The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced awards totaling $12 million to support the development of “drop-in” biofuel technologies. Drop-in biofuels are fuels that can serve as direct replacements or supplements to existing gasoline, diesel and jet fuels without any changes to existing fuel distribution networks or engines. The DOE thinks these fuels have the potential to significantly reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports. We’ve seen the military extensively exploring their use.

Using innovative thermochemical processes, the DOE said the funded projects will help to improve the economics and efficiency of turning biomass into replacements for petroleum-based gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and other products.

image via Lawrence Berkeley Labratory

“Producing advanced, drop-in biofuels in the United States will reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and support development of a new industry that will create jobs in rural communities across the country,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu. “These investments aim to accelerate the discovery of innovative solutions that could drive down the cost of biofuels production and boost their availability in the marketplace.”

The money was awarded to three firms. LanzaTech of Roselle, Ill., will receive up to $4 million to develop a cost-effective technology that converts biomass-derived ethanol into jet fuel using catalysts. Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina will receive up to $4 million to integrate two processes: a thermochemical process that produces a bio-crude intermediate from biomass, and a hydroprocessing technology that effectively and efficiently upgrades the bio-crude into gasoline and diesel. Virent Energy Systems of Madison, Wisc., will receive up to $4 million to convert biomass into oxygenated chemical intermediates which can then be refined and blended into gasoline and jet fuel.

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