State positioned to lead country in biobased fuel transition
According to the Pickens Plan website, the United States spends in the neighborhood of $1 billion a day on foreign oil.
Researchers at Oklahoma State University's Biobased Products and Energy Center are developing innovative technologies to produce renewable drop-in biofuels and biobased products in an effort to reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil and fossil fuels. Their work positions Oklahoma to take a leading role in the biobased economy of the future.
"In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency predicted that 85 percent of the production of dedicated energy crops such as switchgrass and forage sorghum in the U.S. would occur in Oklahoma by 2022," said Hasan Atiyeh, assistant professor of bioprocessing and renewable energy in OSU's Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. "The use of Oklahoma's biomass for biofuels can improve profitability for farmers, enhance local economies, attract capital ventures and improve energy security of the U.S."
Atiyeh and his team have discovered new microorganisms for the production of drop-in biofuels including propanol, butanol and hexanol. These higher alcohols can be converted using chemical catalysts to produce renewable gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.
Since joining OSU in 2008, Atiyeh has earned more than $2.5 million in research grants from multiple state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture, South Central Sun Grant Initiative U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Oklahoma Bioenergy Center, Oklahoma's National Science Foundation Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research Research Experiences for Undergraduates and the United Sorghum Checkoff Program also have helped fund Atiyeh's cutting edge work.
"My research program encompasses laboratory experimentation and modeling to investigate cutting edge, innovative concepts that can be applied in establishing sustainable biorefineries in Oklahoma and the nation," he said. "My research team is a world leader in the development of the gasification-syngas fermentation hybrid technology."
As part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, the U.S. set a goal of producing 36 billion gallons per year of renewable transportation fuels by 2022. About 16 billion GPY can be produced from cellulosic biomass without significantly affecting our current agricultural production.
"The development of a biorefinery industry in Oklahoma can enhance our economy as an energy state not only with the petroleum-based products, but also with biofuels and biobased products," Atiyeh said.