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The Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point was founded to create a fresh approach to meet todays environmental and economic challenges. WIST is a multidisciplinary institute powered by the energy and expertise of faculty, staff and students across the UWSP campus.
Virent's Take on the Changing Biofuels Industry
(3BL Media) August 21, 2012 - Andrew Held, senior director of feedstock development for Virent, will be speaking at Focal Point 2012: Capitalizing on Sustainable Technology. Held will be providing an update on how Virent incorporates sustainability concepts into the successful commercialization of biofuels and bioproducts. In advance of the conference, we asked Held a couple of questions in an email interview.
WIST: The biofuels sector is becoming increasingly diverse with biodiesel and bioethanol on stream and next generation fuels derived from fermentative, algal, chemical and pyrolysis routes all on strong development paths. What do you foresee the biofuels landscape looking like in 5 years’ time?
Held: The biofuels industry, like many new industries, incorporates an abundance of new technology and commercial risks. In five years, several of the larger projects underway in the U.S. will prove technically successful and the underlying economics will be well understood. The interest for biofuels remains high in the public at large, but the appetite to adjust and re-shape government market mandates (for example, Renewable Fuel Standard 2) appears to be growing. New government policy developments could have a dramatic effect on the biofuels industry as large capital projects typically have a 3-yr project cycle. Few capital projects will proceed if the present environment continues (uncertainty in government market mandates, sustained lower oil prices, etc.).
WIST: How is Virent addressing concerns about the use of agricultural land to grow biomass for energy production?
Held: Virent works jointly with partners to assess and plan feedstock supply chain developments. Virent is investing significant R&D resources in the area of ag and forest harvest residuals (corn stover and wood residuals historically left in the forest). We believe the biofuels and bio-based chemicals industry must use prudent agricultural and forest production practices in the short, medium, and longer term. As scientific progress continues, updated data continues to inform the emerging commercial supply chains of a growing industry. The ramp-up in biomass for energy use will not be instantaneous and we are optimistic that good planning can keep Virent’s feedstock supply business, as well as the industry, on stable footing. Short term market dynamics will always be in play in the feedstock area, for example the current drought in the Midwest. Agriculture yields, however, continue to increase over the long term and producers and regions will continue to look for diversified product markets.