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Zia Abdullah

Laboratory Program Manager III-Biological Science | 303-275-4798

Areas of Expertise

As the Biomass Laboratory Program Manager, Zia Abdullah fosters NREL’s relationship with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) program. In addition, he works with senior lab management to set the strategic agenda for NREL's biomass portfolio and with research staff to execute against the research strategy.

He is a mechanical engineer with extensive experience and accomplishments in thermochemically and biochemically converting biomass to fuels and chemicals. His experience includes more than 25 years of research and development in biomass conversion, as well as problem-solving, new product development, business development, and project management.

Zia’s technical leadership experience in R&D projects related to biomass include:

  • Fast pyrolysis processes for the production of bio-oil with target composition for bioproducts and bioenergy production

  • Optimization of biomass gasification processes via modification of fuel and carrier gas injection

  • Design of refractory and pressure vessel for a commercial-scale biomass gasifier

  • Quantification and extraction of key chemicals from bio-oils

  • Biomass pretreatment for fermentation

  • Separation of biomass into lignin, hemicellulose, and cellulose

  • Conversion of hemicellulose into higher value products via fermentation routes

  • Design of gas-liquid fermentation reactors

  • Melt spun carbon fibers from lignin

  • Mathematical modeling of biomass gasification and biomass boilers

  • Combustion system design in large biomass boilers

Zia has won, managed, and led multiple large, competitive projects funded by government agencies. He also has developed close relationships with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and BETO, as well as universities, industry, and other DOE laboratories.


  • MBA, Technology Management, University of Washington

  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Ottawa

  • B.A.Sc., Mechanical Engineering, University of Ottawa (graduated magna cum laude)

Professional Experience

  • Biomass Laboratory Program Manager, NREL, Golden, CO, 2016–present

  • Chief Technology Officer, Versa Renewables & Equinox Chemicals, Albany, GA, 2015 – 2016

  • Institute Fellow, Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, OH, 2009–2015

  • Engineering Advisor/Institute Fellow, Weyerhaeuser Company, Federal Way, WA, 1998–2008

  • Co-Founder and CEO, Process Simulations Ltd, Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1994–1998