US Holds Potential to Produce Billion Tons of Biomass Support Bioeconomy

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The 2016 Billion-Ton Report, jointly released by the U.S. Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, concludes that the United States has the potential to sustainably produce at least 1 billion dry tons of nonfood biomass resources annually by 2040.

These renewable resources include agricultural, forestry and algal biomass, as well as waste. They encompass the current and future potential of biomass, from currently available logging and crop residues to future available algae and dedicated energy crops–all useable for the production of biofuel, biopower and bioproducts.

The report findings show that under a base-case scenario, the United States could increase its use of dry biomass resources from a current 400 million tons to 1.57 billion tons under a high-yield scenario.

Increasing production and use of biofuel, biopower and bioproducts would substantially decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the utility and transportation sectors and reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil as the domestic bioeconomy grows.

The analysis was led by ORNL with contributions from 65 experts from federal agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration, as well as national laboratories (Idaho National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory), and universities (the University of Tennessee, North Carolina State University, South Dakota State University and Oregon State University), as well as private companies (Energetics, Inc. and Allegheny Science and Technology).

New to the 2016 report are assessments of potential biomass supplies from algae, from new energy crops (miscanthus, energy cane, eucalyptus), and from municipal solid waste. For the first time, the report also considers how the cost of pre-processing and transporting biomass to the biorefinery may impact feedstock availability.

Interactive tools available through the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework allow users to visualize biomass availability scenarios and tailor the data by factors such as geographic area, biomass source and price. Researchers and decision makers can use these features to better inform national bioenergy policies and research, development and deployment strategies. Each diagram and map in the report is available in an interactive interface on the Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework.

The 2016 Billion-Ton Report, volume 1, updates and expands upon analysis in the 2011 U.S. Billion-Ton Update, which was preceded by the 2005 U.S. Billion Ton Study. The report uses scientific modeling systems to project biomass resource availability under specified economic and sustainability constraints.

Volume 2 of the report is set for release later this year, and will consist of a collection of analyses on the potential environmental sustainability effects of a subset of agricultural and forestry biomass production scenarios presented in volume 1. Volume 2 will also discuss algae sustainability, land use and land management changes, and strategies to enhance environmental sustainability.

On July 21, DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office will host a joint webinar with Oak Ridge National Laboratory staff to further discuss and answer questions regarding the 2016 Billion-Ton Report volume 1 results, scenarios, assumptions and constraints.

ORNL is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit

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1 Comment

  • Bruce Miller says:

    GMO’s that we don’t eat! Where’s the trees that grow rot proof (like Cedar) lumber? Soak ’em in Roundup! We don’t eat them so we don’t give a damn! Canadians already use pelletized Hemp for heating, in stoves that resemble corn stoves! Always keep in the back of your mind: Hemp grows well on semi arable land and can be fertilized even with humanure a very cheap resource flow, and will turn that semi arable land into prime farmland in twenty years! Florida fed their algae with septic runoff, farm fertilizer run off, and damn near destroyed themselves! How about a controlled situation where good is reaped from bad? UnAmerican? I know, but you are desperate now, and will have to take “Secondary Steps” in your planning? Capitalize on this “situation”?

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