Scott Pryor will use a prestigious Fulbright grant to travel to South Africa and research the environmental impacts of the country’s biofuels production.
Pryor, associate professor of agricultural and biosystems engineering at NDSU, is slated to teach a class and conduct research during an 11-month stay at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Pietermaritzburg. His primary project will be creating a model for greenhouse gas emissions that will provide South Africa and neighboring countries a way to accurately assess its biofuel options.
The Fulbright work will complement Pryor’s NDSU research that deals with the use of agricultural resources for energy production in the United States.
“It’s an honor because Fulbright grants are very competitive,” said Pryor, whose research at NDSU focuses on converting biomaterials into fuels or other bio-based chemicals. “I think South Africa is probably the most competitive country within Africa as a destination for Fulbright recipients. I was ecstatic when I found out I was selected and can’t wait to get started.”
Pryor said the environmental impacts of biofuels – fuels produced from biological materials like plants and animals – have not been studied much in many developing countries, including South Africa. However, understanding them is critical to assessing the long-term sustainability of biofuels.
Pryor’s work will include a thorough assessment to determine the environmental footprint of biofuel production. That means looking at everything from how the final product is processed to how it is transported. It’s a complete-system analysis that takes into consideration every step required to create a biofuel.
Pryor’s model will calculate the net energy production and greenhouse gas emissions for creating bioethanol from sugar crops and woody sugarcane residues. Neighboring countries with similar economic structures and biofuel production will also be able to use the finished model.
“I think of it as an accounting system for both energy and greenhouse gas emissions,” he said. “Biofuels sometimes tend to get whitewashed a bit. The thought is that things that are bio-based have to be good. It’s important for us to find a way to quantify how good they are and their sustainability.”
Pryor teaches courses on bioprocess engineering and bio-based energy in addition to his research at NDSU.
Pryor taught secondary school mathematics in Tanzania from 1994-97 as a member of the Peace Corps. He earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural and biological engineering and a doctorate in biological and environmental engineering from Cornell University, Itaca, New York. He came to NDSU in 2006.
The Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program provides 800 research and teaching grants to United States faculty and professionals each year.