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April 22, 2013

Energy Department announces new innovative projects to develop advanced drop-in biofuels

Gerald Ondrey

As part of the Obama Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, the Energy Department (DOE; Washington, D.C.; www.energy.gov) today announced nearly $18 million in four innovative pilot-scale biorefineries in California, Iowa and Washington that will test renewable biofuels as a domestic alternative to power our cars, trucks, and planes that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel. These projects build on the Obama Administration’s broader efforts to advance biofuels technologies to continue to bring down costs, improve performance and identify effective, non-food feedstocks and processing techniques.

“Advanced biofuels are an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, improve our energy security and protect our air and water,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The innovative biorefinery projects announced today mark an important step toward producing fuels for our American military and the civil aviation industry from renewable resources found right here in the United States.”

Domestic oil and gas production has increased each year the President has been in office. At the same time, we continue to take additional steps to reduce our reliance on foreign oil. As part of this effort, the Department is helping to speed the development of hydrocarbon-based biofuels that are more compatible with today’s infrastructure and engines, including heavy vehicles and other applications. According to the Energy Department's Billion Ton Study, advanced biofuels have the potential to displace approximately one-third of the nation’s current transportation petroleum use.

The pilot-scale biorefinery projects selected today will use a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae in innovative conversion processes to produce biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and diesel. The projects will demonstrate technologies to cost-effectively convert biomass into advanced drop-in biofuels and assist these organizations to scale up the processes to commercial levels. Recipients are required to contribute a minimum of 50% matching funds for these projects.

The projects selected for negotiation are as follows:

Frontline Bioenergy LLC (up to $4.2 million; Ames, Iowa): Building on prior commercial-scale gasification success, Frontline BioEnergy, along with its project partners SGC Energia, Stanley Consultants, and Delphi Engineering and Construction LLC, will build and integrate an innovative new pilot scale TarFreeGas reactor and new gas conditioning processes with an existing Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) unit capable of producing 1 bbl/d of F-T liquids from woody biomass, municipal solid waste and refuse derived fuel at the Iowa Energy Center’s Biomass Energy Conversion Facility in Nevada, Iowa. These liquids will be upgraded to produce samples of biofuels that meet military specifications.

Cobalt Technologies (up to $2.5 million; Mountain View, California): Cobalt Technologies will operate a pilot-scale integrated biorefinery to convert switchgrass to bio-jet fuel. Together with its partners, including the Naval Air Warfare China Lake Weapons Division, Show Me Energy Cooperative, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Cobalt intends to build a pilot-scale facility to purify and convert butanol to jet fuel. Cobalt will operate the integrated pilot-scale biorefinery to evaluate scalability of the process and assess the facility’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Mercurius Biorefining, Inc. (up to $4.6 million; Ferndale, Washington): For its project, Mercurius will build and operate a pilot plant that uses an innovative process that converts the cellulosic biomass into non-sugar intermediates, which are further processed into drop-in bio-jet fuel and chemicals. Several organizations are participating in this consortium led by Mercurius Biorefining, including Purdue University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Incitor.

BioProcess Algae (up to $6.4 million; Shenandoah, Iowa): The BioProcess Algae project will evaluate an innovative algal growth platform that will produce hydrocarbon fuels meeting military specifications using renewable carbon dioxide, lignocellulosic sugars and waste heat. The proposed biorefinery will integrate low-cost autotrophic algal production, accelerated lipid production, and lipid conversion. While the primary product from the proposed biorefinery will be military fuels, the facility will also co-produce additional products, including other hydrocarbons, glycerine, and animal feed.

Source: U.S. Energy Dept., www.energy.gov

 

 

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