A project to develop a cloud-based system to collect data that will help companies using forestry feedstock to develop biofuels to meet federal regulations is underway.
The United States Forest Service awarded Strategic Biofuels a cooperative agreement to create the system during the first phase of the project. 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 carbon-negative commercial renewable fuel plant using forestry feedstock. That project received a $250 million bond from Louisiana and is anticipated to turn forestry waste feedstock into 34 million gallons of renewable fuel a year.
The Forest Service awarded the project under its Wood Innovations Program. It is aimed at funding a tracking system that enables the forestry feedstock sector to supply data that can accurately be transmitted to the biofuel producer and validated by a third-party auditor for EPA compliance.
“Creating an auditable system that fully meets EPA requirements for documenting and validating feedstock qualification, source or origin, and chain of custody currently presents significant challenges for using woody biomass as a feedstock for renewable fuels,” says Strategic Biofuels CEO Dr. Paul Schubert.
A report from Frontiers in Energy Research cites that forestry biomass could support more than 15% of energy consumption and it produces 20% fewer emissions than fossil fuels. Woody feedstocks can be used for biofuels such as ethanol, but technology and processes are still evolving. The International Energy Agency estimates forest and agricultural biomass can produce nearly 62 billion gallons of ethanol by 2030.
Biofuels are made from a variety of processes and uses, and the clean fuels are often in a 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 serve as the auditor for the project and will help develop reporting content and formatting, auditing protocols, and documentation methods.
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 program 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. EPA must ensure that forest residuals receiving credit under the Renewable Fuel Standard are qualifying feedstock. We also want them to be sustainably sourced.”
Representatives from the National Association of State Foresters, the American Loggers Council, and organizations representing private industrial, non-industrial, and tribal forest landowners are expected to be on an advisory team for the program.