Funding to establish the first dedicated biomass testing laboratory in North Dakota has been granted to Cole Gustafson, North Dakota State University biofuels economist, and Igathi Cannayen, Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory assistant professor. The $450,000 grant comes from the North Dakota Renewable Energy Council and USDA-ARS in Mandan.

The lab will be designed to test dimensional, thermal and physical properties of biomass. Its creation will align with the NDSU Bio Energy and Product Innovation Center's (BioEPIC) goal of fostering development of a biomass industry in North Dakota.

BioEPIC has already created a searchable biomass inventory so prospective investors can evaluate potential biomass supplies in different geographic locations across the state. A decision aide called Biomass Compare has also been developed to help farmers and ranchers compare the profitability of biomass production with traditional farm enterprises.

USDA funding is also being requested to develop biomass market standards, help farmers form a biomass supply network and develop a hands-on mobile biomass processing display to educate potential biomass suppliers on differing harvest and processing methods.

The lab will contain:

• a universal testing machine to measure the force needed to compress, shear or cut biomass,
• a machine to monitor biomass mass and temperature as it’s heated in a controlled inert environment,
• a bomb calorimeter measuring the energy content of various biomass samples,
• an environmental-control chamber enabling biomass storage studies in a controlled-temperature and humidity environment. The lab will be located at the USDA-ARS site in Mandan.