The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) last week announced the selection of 36 projects totaling $80 million to support early-stage bioenergy research and development. This work will focus on cost-competitive drop-in renewable fuels, bio-based products and power from non-food biomass and waste feedstocks, and the work will support the DOE’s goal of reducing the cost of bio-based drop-in fuels to $3/gallon by 2022.
“The selections announced today highlight some of the most innovative and advanced bioenergy technologies that have the potential to produce new sources of reliable and affordable energy for American families and businesses,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Developing all of our domestic energy resources is critical to keeping our nation prosperous and secure.”
The DOE’s selections are categorized into four funding opportunities:
- BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis (up to $28 million): 16 selectees will create highly efficient conversion processes to increase the affordability of fuels from biomass and waste feedstocks by improving catalysts and new biological systems, identifying ways to better utilize waste streams like carbon dioxide (CO2) and biosolids, and creating high-value co-products that can improve the economic viability of biofuels production.
- Efficient Carbon Utilization in Algal Systems (up to $15 million): 7 selections will improve the efficiency of carbon utilization and productivity of algal systems either through improving uptake and conversion of waste CO2 emissions—such as from a power plant or industrial facilities—or through the development of new, affordable technologies to capture CO2 directly from ambient air to enhance algal growth.
- Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower (up to $22 million): 10 selections will research integrated processes for the production of biopower from biosolids and cost-competitive, renewable drop-in biofuels and bioproducts from domestic biomass feedstocks and waste resources.
- Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops (up to $15 million): 3 selections will conduct early-stage R&D related to the production of affordable and sustainable non-food dedicated energy crops that can be used as feedstocks for the production of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower.
The three largest projects (in terms of funding) are focused in the Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops category and include:
- University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: $5 million for next-generation feedstocks for the emerging bioeconomy.
- Texas A&M AgriLife Research: $5 million for sustainable herbaceous energy crop production in the Southeast United States.
- North Carolina State University: $4.36 million for next generation miscanthus: Hybrid performance evaluation and enhanced, sustainable feedstock production and supply in the Southeast U.S. for biofuels and bioproducts.
Selected projects using wood raw materials include:
- West Biofuels Development LLC: $2.2 million for agricultural and woody biomass to diesel fuel with bio-oil intermediate.
- Clemson University: $1.8 million for lignin fractionation and valorization, focusing on both value and quality.
- Spero Energy Inc.: $1.61 million for SPERLU selective process for efficient removal of lignin and upgrading.