BioEnergy Research

, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 430–446 | Cite as

Biorefinery Developments for Advanced Biofuels from a Sustainable Array of Biomass Feedstocks: Survey of Recent Biomass Conversion Research from Agricultural Research Service

  • W. J. OrtsEmail author
  • C. M. McMahan


When the USA passed the Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) of 2007 into law, it mandated that, by the year 2022, 36 billion gallons of biofuels be produced annually in the USA to displace petroleum. This targeted quota, which required that at least half of domestic transportation fuel be “advanced biofuels” either produced from lignocellulosic feedstocks or be a sustainable liquid fuel other than corn ethanol or biodiesel from vegetable oils, will not likely be met due to the difficulty in commercializing alternative biofuels. The number one cost to a biorefinery is the biomass feedstock cost. Thus, it is important that research into biorefinery strategies be closely coupled to advances in crop science that account for crop yield and crop quality. To reach the RFS targets, stepwise progress in biorefinery technology is needed, as the industry moves from corn ethanol toward utilizing a wider array of lignocellulose-based biomass feedstocks. In 2010, the US Department of Agriculture created five Regional Biomass Research Centers to optimize production, collection, and conversion of crops to bioenergy, thus building a network that fosters collaboration among researchers to improve the biorefinery industry. An important component of the five Regional Biomass Research Centers is the four USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) regional utilization laboratories located across the country. These USDA ARS labs were originally set up by their commodities, whereby, in broad terms, the Northern Lab, now NCAUR, focused on corn and soy; the Eastern Lab on oils, leather, dairy, and meats; the Southern Lab on cotton, sugars, and fibers; and the Western Lab on other grains, including wheat and specialty crops. Each lab’s traditional expertise in these respective core commodity crops has been maintained as biofuel research came to the fore, but with the addition of new crops and biotechnological expertise, these labs often collaborate with each other, as will be revealed below. This review outlines some of the recent advances from the ARS labs in developing new bioprocessing strategies required to develop bioenergy from new crop sources.


Biorefinery Ethanol Fermentation Biofuel Biomass Herbaceous crops Guayule Rubber Pyrolysis 



The authors thank Bruce Dien, NCAUR, Peoria, IL, for his insightful and thorough review of this manuscript which significantly improved its content and flow.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.USDA/ARS Western Regional Research CenterAlbanyUSA

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