Campus News

All from one big pile of wood chips: UGA expert talks with President Bush about promise of biomass

All from one big pile of wood chips: UGA expert talks with President Bush about promise of biomass

Athens, Ga. — President George Bush heard first-hand today about the University of Georgia’s “big picture approach” to alternative energy resources.

Ryan Adolphson, director of UGA’s biomass processing facilities, talked with Bush today as part of a White House-sponsored panel on biofuels in Franklinton, N.C. He told the president that UGA is leading research to develop the integrated biorefinery of the future and confirmed that not only fuels, but a host of other commodities, can be produced “all from one big pile of wood chips.”

Adolphson told President Bush that UGA is “not only looking at ethanol, which is a significant piece of the puzzle, but also at the other products that can be generated from biomass.”

He compared a biomass refinery to a petroleum refinery in which a barrel of crude “doesn’t just make diesel and gasoline,” but 50 or 60 additional products. “We’re looking at our wood chips as that barrel of crude and turning it into a larger profit stream than just a single product. We believe that’s going to drive the economics,” said Adolphson.

He said that Georgia’s approach to biomass energy is to work in partnership with the forest products and other agricultural industries not only to make fuels, but co-products – including chemicals for pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals and other gas products – from biomass feed stock, which includes forest and forest products.

Adolphson said that UGA is focused on “a seamless transfer of technology” to industry. Government resources and academic development will provide funding and resources, but “it’s going to be the market that will have to pick it up and take it to get it into the hands of consumers,” he said.

The panel discussion followed a tour of Novozymes, a Franklinton, N.C., company that makes the enzymes needed to produce cellulosic ethanol from biofuels such as grass, wood chips or agricultural waste like stalks. The event was planned to highlight Bush’s State of the Union initiative in which he announced a goal of reducing America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in the next 10 years.