Idaho National Laboratory's (INL's) Bioenergy Program — funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's Biomass Program — embraces the "Whole Crop Utilization" concept (using the entire crop, including the grain and traditionally discarded plant biomass) to produce food, feed, fiber, and energy.
INL's program aims to overcome key technical barriers facing the U.S. bioenergy industry by systematically researching, characterizing, modeling, demonstrating, and harnessing the physical and chemical characteristics of the nation's diverse agricultural residues. By finding ways to produce biofuels and other value-added products more cost-effectively, the annual costs associated with producing 300 million tons of cellulosic feedstock on an annual basis will be reduced by half compared to 2002, when target baseline costs were formally established. The success of this effort will have a direct and positive impact on DOE's transportation fuel goals and the nation's energy needs.
INL's Biofuels and Renewable Energy Technologies and Biological Systems Departments leverage diverse expertise, multidisciplinary capabilities, and advanced systems and technologies with key agricultural and industrial partners. With this foundation, INL effectively addresses feedstock harvesting, fractionation and separation, preprocessing, storage, and pretreatment and transportation systems.
Research Laboratories and Capabilities
Four major INL research laboratories are employed to research, develop, and demonstrate the systems and technologies needed to meet DOE's program requirements. They are the Biomaterials Deconstruction and Composition, Computational Engineering and Simulation, Post-Harvest Physiology and Storage, and the Feedstock Assembly and Preprocessing Laboratories. Listed together, their research functions include the following:
Identify sufficient, sustainable agricultural residue supplies
Document and update feedstock resource data for all significant agricultural residue resources and provide access to the national feedstock database via the Internet
Develop technologies and methods to harvest and collect sufficient quantities of agricultural residues on an annual basis
Develop and demonstrate innovative feedstock storage methods
Demonstrate feedstock transportation cost reductions
Demonstrate preprocessing technologies that produce agricultural residue resources with bulk, flowable properties
Develop and validate optimum process and cost models for sustainable feedstock supply systems
Show that agricultural residue feedstocks could be supplied to biorefineries within target cost ranges.