Ralph joined the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 1990 to provide technical leadership in biomass, including field management to DOE's Biomass Power program. He has worked extensively in the development of long-range plans and strategies for biomass power and biofuels. Over the years, he has made contributions in thermochemical conversion and biomass pretreatment. He has been involved from bench scale to large-scale biomass gasification systems, such as the Vermont Gasification project, a 60 MW thermal indirect gasification system attached to the McNeil station in Burlington, Vermont. He also works on the science background to the resource and carbon cycle implications of large-scale biomass energy deployment. The preceding 20 years were spent with the National Research Council of Canada, as manager of the Bioenergy Program and advisor to the Department of Energy Mines and Resources on biomass energy.
Ralph has co-authored 225 peer-reviewed publications and presented more than 150 lectures and talks nationally and internationally.He was the Chairman of the American Chemical Society Cellulose Division 1993-94. He edits the journal, Biomass and Bioenergy, and the biomass section of the journal, Solar Energy, in addition to being a member of several editorial boards. He has also served as a United Nations, World Bank, and FAO lecturer/advisor in the USSR, China, Pakistan, and Mexico. He recently completed the biomass component of a renewable energy atlas for the Government of the Philippines.Significant recognitions for outstanding scientific contributions in biomass and bioenergy include: Fellow of the Chemical Institute of Canada, 1990; Johannes Linneborn Prize, 1996; H.M. Hubbard Award, 1997; R&D 100 Award, 1998; NREL Research Fellow, 2000; the Thomas R. Miles Award, 2001, and the World Renewable Energy NetworkC Pioneer Award, 2002.