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NRRI Receives $1.9 Million For Biofuel Research

UMD NRRI biofuel facility
November 5, 2015

Grant Will Help to Develop Locally Sourced Biofuels

UMD’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI) received $1.9 million in funding from Xcel Energy’s Renewable Development Fund to demonstrate the potential for distributed power from converted biomass. Working with industry partners, SynGas Technology, LLC and theCoalition for Sustainable Rail, NRRI will test processes that can convert biomass into renewable, local replacements for coal and petroleum-based fuels.

Using SynGas’ proprietary technology, NRRI will produce three tons of solid biofuel daily that will be further processed and used to generate electricity at NRRI’s Renewable Energy Lab in Coleraine, Minn. Raw biomass will be converted into a coal-like product with a roasting technique called “torrefaction” and then pressed into a variety of shapes to fuel an advanced boiler-generator system. The torrefied biofuel is largely free of mercury and sulfur and can reduce carbon emissions in flue gas. As a direct replacement for fossil coal, biofuel has potential for use at power plants or in advanced boiler-generator systems to produce distributed energy in remote, rural systems. This biofuel can also be gasified and chemically converted into diesel fuel.

“We think this will help advance power companies’ goals to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standards,” explained Don Fosnacht, NRRI associate director and the project’s principal investigator. “Utilities wouldn’t have to replace their current capital assets and they’ll improve their environmental footprint.”

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail will work with NRRI to manufacture and install a prototype advanced steam boiler-electric generator to create up to 100 kilowatts which will be provided to the electrical grid.  This demonstration-scale research will allow future commercial units to be rapidly designed and implemented. NRRI’s Renewable Energy Center is expected to be operational by early November.

The mission of the Natural Resources Research Institute is to deliver research solutions to balance our environment, resources, and economy for resilient communities.

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail is a 501c (3) research and development non-profit organization dedicated to the development of advanced biofuels, sustainable railroad locomotives, modern boiler-based electricity generators and education. It maintains formal research relationships with the University of Minnesota, including the Natural Resources Research Institute, a leader in the development of advanced, modern biofuels.

The mission of SynGas Technology, LLC is to enable the profitable production of sustainable fuels and chemicals from underutilized cellulosic biomass using our advanced proprietary technologies. SynGas Technology has an experienced team with numerous patents in syngas production and chemical production processes.  Learn more at