The Kansas Bioscience Authority in March awarded $4.1 million to create the Kansas Bioenergy and Biorefining Center of Innovation, uniting key industry players with the world-class research and development efforts at the University of Kansas – through its Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis – and Kansas State University. The center of innovation will use commercial biorefining to develop alternative fuels and chemicals; commercialize efficient biomass resources for cost-effective quality power; and improve carbon capture.
As with other KBA centers of innovation, the focus of this center is commercial viability, which requires the confluence of economic viability with technical feasibility and marketplace acceptance. Projected outcomes include three biorefineries and $600 million in sales of cellulosic ethanol over five years. Beyond five years, Kansas could add 1,800 direct jobs, 3,600 indirect jobs, direct revenue of $3.6 billion, and extra income of $30,000 per harvest per farm.
The KBA in May also awarded $1.2 million over three years for bioenergy research at the KU Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis as a match to $1.2 million being invested by Archer Daniels Midland Company, which operates five processing plants, a technical center, and sales and distribution offices throughout Kansas.
The project expands upon research in biorefining that’s been under way for the past four years at KU. Biorefining is the use of biomass — plant materials or animal waste — to produce feedstock for a variety of industrial processes. The Archer Daniels Midland research will focus on multiple areas: converting carbohydrate feedstock into a form of engineering plastic known as BDO; converting vegetable oils to lubricants and other industrial chemicals; eliminating the need for a petrochemical used in food and beverage packaging; and the development of biofuels.
“We are pleased that ADM, a global leader in biorefining research and innovation, has chosen to partner with CEBC,” said Bala Subramaniam, director of the center. “The project is an excellent match for our faculty expertise and research facilities and supports the KBA’s vision of a thriving biorefining industry in Kansas.” Archer Daniels Midland is headquartered in Decatur, Ill., and employs more than 27,000 people worldwide, including more than 500 in Kansas at plants and other facilities in Abilene, Arkansas City, Dodge City, Salina and Overland Park. Sales in 2008 totaled nearly $70 billion.
The university will provide in-kind support valued at more than $334,000. This project could lead to new technologies that can be integrated into one or more of ADM’s five processing plants in the state and new feedstocks that can be grown, harvested and processed in Kansas.
Subramaniam, the Dan F. Servey Distinguished Professor of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, will work with a counterpart at Archer Daniels Midland to provide overall project management.
“It’s exciting to be working with a company like ADM, and it’s an important project for Kansas and the country,” said Carey Novak, KU’s director of business and industry outreach. “This is one of our largest industry collaborations ever, and it may lead to even bigger projects in the future.”
The economic and geographic positioning of Kansas, with its expansive grain-producing and grassland areas and research expertise, make it ideal for leadership in the rapidly expanding bioenergy sector.
Bioenergy provides about 3 percent of the country’s energy consumption, surpassing hydroelectric power to be the single largest source of renewable energy. The United States is approaching a biobased revolution that will fundamentally change the way Americans produce and consume energy and industrial products. From biological resources people can derive products as diverse as fuels and lubricants, heat and electricity, chemicals, food, feed building materials, paper, clothing, and much more. Some of the critical drivers for future increases in bioenergy demand include the following:
- Increased global energy consumption,
- National energy security,
- Environmental impact,
- Economic productivity, and
- Renewable fuels standards.