News Center Maine speaks with Pendse about wood-based biofuel manufacturing

News Center Maine spoke with Hemant Pendse, director of the University of Maine Forest Bioproducts Research Institute and a professor of chemical and biomedical engineering, about a process that converts sawdust, wood pulp or any other wood biomass into crude oil. The FBRI, located in Old Town, operates a fee-for-service pilot plant where new startups or large corporations can test new ideas and collect engineering data, the article states. “First we do an intermediate, we call it acids, and we turn it into salt. We will see dry salt powder. From the dry salt powder, we are making premium crude oil, which can be processed just like any oil refinery and make gasoline, diesel and jet fuel,” said Pendse. The crude oil they’re producing is cleaner than the equivalent from Saudi Arabia because it does not contain sulfur, according to Pendse. And the technology could have economic benefits too. “Many people know there are a lot of pulp mills closed, but there are pulp mills like Old Town … that has the infrastructure, has the wood yard, has the power plants,” Pendse said. “Can we add this extra revenue generating stream and show, that on a commercial scale, that it is feasible and that we can actually meet the specifications of the private sector. Then I think a lot of new doors will open.”