Published: October 15, 2009
SUMMERVILLE, S.C. — Clemson University and ArborGen LLC, two of South Carolina’s most recognized names in forestry and biofuels research, have partnered to develop purpose-grown woody biomass as feedstock for the biofuels industry.
The cooperative will support South Carolina’s ethanol industry based on existing cellulose conversion technology, foster multi-agency collaboration and engage students in research and internships.
Cellulose-to-ethanol conversion is the practice of producing biofuel from cellulose — the fibrous material that makes up most of the plant matter of nonfood plants, such as switchgrass, wood chips and many other varieties.
Renewable energy sources such as biofuels can generate new industry clusters in South Carolina and help reduce the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels.
ArborGen and Clemson will identify areas of joint research, including plant genetics and development, field trials, equipment engineering, material handling and woody biomass pretreatment.
Immediate research areas include coastal loblolly pine, sweetgum, eucalyptus and poplar trees as possible sources of renewable biofuel.
This partnership also will see Clemson engage ArborGen in the Bioenergy Collaborative, an interdisciplinary team investigating commercial bioethanol production in South Carolina. The public-private partnership represents all aspects of the cellulosic bioethanol fuel cycle, from feedstock through production and distribution.
The collaborative includes the research institutions of the Savannah River National Laboratory, South Carolina State University and Clemson University. Private partners include Fagen Engineering, Dyadic International and the Spinx Co.
Further, ArborGen and Clemson will engage undergraduate and graduate students through research projects, internships and other educational activities related to degree and non-degree programs.
“We are very pleased to be working with Clemson on the very important subject of energy production in South Carolina,” said Barbara Wells, president and CEO of ArborGen.
“This kind of research has global implications for climate change, energy security and the long-term stability of our local and national economy, particularly as it can help develop the rural infrastructure and jobs we need,” she said.
Karl Kelly, director of corporate operations at the Clemson University Restoration Institute in North Charleston, said that ArborGen is the world leader in tree improvement, with an extensive pipeline of world-class elite conventional pine and hardwood germplasm, and is the ideal partner to further the state’s cellulose to ethanol research.
Through improvements in tree productivity and wood characteristics, ArborGen trees have the potential to increase the value of renewable feedstock for traditional forest products, such as saw timber and pulpwood, and emerging bioenergy applications, Kelly said.
“This relationship marks a big move for the collaborative into trees as a feedstock,” Kelly said. “ArborGen is a key industry leader — based in South Carolina — that can develop our existing switchgrass-to-ethanol program into other forms of biomass.”
Clemson’s cross-university and statewide resources include a dedicated Experiment Station, research and education centers, plant genetics laboratories, agricultural research and equipment engineering, and forestry.
ArborGen is a leader in tree improvement and the commercial production of trees. We are dedicated to helping the global forest industry meet the growing demand for wood, pulp and paper, and energy in a more productive and sustainable way. Enabling more wood to be grown on less land helps conserve the world’s native forests in all their beauty, diversity and complexity. With one of the world's most extensive tree germplasm resources, ArborGen uses both conventional breeding and advanced genetic technologies to discover and produce high-yield seedlings for our customers, allowing our customers to significantly increase the productivity of their forests and manufacturing processes. Our mission is to deliver superior performing trees through innovative science and world class customer service — every tree, every time.
Clemson University Restoration Institute
The mission of the Clemson University Restoration Institute is to advance knowledge in integrative approaches to the restoration and sustainability of historic, ecological and urban infrastructure resources, and drive economic growth. The institute’s vision is to build a sustainable future through education, collaborative restoration research and strategic partnerships.