BCN Theme Lead Receives Young Engineer of the Year Award

Dr. Amit Kumar, Lead of the Biomass Pre-Processing Theme and Associate Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is being honored with the 2011 Young Engineer of the Year Award by the Canadian Society for Bioengineering (CSBE). 

The award recognizes outstanding engineering contributions to Canadian agricultural, food, or biological engineering made by a CSBE member under 40 years of age. Kumar will be presented with the award on July 12 during CSBE’s annual meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba. 

“It feels great to be recognized by my peers for the contribution I have made. This recognition gives me the satisfaction that the work I am doing is of value and it further motivates me to work harder and push the envelope further,” says Kumar, adding he wishes to acknowledge the contributions of his students. “Students are the backbone of my research program; this recognition is also a tribute to the graduate and undergraduate students who have contributed significantly to my research.” 

Kumar says his research is driven by his interest in the assessment of greenhouse gas mitigation pathways in the energy sector. He is researching biomass utilization of fuels and chemicals which is one of the pathways of GHG mitigation. (Biomass refers to organic material from renewable sources). “My research is focused on utilization of lignocellulosic biomass such as wheat straw, corn stover, and logging residues, for production of energy and fuels,” he explains. 

A key area of Kumar’s research involves the techno-economic assessment of biomass-based energy systems, including assessing how much energy is required to produce a unit of energy from a particular biomass feedstock. 

Another research area involves analyzing the energy and greenhouse gas emissions of different bioenergy systems, and then comparing the fuels and chemicals from biomass with fuels and chemicals produced from conventional sources. “We are studying the total greenhouse gas emissions over the life cycle of the utilization of a biomass feedstock, ” says Kumar, adding they are investigating how the power generation cost and emissions compare with more traditional coal based power generation in Alberta. 

Kumar and his team are also examining large scale biomass transport through pipeline to biorefinery. This research is aimed at determining the production costs of various fuels and chemicals from different biomass feedstock, as well as determining the most appropriate conversion pathways. “How do different conversion pathways perform in term of greenhouse gases and energy utilization?” Kumar asks. 

Kumar’s research on biomass utilization complements well with his work on modelling in the area of energy forecasting and planning. He is working with the Province of Alberta to develop the economic options of greenhouse gas mitigation pathways in the energy sector. 

“With my background in energy, Alberta is the best place to be in North America as this is an oil country and I can contribute more here than anywhere else in North America,” Kumar says, adding he is grateful his life’s path has taken him to the U of A where he has the “freedom to excel and contribute to the creation of new knowledge.” 

He pauses before adding, “It has been a long journey starting from a rural area in India to Edmonton.”