Chevron funds biofuels project

Chevron Corp. will award up to $25 million over the next five years to fund biofuel research projects at UC Davis. The main area of focus is on turning “lignocellulosic biomass” (or “wood,” basically) into fuels such as ethanol.

“Chevron’s interest in next-generation biofuels is a very good fit with UC Davis’ expertise in alternative fuels and transportation systems, said UC Davis vice chancellor for research Barry Klein.”

Two biofuels are in use now — ethanol and biodiesel. Both are made from energy rich parts of some  crops: Ethanol is made from sugar-rich parts of plants like sugar cane or maize, and biodiesel from vegetable oils treated with ethanol. But there’s a huge amount of plant material that goes unused, because it’s currently too difficult or expensive to convert it into a form that can easily be turned into fuel — such as orchard prunings, fruit pits, cornstalks and so on.
Key faculty involved in the program, which has been almost two years in the making, are Dan Sperling, director of the Institute for Transportation Studies, Bryan Jenkins, professor of biological and agricultural engineering, and Sharon Shoemaker, director for the California Institute of Food and Agricultural Research.

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