[Inside NRRI] Wood Products and the Bioeconomy

Thursday, June 29, 2017

NRRI has played a vital role in regional economic development since its inception in 1983. Their Charter is to foster the economic development of Minnesota’s natural resources in an environmentally sound manner to promote private sector employment.

Dr. Eric Singsaas, Initiative Director for Wood Products and Bioeconomy at the University of Minnesota Duluth’s Natural Resources Research Institute (NRRI), spoke to the APEX investor-members at the May 11, 2017 Board of Directors meeting. Dr. Singsaas walked through NRRI’s integrated initiative portfolio, specifically the wood products and bioeconomy efforts.

NRRI’s integrated portfolio of initiatives include:

  • Wood Products and Bioeconomy
  • Minerals, Metallurgy and Mining
  • Forest and Land
  • Water
  • Renewable Energy
  • Business and Entrepreneurial Support

In respect to wood products and bioeconomy, the research teams are delivering solutions to ensure the region is using harvested feedstock efficiently, broadening the market offerings, and leveraging partnerships with University/Federal laboratories, non-governmental organizations and business and industry.

Dr. Singsaas described how NRRI is engaged on several initiatives to reduce risk and barriers to entry, and help move projects from concept through feasibility and finally to the investment stage. NRRI is working with the Minnesota State Wood Innovation Team and with the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota. Both initiatives involve state and nation-wide collaboration with a series of stakeholders.

Dr. Singsaas also described several key projects NRRI has underway, including a sustainable alternative to jet fuel and the subsequent production, thermally-modified timber using underutilized species of feedstock, and plastics and polymer composites development.

As the demand for high-value wood chips increases, NRRI continues to lead the way in the torrefaction process at their facility in Coleraine. Torrefaction is a thermal process to convert biomass into a coal-like material, which has better fuel characteristics than the original biomass. Torrefied biomass is more brittle, making grinding easier and less energy intensive.

The process produces high-value carbon briquettes that can be used in power plants. Currently there is national and international demand for the briquettes. APEX will ensure investor-members are informed of the grand opening celebration for the 5 ton/day facility.

APEX can provide a copy of Dr. Singsaas’ presentation upon request to Sandy Johnson at 218-740-3667.

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