Southeast United States Bioenergy Study Tour
April 10-14, 2016


Oak Ridge National Laboratory hosted the Bioenergy Study Tour in the Southeastern United States from April 10 to 14, 2016. This Study Tour highlighted innovations developed by the US Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories that support deployment of a sustainable bioeconomy. The goal of the Tour was to have participants develop a better understanding of bioenergy systems in the southeastern United States. The Tour illustrated work supported by the DOE Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), the US Department of Agriculture, industry, and others. The Tour began with a one-day overview on April 11 and then consisted of a bus excursion with several stops, lectures and videos that illustrated sustainability considerations associated with feedstock operations such as perennial grasses and woody residues as well as harvesting operations, logistics, and use of the materials for different purposes.

The Study Tour occurred shortly after the April 2-8 meeting in Asheville, North Carolina, of the US Chapter of the International Association for Landscape Ecology SEE http://www.usiale.org/annual-meetings. Several symposia at that meeting focused on bioenergy.

Approximately 70 attendees from DOE, national labs, the International Energy Agency (IEA), universities, industry, and regional stakeholders such as landowners and nonprofit organizations for the overview meeting. Approximately 48 participants were on the 3-day bus tour, half from outside the US. Countries represented in addition to the United States were Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Sweden, and The Netherlands.

The Tour was an excellent way to facilitate communication about bioenergy crops in the US, for different places have unique land-use histories, regulations, and ways to implement good management practices. For example, improved communications allow European markets to be open to the U.S.

A vibrant bioeconomy can provide an additional market for timber and agricultural resources as well as a means to enhance environmental and social services on lands that might otherwise be lost to development.

The U.S. pellet industry was discussed at length by multiple speakers both from the U.S. and Europe.

* The U.S. pellet industry has experienced substantial growth over the past decade as a result of European renewable power standards.
* The pellet market provides local jobs in the timber industry that partially offset timber production lost due to the decline of the U.S. housing market and the paper industry.
* Production and use of wood-based biomass for bioenergy can provide an important contribution toward mitigating climate change.
* Active forest management is promoted by wood-based bioenergy and can enhance habitat, water quality, and other ecosystem services. To conserve and enhance U.S. forest ecosystems, every opportunity should be seized to support continual improvement in forest management.

Researchers from Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and the Savannah River Site discussed bioenergy work in international sustainability, feedstock logistics, landscape design, modeling, and field experiments.

The Study Tour highlighted a variety of bioenergy opportunities:

* National Transportation Research Center (a DOE User Facility) –featured capabilities for evaluating the impact of new fuels (such as biofuels) on engine efficiency and emissions
* Actively managed and unmanaged timberland in the region and local old growth forest on the Oak Ridge Reservation
* Switchgrass fields and feedstock handling facilities in Vonore, TN
* Cogeneration plant at Savannah River Site
* Privately and corporately held forests in South Carolina and Georgia
* Wood pellet production operations in Georgia

Pre and post surveys were used to assess participants learning about DOE’s innovations and ways to make progress toward a sustainable bioeconomy. The Study Tour was certified for Category 1-CF credit with the Society of American Foresters. IEA Bioenergy Tasks 38 and 43 held meetings in conjunction with the Study Tour.

Acknowledgement: This meeting is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) under the Bioenergy Technologies Office. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by the UT-Battelle, LLC, for DOE under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725.