Weyerhaeuser Co. has announced that it is a participant in the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA) consortium led by Washington State University to study the feasibility of producing jet biofuel from woody feedstocks in the Pacific Northwest.

The WSU-led project is one of two five-year, $40 million grants announced recently in Seattle by Thomas Vilsack, U.S. secretary of agriculture. The University of Washington received the other $40 million grant.

The WSU-led grant aims to address the urgent national need for a domestic biofuel alternative for U.S. commercial and military air fleets. NARA researchers envision developing a new, viable, aviation fuel industry using wood and wood waste in the Pacific Northwest, where forests cover almost half of the region. The project also will focus on increasing the profitability of wood-based fuels through development of high value, bio-based co-products to replace petrochemicals used in products such as plastics.

As a subcontractor to the WSU-led grant, Weyerhaeuser will focus on three areas: Determining the feasibility of sustainable production of woody feedstocks for use in biofuel and value-added products; understanding how to more cost-effectively collect currently under-utilized harvest material; and exploring ways to convert woody biomass lignin components into value-added bio products.

"The consortium is designed to capitalize on the unique contributions of the participants, and Weyerhaeuser is pleased to be part of that," said Dan Fulton, Weyerhaeuser president and ceo. "Sustainability is absolutely critical to the successful production of feedstocks and aviation biofuel on an economical scale, and we're proud to bring more than a century of forest science and innovative solutions to the effort."

As part of its involvement, Weyerhaeuser will establish a new research site near Springfield, Ore., to better understand the effect of forest management practices on soil, water and wildlife. The site is intended to provide information on the effect of biomass removal, compaction and fertilization on soil, water and wildlife. Weyerhaeuser scientists Greg Johnson and Scott Holub will lead the study.

Weyerhaeuser also will work with collaborators to understand how to develop more cost-effective ways to collect currently under-utilized harvest residuals for emerging bio-fuel and bio-product applications. Gevan Marrs is the lead Weyerhaeuser scientist on the aspect.

Lignin is the second most abundant polymer in nature, but today is mainly used in basic applications such as being burned for green energy in the pulp mills or as an additive in cements. Weyerhaeuser will study ways to create high value bio products from residual lignin. John Westland is the Weyerhaeuser lead on the lignin study.

NARA includes a broad consortium of scientists from universities, government laboratories and private industry.