ISU Partnership to Cooperate on Biofuels Research

ISU, ConocoPhillips and National Renewable Energy Lab will help advance cellulosic conversion technology.

Iowa State University, ConocoPhillips and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL, have reached a Memorandum of Understanding to identify promising cellulosic biomass conversion technologies over the near, mid- and long-term. The collaboration, announced in early April, will bring three independently established programs together to help identify the most efficient and cost-effective methods for making liquid transportation fuels from crops and other plants.

Transportation fuels today primarily come from petroleum, corn grain or food crops. The NREL, ConocoPhillips and ISU collaboration will develop conversion technologies that use cellulosic materials such as cornstalks, stems, leaves, other nonfood agricultural residues, hardy grasses and fast-growing trees as feedstocks for future transportation fuels. The processes to be examined in this effort include gasification, pyrolysis and fermentation.

Find efficient way to make cellulosic ethanol

"ConocoPhillips is committed to the development of technologies that will efficiently and cost-effectively convert sustainable nonfood feedstocks into transportation fuels that will be critical to the nation's energy security," says Stephen Brand, ConocoPhillips senior vice president of technology. "We are hopeful that this collaboration will expand the knowledge base and speed development of these environmental technologies."

"Research cooperation among government, industry and academia is needed to efficiently address the many questions about how to find the best ways to convert biomass to liquid transportation fuels," says Tom Foust, technology manager for NREL's Bioenergy Center.

"The thermochemical and biochemical conversion of cellulosic biomass into liquid fuels has great promise to be a clean and renewable source of energy that doesn't compete with our food supply," adds Robert Brown, the Iowa Farm Bureau Director of the Bioeconomy Institute at ISU. "This research collaboration brings together the complementary strengths of a major energy company, a national energy laboratory and a land-grant university to advance these technologies and move them closer to the marketplace."

First report is expected by next January

The collaboration could lead to projects that could provide publicly available, peer-reviewed papers and models. Each party is providing its own time and resources and the collaboration is expected to produce an initial report by January 2009.

Iowa State University is a land-grant university that attracted $272 million in grants, contracts and cooperative research agreements in fiscal year 2007. For more information, visit
ConocoPhillips is an international energy company with interests around the world. For more information, visit NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by Midwest Research Institute and Battelle. For more information, visit NREL online at

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