Jeff Roskam to lead Kan. bioenergy alliance

By Kris Bevill | July 15, 2010
Posted Aug. 17, 2010

Ethanol industry veteran Jeff Roskam has been named founding CEO of the Kansas Alliance for Biorefining and Bioenergy. Formed last year through a $4.1 million grant from the Kansas Bioscience Authority's Centers of Innovation program, KABB will focus on resolving technical issues related to the production of biochemicals and biofuels, from harvesting feedstocks through the processing and marketing of organic chemicals. As Kansas' bioenergy center of innovation, KABB will also develop alternative fuels and chemicals and improve carbon capture.

Roskam cut his teeth in the ethanol industry more than two decades ago and has held management positions at some of the industry's most well-known companies. He began his career as an engineering project manager for Broin and Associates (now Poet LLC) and was senior vice president of business development and minority owner of Kansas-based ICM Inc. He was president and co-founder of Wichita-based United Bio Energy, which merged into US BioEnergy and later became part of VeraSun Energy Corp. He also co-founded and served as CEO of Wichita-based CAP CO2 LLC, a CO2 enhanced oil recovery firm. "The Kansas Alliance for Biorefining and Bioenergy is poised to conduct world-class research and spin exciting new bioenergy solutions out of the lab with Jeff Roskam at the helm," said Tom Thornton, president and CEO of the KBA. "His entrepreneurial spirit and industry background make him well suited to lead this center of innovation in addressing national bioscience challenges."

According to Roskam, rather than focus on long-term research activities, the goal of KABB is to provide solutions to near-term problems facing producers of biochemicals and fuels, including cellulosic ethanol. "For example, one of the things we're going to be looking at are the two pathways - thermochemical and enzymatic," he said. "We'll be looking for near-term technology problems in those areas that we can invest in and help industrial partners solve."

Other goals identified by KABB are to: develop feedstock conversion systems, develop systems for the separation and distribution of fuel and chemicals, and develop applications for end-products. "It's pretty broad-reaching in terms of the bioeconomy," Roskam said. KABB currently has three projects under consideration that involve the harvesting of biomass and is considering a project to fund a fuel lab for biofuels testing and another project to develop catalysts for thermochemical reactions.

KABB is an industry-led organization and so far has acquired some heavy-hitting partners, including ICM, Archer Daniels Midland Co., Abengoa Bioenergy, Edenspace Systems and the Kansas Corn Growers Association. Industry participation in the alliance serves two important purposes, according to Roskam. "One is that it helps focus all of the energy - whether it's research at universities or funds that we might invest in certain technologies - it helps define what needs to be done, and that is near-term commercial," he said. "We're going to be focused more on the commercialization side of things than on the basic research side of things. The second thing is that the industry partners that join KABB can collaborate on common problems. The harvesting of biomass, for example, is a common problem. So the industry partners can participate in solving that problem."

The alliance is still in the organizational phase but plans to release what Roskam described as a roadmap to highlight its "investing priorities" within the next few months. KABB is also interested in acquiring more industrial partners. For further information, visit www.kansasbioenergy.com.