Forest to fuel: UM, MSU part of $10M effort to turn debris into carbon-neutral source

2 January 2014

MISSOULA — If 1 ton of woody debris can produce 50 gallons of fuel, how many gallons of fuel could 42 million acres of dead and dying forests produce?

Funded by a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a consortium of five universities, joined by research labs across the Northern Rockies, is looking for ways to turn that mass of dead timber into a carbon-neutral fuel source.

Known as the Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies, the upstart group includes researchers at Montana’s two flagship universities, and those at Wyoming, Idaho and Colorado State.

“This is probably one of the few projects that promises success in turning carbon waste, or organic material, into liquid fuel,” said Peter Kolb, the extension project manager for BANR. “But there are a lot of challenges that need to be addressed in order to do that.”

Kolb, a professor of forestry at Montana State University, is heading the project for Montana from the University of Montana’s College of Forestry and Conservation, which received $1 million for the effort this month.


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