Programme to Build Forestry Feedstock Data for Biofuel Creation Underway

Published on: 14 October 2022
by KnowESG

A project is underway to create a cloud-based system for collecting data that will help companies using forest feedstock to make biofuels meet federal rules.

During the first phase of the project, the United States Forest Service gave a cooperative agreement to Strategic Biofuels to build the system. The data platform will show compliance with the feedstock through EPA regulations set under the federal renewable fuel standard.

Strategic Biofuels is a renewable fuel project development company. The company's Louisiana Green Fuels project is expected to be the first commercial renewable fuel plant that uses wood as a feedstock and still cuts down on carbon emissions. The state of Louisiana gave this project a $250 million bond, and it is expected to turn forestry waste into 34 million gallons of renewable fuel every year.

The Forest Service awarded the project under its Wood Innovations Program. It is meant to pay for a tracking system that lets the forestry feedstock sector provide accurate data that can be sent to the biofuel producer and checked by a third-party auditor to make sure it meets EPA standards.

"Creating an auditable system that fully meets EPA requirements for documenting and validating feedstock qualification, source or origin, and chain of custody is a very difficult task right now," says Dr. Paul Schubert, the CEO of Strategic Biofuels.

According to a report from Frontiers in Energy Research, forestry biomass could meet more than 15% of the world's energy needs and produce 20% less pollution than fossil fuels. Biofuels like ethanol can be made from woody feedstocks, but technology and processes are still evolving. The International Energy Agency says that by 2030, biomass from forests and farms can be used to make nearly 62 billion gallons of ethanol.

Biofuels are made from various processes, and the clean fuels are often in diesel or ethanol form. Sustainable aviation fuels are especially a benefactor of biofuel production. Early in 2022, oil and gas company ExxonMobil invested in renewable fuel creation, buying a 49.9% stake in Norwegian company Biojet AS which plans to convert forestry and wood-based construction waste into biofuels and biofuel components.

The Forest Service will oversee the feedstock data project and facilitate information sharing and help coordinate additional opportunities that come out of the initiative. Weaver will be the project's auditor and help come up with the content and format of reports, as well as auditing protocols and ways to keep track of things.

The EPA is required under the Clean Air Act to set renewable fuel standard volume requirements each year. There are four renewable fuel standards – conventional renewable fuel, advanced biofuel, cellulosic biofuel, and biomass-based diesel.

“Historically, forest residuals have been a disposal challenge,” says Julie Tucker, National Wood Innovations programme manager of bioenergy, biofuels, and bioproducts for the Forest Service. “The Renewable Fuel Standard helps change that by giving the renewable energy sector a financial incentive to convert these unwanted forest residuals to high-value biofuels and renewable electricity. Under the Renewable Fuel Standard, the EPA must make sure that forest residuals that get credit are qualified feedstock. We also want them to be sustainably sourced.”

An advisory team for the programme will likely have people from the National Association of State Foresters, the American Loggers Council, and groups that represent private industrial, non-industrial, and tribal forest landowners.

Source: Environmental Leader

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