The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture has several research projects under way related to biofuels and reducing the United States’ dependence on imported oil.

Recently the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Energy put more faith in the college by awarding a multi-year, $6.9 million grant to improve the economics for biorefineries by using on-farm processing to convert biomass to a mixture of butanol, ethanol, acetone and organic acids.

In a USDA news release, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the departments are sponsoring $42 million in research grants to eight recipients to spur innovation in bioenergy by developing renewable resources that produce energy more efficiently and in a sustainable way.

“Permanently reducing our dependence on foreign oil and getting a handle on out of control gas prices will require our brightest scientists, our smartest companies and strategic investments in research,” he said.

“Advances made through this research will help boost rural economies by developing and testing new processing facilities and profitable, energy-rich crops that U.S. farmers and foresters will grow.”

Lead researcher for the UK project is Sue Nokes, a professor in the Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering. Nokes and others in her department will work with other UK departments and colleges, as well as other universities and industry partners to achieve their goals.

The project will integrate input from experts in a variety of disciplines, including biosystems engineers, plant and soil scientists, horticulturists, chemical engineers and economists.

“This grant will allow us to study biomass from production through processing together as a system including the environmental and economic impact,” Nokes said. “We’ve not had the resources to do that before.”