INL News Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 24, 2023
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IDAHO FALLS — U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm heralded upgrades to the world’s most complete biomass preprocessing research and development facility during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Idaho National Laboratory today.
The Biomass Feedstock National User Facility recently completed a $15 million upgrade to help the bioenergy industry overcome challenges related to turning sources such as wood, biomass energy crops, municipal solid waste, and agricultural residues into valuable fuels and clean chemicals.
During the celebration, Granholm announced a new Department of Energy initiative to devote national scientific resources to create 100 and 400 million tons of clean fuels and chemicals per year by 2035 and 2050, respectively. The Clean Fuels and Products Shot will help accelerate the widespread adoption of low-carbon solutions such as bio-based aviation fuels and bioplastics, products that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. The effort is part of the Energy Department’s Energy Earthshots Initiative, which accelerates breakthroughs of more abundant, affordable and reliable clean energy solutions within the decade.
“DOE is invested in decarbonizing the transportation and chemical industries by accelerating technologies necessary to reduce emissions from the manufacturing of fuels and chemicals.” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This Energy Earthshot will advance the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to diversify the domestic supply chain with cost-competitive, clean fuels and products for daily use and establish the U.S. as a world leader in clean fuel and clean carbon-based chemical production.”
The facility is the lead national research institution for material handling and mechanical processing, which are essential first steps for turning a raw material into a value-added product. The upgraded user facility is designed to enhance biomass feedstock quality through expanded preprocessing capabilities, intelligent automation, and tools to advance fundamental knowledge of feedstock variability and material handling.
“The research and development conducted at the Biomass Feedstock National User Facility is an example of INL’s diverse, multiprogram capabilities and is vital to achieving our vision of changing the world’s energy future,” said INL Director John Wagner. “DOE’s investment in this truly unique facility enhances INL’s clean energy mission work by offering our industry partners more resources as they work to bring material processing facilities online.”
Feedstock variability — inconsistency in physical and chemical attributes of biomass such as moisture content, ash content, particle size and carbohydrate concentration — creates biomass handling and quality challenges that have hampered biorefineries during scale up and integration.
The upgraded national user facility will help the bioenergy industry manage biomass variability, in part, by demonstrating equipment that separates biomass and wastes into different fractions early in the preprocessing stage. Advanced sensors will gather data and automatically adjust equipment to compensate for variability. Each fraction contains different chemical and physical characteristics that industry can use to create consistent biomass feedstocks optimized for specific conversion processes.
The improved BFNUF also includes upgrades that expand the types of raw materials that the facility can process to include waste streams from municipal solid waste, green manufacturing and other carbon streams. For example, municipal solid waste sorting technologies take advantage of optical and chemical sensors powered by artificial intelligence that can be trained to recognize different types of materials, such as plastics, based on their shape, color or chemical makeup. Robotic arms or pneumatic mechanisms can then sort the materials, which are formatted into feedstocks for clean fuel and products.
For more information visit https://bfnuf.inl.gov/SitePages/BFNUF%20Home.aspx.
About Idaho National Laboratory
Battelle Energy Alliance manages INL for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. INL is the nation’s center for nuclear energy research and development, and also performs research in each of DOE’s strategic goal areas: energy, national security, science and the environment. For more information, visit www.inl.gov. Follow us on social media: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.