Southeast region collaboration shows off research advances with tour stop at Ag Day


IBSS partner institution Auburn University's gasifier
​A tractor-trailer scale mobile gasifier will demonstrate how biomass can be converted to electric energy at UTIA's Ag Day on Oct. 5. The gasifier is part of a tour showing off the research accomplishments of the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems, a $15M regional project headed up by UTIA's Center for Renewable Carbon. Photo by P. McDaniels, UTIA, from the gasifier's appearance at the 2012 UT Biomass Field Day. Download photo.

KNOXVILLE, TN. – Ag Day, the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s annual alumni event, is among the planned stops for a road show touting the successes of the first two years of a regional research partnership focused on bioenergy production centered in the Southeast. 

Coordinated by the University of Tennessee Center for Renewable Carbon, the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems (IBSS) mobile tour will feature a tractor-trailer scale mobile biomass gasifier from research partner Auburn University. The gasifier will demonstrate how to turn biomass into electricity on a small scale. Specifically, at the Oct. 5 Ag Day event, the gasifier will power a large screen TV that will show gameday coverage of college football. Visitors to the display will also learn first-hand about how plant-based materials, including wood chips and switchgrass, are being intensively studied for possible development into all kinds of biobased fuels. 

The IBSS Partnership has been involved in research to develop
drop-in liquid fuels, such as gasoline, diesel and jet fuel for use as a replacement for grain (corn)-based ethanol. Recently the project produced some 1500 gallons of a “green” diesel fuel from Southeastern-produced plantation pine and switchgrass and technology provided in part by industrial research partners. Samples of the diesel fuel will be on display.
Tim Rials, director of the UT Center for Renewable Carbon and a biochemist, contends that the U.S. should invest in the Southeast for the production of biofuels. “In 2010 the USDA Biofuels Strategic Production Report estimated that the Southeast will be the leading region for biofuels production because we have the most robust growing season in the U.S.,” he said. “In addition, our region can produce a variety of biomass feedstocks including dedicated crops such as switchgrass and sorghum, along with dedicated woody crops and forest residues.”

The goal of the IBSS partnership is to demonstrate the production of advanced biofuels from sustainable sources of lignocellulosic biomass. Initially, the partnership has focused its efforts on perennial switchgrass and short-rotation woody crops like eucalyptus and pine. Rials said each dedicated crop has inherent performance and cost advantages for specific conversion technologies. “We are working to match the economic and environmental performance of each feedstock with a preferred conversion platform so that the ultimate product, the particular biobased fuel, will be reliable, available and affordable.”

The IBSS mobile tour is scheduled to make stops on Oct. 2 at the McWane Science Center in Birmingham Ala., Oct. 3 at the American Museum of Science and Energy at Oak Ridge, Oct. 5 at Ag Day and Oct. 8 at the the University of Georgia’s
Bioenergy Day in Athens. The IBSS mobile tour will return to the Auburn campus in time for that school’s Saturday, Oct. 12, homecoming activities.

The IBSS Partnership is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). One goal of NIFA's agriculture and food research initiative (AFRI) targets the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of bioenergy and biobased products that contribute significantly to reducing dependence on foreign oil; have net positive social, environmental and rural economic impacts; and are compatible with existing agricultural systems. The IBBS Partnership is also charged with developing educational efforts to help prepare future workforce participants to contribute to the growth and sustainability of a new bioenergy industry in the Southeast. The IBSS mobile tour is part of an effort to make young people aware of the science involved in developing biofuels and the potential benefits of biofuels to society.



Jessica McCord, UTIA Center for Renewal Carbon, 865-974-7370,

Patricia McDaniels, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 865-363-6009,