NREL beetle-kill biofuel seminar @ CSU

Colorado State folks- note that BANR and the Sustainable Bioenergy Development Center (SBDC) are co-hosting Dr. Kristiina Iisa of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on Wednesday, October 8 from 2-3 in Lory Student Center room 386.  Dr. Iisa’s talk is titled “Production of Transportation Fuels from Mountain Pine Beetle-Killed Trees via Fast Pyrolysis” – see the abstract below or download as a pdf here.  Hope you can join us!


CPES gets $91M USDA loan guarantee for LA plant


Last Friday, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack was in Louisiana to announce a $91 million loan guarantee to our BANR industrial partner, Cool Planet Energy Systems, in support of their facility currently under construction in Alexandria, LA.  The facility is expected to be completed in 2015 and reach full production the following year, generating up to 10 million gallons of drop-in ‘reformate’ fuel annually from pine chips sourced from local forestry operations.  In addition, the facility will produce large quantities of char that can be upgraded to CoolTerra soil amendment, and will add at least 150 jobs to the local economy.  The loan was made under the Biorefinery Assistance Program established in the 2008 Farm Bill, which has previous supported facilities from ZeaChem, Coskata, Solazyme, and others.

This is going to provide a new market opportunity for pine chips and other renewable forest material, which will help the forestry industry in the state…

USDA’s support for renewable energy projects like this helps create jobs in rural areas, promotes U.S. energy independence, and leads to further expansion of the growing and increasingly significant bioeconomy – all while reducing carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases.

-Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack

Congratulations to Cool Planet on all their hard work and success!

To learn more, see:


Oct. 2 Stakeholder Event in Moscow, ID

As part of this year’s BANR annual meeting in Moscow, ID we’ll be hosting a Stakeholder Outreach Session at 4pm on Thursday, Oct. 2 in the Palouse Room of the Best Western University Inn.  All are welcome to join us to learn more about the BANR project, and forest health and bioenergy issues in the Mountain West!  Details below (or download the flyer here).


Cool Planet’s CoolTerra product profiled in The Guardian


There’s a new article out in The Guardian that profiles Cool Planet Energy Systems and their CoolTerra biochar product:

CoolTerra was the first biochar product certified by the International Biochar Initiative (IBI), and has seen various applications in high-value crop production in California:

Napa Valley grower Eckhard Kaesekamp is very pleased with a certain group of around 20,000 grapevines he has been nurturing. Their yield has been 5% better than what he’d expected. Their root mass is greater than his other vines as well – which means they’ll hold water better. In drought-hit California, that’s gold…

Bill Camarillo, chief executive of California-based soil company Agromin, is also convinced. In four years of researching biochar, he says, he hasn’t found anyone else who “has invested time, energy, and money to use technology that can enhance biochar, no matter who makes it”.

The article also emphasizes the value of CoolTerra to the academic research community, where the wide heterogeneity of biochars produced from different manufacturers or by hand has been a great challenge for standardizing experimental work and generalizing research results.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR) Training Requirement

In 2013 the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture adopted a new requirement that all personnel working on NIFA-funded projects (like BANR) participate in formal training on the responsible conduct of research. The goals of that requirement are summarized in the 2013 NIFA Research Terms and Conditions document:

The responsible and ethical conduct of research (RCR) is critical for excellence, as well as public trust, in science and engineering. Consequently, education in RCR is considered essential in the preparation of future scientists… Typically this RCR education addresses the topics of: Data Acquisition and Management – collection, accuracy, security, access; Authorship and Publication; Peer Review; Mentor/Trainee Responsibilities; Collaboration; Conflict of Interest; Research Misconduct; Human Subject Research; and Use of Animals in Research.

Note that this is the same requirement adopted by NSF and NIH for all of the projects they fund.


All project personnel must undergo a short online training course and pass a quiz demonstrating a satisfactory understanding of RCR topics. This requirement applies equally to “program directors, faculty, undergraduate students, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and any staff participating in the research project”; the only exemption is having already taken the training within the previous 4 years. Note that RCR training is different from the human/animal research subjects training, laboratory safety training, or hazardous waste disposal training that are often required in specific departments or labs.

Online RCR training is administered through individual universities, and additional details can found at:

The project management team will be sending out periodic reminders to make sure that all BANR personnel complete the required RCR training. Once you complete your online training, please send an email to John Field so that we can update our records. Also, feel free to email with any questions or problems encountered!

Specifics for CSU personnel – The CSU online training course is available at The system requires a CSU eID to login, and the training takes 1-2 hours to complete.

In addition to this general requirement, all CSU BANR graduate students and post-doctoral researchers are also required to participate in additional face-to-face training, typically through professional development courses, research integrity seminars, or intensive training workshops. This requirement must be fulfilled during your first year participating in the project. Many individual departments offer seminar courses in professional development tailored to that specific discipline that include RCR topics; a list of approved courses is available at If your department doesn’t offer such a course, you might consider GRAD 544 “Ethical Conduct of Research” (Tues 3-5pm), a general one-credit seminar course dedicated especially to the topic.

