Wood to Wing: Envisioning an Aviation Biofuels Industry Based on Forest Residuals in the Pacific Northwest
For years, the focus on biofuels development has aimed at the twin bookends of feedstock development and conversion technologies. But despite years of effort and no clear winner in sight, relatively little work has addressed gaining efficiencies in the biofuels industry through supply chain efficiencies. Recently, the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture funded a number of Coordinate Agricultural Projects aimed a developing regional feedstock supply chains for the biofuels industry. The Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance is one such effort aimed at development of a sustainable aviation biofuels from woody biomass. Unlike other efforts to develop new energy crops, NARA is focused on the capacity of the Pacific Northwest to sustainably supply residual feedstocks from our existing timber supply chain.
The challenge to envision a biofuels industry must not only consider the feedstock and technical demands of a specific conversion technology but must also consider the existing petroleum industry which supplies the current fossil fuels; the capacity of regional communities to act collectively and provide a skilled workforce; the local and national governments to develop effective policy; and the regional environmental capacity to sustainably supply the feedstock, water, and air resources. Successful supply chains will only prosper where these factors align to work in concert.
Michael Wolcott serves as Co-Principal Director for the NARA project. In this capacity, he coordinates efforts on the project’s supply chain focus for sustainability analysis, education, and stakeholder outreach teams. These teams will study the various metrics assessing the sustainability of the biofuels supply chain, engage stakeholders and communities in the development of the industry, while developing a regional workforce through education programs from K-12 through to PhD levels. As a researcher, Dr. Wolcott will work with colleagues on development of new biobased resins and plastics to add value to the aviation fuel refineries.
Wolcott, Regents Professor and LP Distinguished Professor of Wood Materials and Engineering in Washington State University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering is a member of the interdisciplinary Materials Science and Engineering faculty and founding director of WSU’s Institute for Sustainable Design. He is an international leader in the field of natural fiber composites and biopolymers. His research has led to the development of advanced materials to improve durability and performance while reducing manufacturing costs and pollution. Prior to NARA, he has managed nearly $20-million in funding and directed large interdisciplinary research teams for numerous federal agencies, including the Office of Naval Research, the Department of Energy, the USDA, the US Forest Service, and the Federal Highway Administration. He holds five patents for innovative materials and structures from wood and natural fibers. He has been actively engaged with industry to commercialize his research and has participated in projects for more than 50 companies.
Dr. Wolcott has received numerous national and international awards for research excellence, including the prestigious Society of Wood Science and Technology’s George Marra Award (in 1991 and 1995). He is a Fellow in the International Academy of Wood Science and frequently invited as keynote lecturer at international conferences.
He holds a Ph.D. in materials engineering science from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University and BS/MS in forestry from the University of Maine. A member of the WSU faculty since 1996, he previously served as an associate professor at West Virginia University’s Division of Forestry.