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Geoffroy — ConocoPhillips decision is a great gift

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

simmet@agrinews.com

AMES, Iowa — Iowa State University President Gregory Geoffroy says it’s the best present Iowa State University has received so far for its 150th birthday.

Energy giant ConocoPhillips announced last week that it will establish an eight-year, $22.5 million research program at ISU dedicated to developing technologies that produce biorenewable fuels.

The grant is part of ConocoPhillips’ plan to create joint research programs with major universities to diversify the country’s energy sources. ConocoPhillips will make an initial $1.5 million grant in 2007 with additional grants of $3 million per year for seven years.

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"We are excited to work with ConocoPhillips to develop a research program that applies Iowa State University’s strengths in renewable energy," said Geoffroy. "Contributing to the development of the bioeconomy is directly in line with our mission: ‘Create, share and apply knowledge to make Iowa and the world a better place.’’’

Advanced biofuels are expected to be made from fibrous biomass such as cornstalks, leaves and switchgrass.

"These kind of public-private partnerships are an important part of my plan to fuel Iowa’s future," said Iowa Gov. Chet Culver. "Private sector investments will be the driving force behind the development of new industries and technologies."

"We've looked around the world at universities and decided to partner here and create our anchor program with Iowa State," said Ryan Lance, senior vice president of technology for ConocoPhillips. "So, we’ve looked in Europe, we've looked in all the various universities around the world and we think Iowa State’s ahead of the game."

Robert C. Brown, the Iowa Farm Bureau director of Iowa State’s Office of Biorenewables Programs, said ConocoPhillips is especially interested in converting biomass to fuel through fast pyrolysis, a process that uses heat in the absence of oxygen to decompose biomass into a liquid product. ConocoPhillips will also sponsor studies of other thermochemical technologies that produce biofuels.

Brown estimated the company’s research program will involve 10 faculty members plus graduate students in the first year with additional researchers in subsequent years.

"This all brings value back to the farmer," said Craig Lang, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. "In order to have buy-in from Iowans, this has to bring value back to the farm."

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