WSU Tri-Cities

Bioproducts, Sciences & Engineering Laboratory


The Bioproducts, Sciences and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) opened May 2008 on the Washington State University (WSU) Tri-Cities campus in Richland, Washington. The $24 million, 57,000-square-foot research and teaching laboratory is a partnership between WSU and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) operated by Battelle. BSEL features the Biorefinery and the Combinatorial Catalysis Research Lab, plus a variety of laboratories and classrooms. The facility establishes the Tri-Cities as a center for world-class bio-based product research and development, creates a magnet for prominent scientists, and helps the Northwest agriculture industry be more competitive.

Why is this research important?

  • Renewable Portfolio Standard. Ballot Initiative 937 set renewable energy standards. Utility companies serving 25,000 people or more are required to produce 15% of their energy using renewable sources by 2020. Sources of energy that count toward the standard include water, wind, solar, geothermal, landfill gas, wave, ocean, tidal power , gas from sewage treatment facilities, biodiesel fuel that is not derived from crops raised on land, cleared from old growth or first-growth forests, and qualifying biomass resources.
  • Petroleum Dependency Reduction. State requires that all gasoline contain 2% ethanol by 2008, and increased up to 10% if no adverse ozone pollution levels result and sufficient raw materials are available within the state; 2% of all diesel sold to be biodiesel by 2008. To be increased to 5% if there is sufficient in-state biodiesel production.
  • Washington Climate Plan. By 2020, reduce emissions to 1990 levels, and, after a thorough evaluation of all the options, reduce them by another 25% BY 2035. By 2050, further reduce emissions to at least 50% below 1990 levels.
  • Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction. Using bioresources instead of fossil fuels reduced GHG emissions. Also, conversion of landfill gas to energy and the adoption of animal waste conversion systems can substantially reduce fugitive methane emissions, a powerful greenhouse gas.
  • Air Quality. Most biofuels are naturally low in sulfur, aromatics, and other toxic compounds that impact human health. Decreased reliance on traditional fuels will improve overall air quality, particularly in urban areas.
  • Forest Health and Wildfire Prevention. Forest thinning and other improvements in forest health, when coupled with bioenergy production, can create a statewide wildfire prevention strategy that reduces fire suppression costs and enhances the supply of renewable energy.
  • New Opportunities for Agriculture. Biomass constitutes new potential opportunities for agriculture, both in terms of improved use of the non-crop portion of current production and in new crops addressing new markets in energy, fuels, chemicals, and bio-based products.
  • Landfill Diversion. Washington disposes over 9.75 million tons of waste annually, approximately 70% of which is composed of various forms of biomass. Biomass conversion technologies have the potential to return a significant portion of this post-recycled fraction of the waste stream to an economic stream in the form of power, fuels, and chemicals.
  • Economic Development. Creation of a diversified bio-based economy in Washington will help to revitalize rural communities and the State’s agricultural base by creating new value-added markets and new local jobs.
  • Water Quality and Watershed Protection. Petroleum-based fuels and chemicals are toxic to the environment and continue to constitute a major source of pollution to surface- and ground-waters. In contrast, biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, are less toxic and are biodegradable.