol and green chemicals, according to a USD-40-million (EUR 36m) study nearing completion in the US.
The academic institutions and private companies participating in the five-year research initiative are gathering to share results and finalise work between September 8 and September 10 at the University of Washington, which is leading the project. The financing is coming from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The research partners have identified hybrid poplars as a beneficial feedstock due to the tree’s year-round availability, fast growth, and because its wood is easily broken down to fermentable sugars. They worked with poplar bark, leaves and wood.
US cellulosic biorefinery developer ZeaChem Inc is one of the project participants with a USD-12-million share of the total financing. The company is working on a plan to install in 2016 a commercial production plant in the US state of Oregon, where it will make fuel-grade ethanol and bio chemicals.
“We’ve provided fundamental information that our industry partners can use to convince investors that production of fuels and chemicals from poplar feedstock is a great investment,” said Rick Gustafson, a UW professor who leads the project.