LSU to establish Louisiana Institute for Biofuels and Bioprocessing

By Lisa Gibson | December 09, 2009
Report posted Dec. 16, 2009, at 8:51 a.m. CST

The Louisiana State University Agricultural Center has permission from the Board of Regents to establish the Louisiana Institute for Biofuels and Bioprocessing (LIBBi), a research, education and outreach initiative within the AgCenter.

The LIBBi will not occupy its own facility, but will be a "virtual center" that will provide the roadmap needed to support new biofuels and bioprocessing endeavors in the state and prioritize pathways for integration of those industries into the mainstream, according to John Russin, AgCenter associate vice chancellor and institute director. The LIBBi is expected to link Louisiana's agricultural base with emerging bioenergy initiatives, which will expand the state's role in developing renewable energy sources, while expanding the economic base for crop producers in the state, according to the proposal submitted to the Board of Regents.

The regents' approval is conditional for one year, in which time the AgCenter will work on several first-year initiatives, including soliciting ongoing federal support for the institute; assembling an external advisory board; developing an annual conference with speakers from the industry and academia; facilitating effective information exchange among public and private partners; and developing electronic and print materials to educate stakeholders and policymakers about industry opportunities in Louisiana, according to the proposal.

Initially, the LIBBi will encompass all ongoing research projects within the AgCenter, including those involving the conversion of bagasse, sweet sorghum, switchgrass and algae to biofuels, polymers and specialty chemicals. "As the external advisory board develops and corporate partners emerge, we hope to expand the breadth and depth of our programs," Russin said. Louisiana has a strong and diverse agricultural base and is well-positioned to produce energy crops, the proposal states.

Objectives of the LIBBi should complement that of the Clean Power & Energy Research Consortium, which supports programs from seven campuses of higher education in Louisiana. A unique attribute of the institute will be its ability to address all aspects of industrial development for new bioproducts from Louisiana crops, according to the proposal. That encompasses areas from biofuel crop development and production to optimum harvesting, handling and storage; from processing to optimization for biofuel specialty chemical production; and from product conceptualization through development to economic analysis and marketability, the proposal states.