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willow leaves, BBSRC
willow bud, BBSRC
Willow is a promising energy crop that does not compete with the food chain. Click on picture to view video describing the research at the centre.

Press Release - 27 January 2009

New £27M research centre will develop cleaner, greener fuels

The University of Bath is to be part of a £27 million research centre funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) that will help develop sustainable fuels from agricultural waste such as straw.

The University will be the South West hub for the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre that includes other top universities and institutions along with several industrial partners.

Sustainable bioenergy offers the potential to provide a significant source of clean, low carbon and secure energy, and to generate thousands of new ‘green collar’ jobs. It uses non-food crops, such as willow; industrial and agricultural waste products and inedible parts of crops, such as straw, and so does not take products out of the food chain.

The researchers at Bath will be studying the complete environmental impact of biofuels such as bioethanol made from straw. They will assess the effects of farming, processing and transport of the fuels, combined with a calculation of the efficiency of these fuels in cars.

Currently, the fuel bought at petrol stations across the UK is mixed with five per cent bioethanol, but this research aims to assess the environmental benefits of increasing this to 10% by 2020.

Professor Geoff Hammond, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy & the Environment at the University, and Dr Marcelle McManus will be working to develop a sustainable framework in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Nottingham.

Professor Hammond said: “Increasing our use of biofuels is essential for many reasons – it is sustainable so won’t run out like oil or coal; it will reduce our CO2 emissions; and it will increase the UK’s energy security because it will reduce our dependence on other countries for fuel.

“We will be focusing on producing bioethanol from straw, which is an agricultural waste product, and so does not require any extra fertiliser or land.

“Switching to using fuels such as bioethanol will also help the rural economy and help create jobs in this area.”

Minister of State for Science and Innovation, Lord Drayson, said: "Investing £27 million in this new centre involves the single biggest UK public investment in bioenergy research.

“The centre is exactly the sort of initiative this country needs to lead the way in transforming the exciting potential of sustainable biofuels into a widespread technology that can replace fossil fuels.

"The expertise and resources of the University of Bath makes it well placed to make a valuable contribution to the new BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre and help to make sustainable, environmentally-friendly bioenergy a reality."

BBSRC Chief Executive, Professor Douglas Kell, said: “The BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre is taking a holistic systems-level approach, examining all the relevant areas of science needed for sustainable bioenergy, and studying the economic and social impact of the bioenergy process.

“By working closely with industrial partners, the Centre’s scientists will be able to quickly translate their progress into practical solutions to all our benefit – and ultimately, by supporting the sustainable bioenergy sector, help to create thousands of new ‘green collar’ jobs in the UK.”

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