With help from federal funding, two forest bioproducts processing plants at the University of Maine will upgrade their equipment to expand their research into finding renewable energy uses for wood byproducts, such as jet fuel or home heating oil.
The university’s Forest Bioproducts Research Institute was awarded $4.8 million from the Defense Logistics Agency in September to continue its research into creating hydrocarbon fuel from biomass, like sawdust, tree bark, twigs and wood chips. The institute — which operates the Technology Research Center in Old Town and the on-campus Process Development Center — researches ways to repurpose wood biomass outside of Maine’s traditional lumber uses.
Established in 2012, the Technology Research Center is a pilot plant located in the Old Town mill that researches how to turn wood byproducts, such as sawdust, into organic acid which can then be made into crude oil — like petroleum. But unlike petroleum, it’s a renewable resource.
Normally, the Research Center has to collect the sawdust on their own and then bring it back to the plant where they grind it down and strain it to be small enough for processing. But this year, the institute is purchasing new equipment to improve efficiency.
The institute is upgrading its biomass processing equipment to help convey the materials from one process to the next.