System For Advanced Biofuels Production From Woody Biomass in the Pacific Northwest

The project is funded by the USDA-NIFA- AFRI Sustainable Bioenergy Program Area 1. It extends from 2011 to 2016.


This university/industry partnership is led by the University of Washington and will ready the Pacific Northwest (PNW) for a 2015 introduction of an infrastructure compatible biofuels industry targeting biogasoline and renewable aviation fuel. The consortium will endeavor to mitigate technology risks along the entire woody biomass energy crop-based biofuels supply chain to allow the financing, construction, and operation of multiple biorefineries in the PNW region.

Main Core Objectives

  • Develop commercial tree farms across a range of marginal sites in the PNW. Tree farms will be used to demonstrate, quantify, and/or refine biomass productivity, site sustainability, management costs, harvesting and processing technology and environmental impacts.
  • Develop a new class of poplar and alder energy varieties using classical hybridization methods to improve crop adaptability to sites of marginal forest and agricultural quality. Hybridization work will be supported by molecular study of genes controlling the expression of energy traits.
  • Research low-impact silvicultural methods in terms of the application of naturally-occurring symbiotic organisms (endophytes) that can fix atmospheric nitrogen, increase water-use efficiency and control diseases.
  • Develop and deploy scalable technologies to convert hardwood energy crops into infrastructure compatible gasoline and jet/diesel biofuels.
  • Provide regional sustainability analyses, data collection, and management tools to address the economic, environmental, and social issues and mitigate the risk of unintended consequences while building support for the industry.

The research line being developed at the UCDavis aims to identify genetic associations, between single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs)-markers and phenotypic traits, useful to develop genomics based breeding technologies for Populus trichocarpa. A collection of near 460 clones from different provenances collected in the natural distribution range of the species, established in a field trial at Davis, CA, is being phenotyped. Phenotyping comprised morphological, phenological, physiological, metabolomic and wood chemistry traits. In parallel, next generation sequencing technologies (sequence capture) will be used for SNP discovery and genotyping.

Expected Impacts

Sustainably grown regionally appropriate woody energy crops will help to revitalize the PNW region’s agriculture/forestry sectors by supplying a sustainable advanced biofuels industry that supports both large and small growers and brings jobs to rural communities in the region.

Participating Organizations