Biofuel Projects Get Federal Funding Love

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has been busy of late catching up on clean energy technologies besides solar and wind power. It recently poured a bunch of funding into geothermal power related interests, and is now turning its attention to biofuel via an announcement of funding for up to $36 million for six small-scale projects in California, Michigan, North Carolina, Texas, and Wisconsin.

The monies related to this particular investment of federal dollars into clean energy are being poured into projects that “advance the technology improvements and process integration needed to produce drop-in advanced biofuels and other valuable bio-based chemicals.” These projects, according to the DOE, will “improve the economics and efficiency of biological and chemical processes that convert non-food biomass feedstocks into replacements for petroleum-based feedstocks, products, and fuels.”

DOE Biofuels

image via DOE

The final funding amounts for the specific projects, spelled out below, are subject to negotiation, according to the DOE. It is said these projects will help diversify the federal agency’s Biomass Program portfolio to “include a breadth of fuels and chemicals beyond cellulosic ethanol and ensure that the Department’s research and development on biofuels remains integrated and strategic.”

The projects include:

  • General Atomics(up to $2.0 million, San Diego, California): The proposed project aims to reduce energy, capital, and operational cost for algal fermentation processes. This will increase production of algal oils, which can be further refined into advanced biofuels.
  • Genomatica, Inc.(up to $5.0 million, San Diego, California): This project will deliver an engineered organism and optimized fermentation process to enable the conversion of cellulosic sugars to the valuable industrial chemical, 1,4-butanediol (BDO). Such technology will enhance the commercial profitability of integrated biorefineries by enabling co-production of high-volume fuels and the higher-margin commodity chemical, BDO.
  • Michigan Biotechnology Institute(up to $4.3 million, Lansing, Michigan): The project will focus on improvements to a pretreatment process, which provides a stable, conversion-ready intermediate of consistent quality at a cost and in a format compatible with long-term storage and ease of transfer between multiple modes of transportation.
  • HCL CleanTech, Inc. (up to $9.0 million, Oxford, North Carolina): This project will develop and demonstrate process improvements for pretreatment, conversion to sugars, and subsequent conversion of those sugars to fuels. The complete integrated process will use concentrated hydrochloric acid hydrolysis to convert pre-extracted biomass feedstocks including wood waste into fermentable sugars, and then further convert the sugars into diesel products.
  • Texas Engineering Experiment Station(up to $2.3 million, College Station, Texas):  The focus of this project will be on developing a novel pretreatment for cellulosic biomass feedstocks using a combination of chemical and mechanical processing.  Once the cellulosic feedstock has been pretreated it can be converted into biofuels, including hydrocarbons.
  • Virent(up to $13.4 million, Madison, Wisconsin): The overarching objective of this project is to develop a fully integrated process that can efficiently and cost effectively convert a cellulosic biomass feedstock, such as corn stover, to a mix of hydrocarbons ideally suited for blending into jet fuel.

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