The focus of accelerated R,D&D should be on a few key areas. Principal among these are studies to accelerate the kinetics and efficiency of technologies to convert woody feedstocks to alcohols. Although the major beneficiary of feedstock research is likely to be biofuels conversion technologies, accelerated economic production of herbaceous and woody crops would expand markets for biomass in power generation and process heat The costs must be brought to the $2.00/MilBtu level as early as possible. At the same time, reliability of the feedstock production must be demonstrated if farmers and land owners are to commit large land areas to long-term production of energy crops. Monoculture herbaceous and woody energy crops must be produced on a large scale over an extended time to demonstrate the viability of several species under a variety of seasonal and annual climatic conditions, such as abundant or minimal rainfall and temperature extremes; exposure to insects, fungi, and other pests and diseases; and tolerance of pesticides and herbicides.
Needs for additional R.D&D on biomass-derived methane relate to the production of methane from MSW as well as more uniform biomass with more predictable processing behavior. Improvements in reactor stability, gas enrichment, and conversion rates are needed to reduce costs from $4.50/MilBtu to $3.50/MilBtu.
The production of electricity and heat from biomass resources is currently commercial. Little additional research is needed in the existing technology. Any achievements in advanced fossil fuel generation technologies should be studied to evaluate their potential adaptation for biomass fuels. Improvements in the performance (particularly the lifetimes) of emission clean-up catalysts would reduce the cost of efficient wood-burning equipment and improve its market acceptance. In addition, the development of a biomass gasifier and gas clean-up system might make combined cycle technology feasible using wood or other biomass and reduce costs by virtue of greatly improved efficiency. Research on MSW feedstock preparation, particularly improvements in separating and recovering recyclable materials, and removing materials that produce toxic or other unwanted emissions in the combustion process, is also needed.
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