Biofuels are a renewable energy source that can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and create new markets/uses for existing and new crops.
However, despite our many excellent options for biofuel feedstocks available in the U.S., critical limiting factors like available water resources must be addressed first to create sustainable bioenergy production.
- The Algae for Fuel program at the Pecos Station developed and evaluated flocculation processes for harvesting algae to reduce the cost of algal lipid production by 30% in 2012-2013.
- The SWAT hydrologic model developed at the Temple Center assesses impact of growing crops for biofuels.
Current Projects & Selected Accomplishments
Algae for Fuel
Researchers at the Lubbock Center’s Pecos Station are on the cusp of a new biofuel that is economically competitive with current fuel prices – algae.
The Pecos Algae Research and Development Faculty is working to develop algae growth and harvesting techniques that can be commercially scaled and economically replicated in the Southwest desert regions of the U.S. The team has already seen success. In 2013 they developed a process for harvesting algae that reduced cost of lipid production by 30%.
Legumes for bioenergy
Researchers at the Corpus Christi Center are studying warm-season legumes – such as peanuts and soybeans. Researchers want to know if these legumes can be used as grain, hay, grazing or bioenergy crops. Legumes can be beneficial since they provide nitrogen and soil stabilization for grasses that are use for bioenergy or livestock grazing.
Forage crops as biofuels
Researchers in Soil & Crop Sciences Department have determined a set of drought-tolerant, resource-use-efficient forage crops that can also be used for biofuels. The team recommends using these crops on abandoned, degraded, and underutilized grassland resources throughout Texas.
New sorghum-based bioenergy crops
Bill Rooney has made unprecedented headway in the area of new sorghum-based bioenergy crops that are now considered by many across the industry as one of the leading feedstocks for the future bioenergy economy
A watershed and risk management tool for sustainable production of bioenergy feedstocks
John Jifon is studying bioenergy crops for biofuel feedstocks – sugarcane, Miscanthus, switchgrass, and miscane. He is using APEX – a watershed and land management simulation model – to evaluate combinations of feedstocks and water options under different weather and soil conditions.
In addition, they are using an economic financial model to estimate production costs and economic feasibility to determine the minimum price at which farmers can grow bioenergy crops. Finally, they will create an online tool for decision makers to evaluate cost-benefit ratios and the risk of investment.