Advisory Board Spotlight: Q&A with Brendan Jordan

May 6, 2021

Shared goals of a bioeconomy for Minnesota drives relationship between Advisory Board member and NRRI.

As Vice President, Transportation and Fuels, at the Great Plains Institute, Brendan Jordan is a leader in initiatives aimed at decarbonizing the transportation sector. Specifically, he’s advocating for transportation electrification, low carbon fuels, biogenic carbon capture and advancing the bioeconomy. He holds a Master of Science degree in Science, Technology and Environmental Policy from the University of Minnesota.

NRRI: You’ve been on the NRRI Advisory Board for more than five years. Have you observed changes in research focus or intent? Is NRRI adapting to the changing economy?

Brendan Jordan: I have certainly seen NRRI’s work become more focused during the time I have served on the advisory board. My main area of overlap with NRRI is with the bioeconomy, and NRRI is a member of a Great Plains Institute-convened Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota. The Coalition supports the development of biobased technologies in Minnesota. NRRI has helped to narrow the Coalition’s focus, and vice versa. Investments are made on technologies where Minnesota can have unique leadership, that utilize and add value to Minnesota’s wood resource, and have environmental and climate benefit. NRRI focuses in areas like gasification to produce fuels and chemicals, biochar, thermally modified wood, and evaluation of carbon storage in forest ecosystems. These are areas are consistent with both of our stakeholders’ priorities.

How does your background help inform Advisory Board discussions?

I offer a few perspectives to the Advisory Board. One is my connection with national trends in the energy, climate, and environmental sector, to advise on how NRRI’s work can have national significance. Second is my connection with Minnesota stakeholders in the Bioeconomy sector through my convening of the Bioeconomy Coalition of Minnesota. Third, my relationships with policymakers in Minnesota and elsewhere. I can bring NRRI’s research to new audiences and aid in the policymaking process.

Have you gained a new perspective or learned something because of your participation on the Board?

I have learned a lot by being a part of NRRI’s board. In particular, I have enjoyed learning about emerging trends in mining and minerals. This is an area of interest nationally as we seek ways to decarbonize carbon-intensive industries like mining and steel manufacturing. There are also intriguing ideas like iron ore-based batteries to meet increased demand for energy storage. I am learning about new areas where Minnesota could play a leadership role on climate while supporting new jobs and investments.

What are the major benefits that NRRI can deliver to industry, the environment and our Minnesota communities?

I think that NRRI’s targeted approach of focusing on translational research and identifying opportunities to add value to natural resources is uniquely valuable.
If money was not a limiting factor, what should NRRI do that we’re not doing?

There are always more good ideas than funding, and certainly there are more ideas that could be pursued with more funding. Some important areas for increased focus include:

  • evaluating forest management practices that enhance carbon storage,
  • developing products from wood with strong greenhouse gas reduction benefits (such as engineered wood products and biochar),
  • opportunities to link bioenergy with carbon capture and storage to achieve net-negative greenhouse gas impact, and
  • lifecycle greenhouse gas assessment of energy and products.

All of those areas align environment and economy for the benefit of the people of Minnesota and beyond.