Alternately, RICRO also typically offers a one-day intensive RCR in late summer that fulfills the face-to-face training requirement. Note that there is high demand for these workshops, and they typically fill up soon after they are announced! The 2014 workshop was held from 8am-4:30pm on Friday, August 8, and included graduate students and post-docs from across the university. The workshop covered a variety of topics such as research misconduct (fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism) avoidance and procedures, data management, intellectual property issues, and paper authorship. Though it was a long day, organizers kept the workshop engaging through interactive group activities and advice from active, well-published university researchers on practical professional development topics including how to interpret publication metrics and how to navigate a job offer negotiation – we all definitely learn something new and worthwhile!

Allometric Data Collection

Colorado State Forest State Park – July 2014

In order to accurately estimate the size of the beetle-killed biomass resource in the Rockies, researchers must be able to relate a tree’s mass to more easily-accessible properties, such as its physical dimensions or remote sensing signature, via empirically-derived relationships known as allometric equations. That’s why members of the BANR Feedstock Supply and Harvest Logistics teamed up this past week to perform some destructive sampling at the Colorado State Forest State Park. A team of project investigators, graduate students, and volunteers from Colorado and Montana fanned out to various plots within beetle-affected areas of the park and characterized stands by their species, height, diameter, spacing, and LiDAR signature. A number of live and beetle-killed trees were then carefully felled, their branches counted and measured, and the trees cut up and weighed. All of trees felled were in areas slated to undergo harvest and restoration later this year, with the timber produced transported across the border to Wyoming for processing into dimensional lumber (2x4s and 2x6s).

Bob Sturtevant records data on limb distribution for one of the felled trees

Bob Sturtevant records data on limb distribution for one of the felled trees

The data so painstakingly collected should allow researchers to improve the accuracy of their biomass predictions in lodgepole pine stands in the BANR study area, and help answer essential questions about whether the same techniques can be used to evaluate both live and dead trees, and the extent to which standing dead trees lose biomass over time. BANR field crews will keep working at these sites for the remainder of the summer season, and the data they collect will allow them to spend the fall and winter developing new allometric equations and calibrating estimates of beetle-kill biomass from satellite imagery.

The product of a hard day's work: samples waiting to be transported back to the lab for further analysis

The product of a hard day’s work: samples waiting to be transported back to the lab for further analysis

CO, MT Forest Research Site Scouting Visits

Missoula and Helena, MT areas – July 1-3 2014

In order analyze and optimize the process of harvesting beetle-killed tree stands, BANR harvest logistics experts are looking to team up with loggers currently conducting such projects in Rockies. Such collaborations can also provide a before-and-after snapshot of a harvested site, giving other BANR scientists the opportunity to study the environmental and social impacts of the harvest. Earlier in the spring, BANR researchers toured logging operations in beetle-killed lodgepole pine stands within the Colorado State Forest State Park, high in the remote mountains of north-central Colorado, to scout out opportunities for future collaborations. In July, the team visited a variety of sites in Montana, including the University of Montana Lubrecht Experimental Forest near Missoula, and parts of the Tenmile Creek watershed near Helena. The teams were guided by local land managers, and had the opportunity to meet the loggers performing the harvest and observe the recovery progress of previously-harvested areas.

BANR team members visiting a harvest site in the Colorado State Forest State Park

BANR team members visiting a harvest site in the Colorado State Forest State Park

The research teams seek to identify study sites that are diverse in both environmental and social conditions, including factors such as the dominant tree species, elevation, land ownership and management history, and proximity to urban areas. This allows researchers to make more robust predictions, whether they are biomass estimates from satellite imagery or assessments of economic benefits of harvest to rural mountain communities.

One year after a restoration harvest outside of Helena, MT.  Lodgepole is typically clearcut in patches to match the natural ecology of healthy even-aged stands.

One year after a restoration harvest outside of Helena, MT. Lodgepole is typically clearcut in patches to match the natural ecology of healthy even-aged stands.

Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES) Meeting

Golden, CO – June 26, 2014

The Bioenergy Alliance Network of the Rockies (BANR) was well-represented at the June meeting of the Jefferson County chapter of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society (CRES).  The meeting provided an introduction to the potential agricultural and climate benefits of biochar to members of the public through a screening of a video of excerpts from the 2012 US Biochar Initiative (USBI) Conference at Sonoma State University, edited by James Shikada.  Mike Rocke, VP of Business Development at Cool Planet Energy Systems (CPES), introduced the video and provided commentary throughout.  In addition, BANR Project Manager John Field introduced audience members to the alliance and recruited volunteers to participate in the BANR stakeholder engagement group.

Video available at

Video available at

Other experts were on hand to share their thoughts and answer questions on biochar, including Dr. Helena Chum of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Jonah Levine of The Biochar Company, and Dr. Paul Belanger of the Denver Climate Study Group.  A more detailed description of the event is available in the CRES newsletter: – Jeffco

Thanks to CRES co-founder and SERI/NREL alumnus Dr. Ron Larson for organizing and leading the meeting!