NARA’s woody biomass biofuels effort hits close to home; and how you can help fuel the momentum

NARAs woody biomass biofuels effort hits close to home - and how you can help fuel the momentumYou may be aware that FBN is a member of the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA), a Washington State University led group funded by a $40 million USDA grant, which aims to create a wood-based aviation biofuels/co-products industry in the Pacific Northwest over the next five years. Last week, FBN staff and I spent a couple days with 40 or so NARA team members and stakeholders not only discussing the progress of the initiative so far, but brainstorming the road map and next steps for the program.

New pilot community

The big news and grand takeaway from our meeting was that Western Montana has been officially chosen as a NARA pilot community, with FBN’s hometown of Missoula, Montana serving as the hub. What does this mean for the area in the immediate future? Well, starting this fall, Missoula will have 50+ researchers working in and around Western Montana researching the entire supply chain of woody biomass to jet fuel, and the various capital assets that will allow the region to take advantage of a new biomass economy: policy, physical, human, natural, and economic. NARA is very interested in engaging and informing stakeholders (you, our readers), so know that we’ll keep you posted with new information and progress reports as soon as it comes available.

Why wood?

Now that I’ve got that exciting news off my chest, let’s get back to last week’s meeting and what I thought was an important question asked by Rob Chaney, a Missoula reporter. He queried (not in his exact words): “Why wood? Why not focus on any of the many other biomass feedstock alternatives out there?” I’m sure it’s a bit redundant to express (at least to regular FBN readers) the importance of NARA’s emphasis on using wood as a feedstock for a Northwest biofuels industry. Montana State University’s Associate Professor of Forest Ecology & Management, Peter Kolb, said it best when he stated, “you can’t afford to not look at wood.” While economically converting woody biomass into biofuel is the tougher of the nuts to crack, at least in regards to other biomass feedstocks, wood is a logical and sound choice. With wood-based biofuels, we can derive a sustainable source of energy from our over-abundant forests all while making them healthier for people and wildlife; protecting our communities from wildfire; and creating long-lasting, meaningful jobs. Yes, Peter is right. We can’t afford to not look at wood.

How you can play a role in the NARA effort

If you’re interested in the NARA project and what it can mean for your company, we’ll be exploring NARA’s progress and the impact of this unprecedented effort on all stakeholders at our Small Log Conference in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho March 13-15, 2013. There you’ll be able to network with key NARA team members and take part in insightful panels. With an emphasis on hard-hitting information and connections that truly drive business and innovation – and that give you the maximum return for your limited event marketing budget – the Small Log Conference will be the must-attend event of next year.

Lastly, you can officially connect with NARA via their quick stakeholder registration questionnaire form and receive the following benefits:

  • News regarding NARA research and activities
  • Announcements and invitations to workshops, seminars, webinars, conferences, etc.
  • Facts-based information on woody biomass for biofuels and co-products
  • Networking and business opportunities

(Just be sure to put “FBN” in the “How did you find out about us” box!)

Craig Rawlings

Craig Rawlings is the president & CEO of Forest Business Network and has 30 years experience in the forest products industry as an entrepreneur and technical consultant. He can be reached by calling 406.240.0300 or by using our contact form.