Chevron and Texas A&M Form Strategic Biofuels Research Alliance
Joint effort to focus on conversion of non-food crops into renewable transportation fuels.
SAN RAMON, Calif.- Chevron Corporation (NYSE: CVX) and the Texas A&M Agriculture and Engineering BioEnergy Alliance (Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance) announced today that they have entered into a strategic research agreement to accelerate the production and conversion of crops for manufacturing ethanol and other biofuels from cellulose.
Chevron Technology Ventures, a division of Chevron USA, Inc., will support research initiatives over a four-year period through the Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance, a formal partnership combining the collective strengths of The Texas A&M University System’s two premier research agencies in agriculture and engineering – the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station (TAES) and the Texas Engineering Experiment Station (TEES).
The research initiatives will focus on several technology advancements to produce biofuels including, but not limited to:
* identifying, assessing, cultivating, and optimizing production of second-generation energy feedstocks for cellulose and bio-oils with a focus on non-food crops,
* characterizing and optimizing the design of dedicated bioenergy crops through advances in genomic sciences and plant breeding,
* developing integrated logistics systems associated with the harvest, transport, storage and conversion of bioenergy crops, and
* developing advanced biofuels processing technologies.
“Chevron believes that biofuels will fill an important role in diversifying the nation’s energy sources by providing a source of low-carbon transportation fuel,” said Don Paul, vice president and chief technology officer, Chevron Corporation. “Bringing biofuels to large-scale commercial production is an enormous challenge that requires the combined efforts of industry, universities and research institutions, and governments. It is through partnerships like this that biofuels will be a viable part of meeting the energy challenges of tomorrow.”
“The Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance has a broad, holistic vision focused on developing practical, near-term solutions to bioenergy related problems, in addition to performing the necessary long-term fundamental research,” said Dr. G. Kemble Bennett, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Engineering. “Forming an alliance with Chevron fits well with our research initiatives and allows us to leverage our strengths in biomass and biofuels to transfer new technologies from lab to the public, providing real solutions that are economical, sustainable and environmentally friendly.”
For instance, Texas A&M BioEnergy Alliance partners in agriculture have developed exceptional high-yield cellulosic energy crops that can produce significantly more biomass per acre than most alternatives.
“The development of biofuels from agricultural feedstocks requires a regional approach and research into many alternatives for the long-term energy needs of our country,” said Dr. Elsa Murano, vice chancellor and dean of Texas A&M Agriculture and Life Sciences. “We have been able to capitalize on decades of existing research into sorghum, sugarcane, forage and oil-based cropping systems, which should provide us with premier, dedicated feedstocks for biofuels and renewable energy that are sustainable within existing agricultural production systems.”
“Cellulosic ethanol, as opposed to sugar- or starch-based ethanol, broadens the choice of feedstock without impacting food supplies,” said Rick Zalesky, vice president of Biofuels and Hydrogen, Chevron Technology Ventures. “Making it commercially viable poses a number of scientific and technical challenges – challenges which we believe the faculty, staff and students at one of the world’s premier universities in agricultural sciences and engineering are well-equipped to overcome.”
Cellulose is an energy-rich carbohydrate that is the main structural component of green plants, found in the stems, stalks and leaves. One of the primary technical and scientific challenges of making biofuels from cellulose involves designing a low cost method for releasing sugar from cellulose that is bound in the plant cell wall for fermentation into ethanol or other biofuels.
Chevron formed a biofuels business unit in May 2006 to advance technology and pursue commercial opportunities related to the production and distribution of ethanol and biodiesel in the United States. Its research and development (R&D) activities in biofuels are currently structured around a research initiative with Weyerhaeuser Company, one of the world’s largest integrated forest products companies; a major alliance with U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL); and a portfolio of four significant, regionally focused university programs. In addition to the Texas A&M agreement announced today, Chevron’s biofuels business unit has formed research arrangements with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of California – Davis and the Colorado Center for Biorefining and Biofuels, which is a consortium of NREL, three major Colorado universities and other private companies. Chevron maintains a substantial internal proprietary capability directed to applying R&D and commercializing external research success.
Chevron is investing across the energy spectrum to develop energy sources for future generations by expanding the capabilities of today’s alternative and renewable energy technologies. Between 2002 and 2006, Chevron spent roughly $2 billion on renewables and alternative energy and energy efficiency initiatives. Between 2007 and 2009, Chevron expects to spend more than $2.5 billion.
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