On Nov. 12, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced projects selected for more than $24 million in grants to research and develop technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value bio-based products. For this program, the DOE plans to invest up to $4.9 million and the USDA intends to contribute up to $19.5 million. Advanced biofuels produced through this funding are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to fossil fuels.
“The selected projects will help make bioenergy production from renewable resources more efficient, cost-effective and sustainable,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “This work will also benefit rural America by leading to new processing plants and new opportunities for U.S. farmers and foresters.”
“Innovation is crucial to the advancement of alternative, renewable energy sources, and these awards will spur the research needed to make significant progress in bioenergy development,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The projects announced last week must contribute a minimum of 20% of matching funds for research and development projects and 50% of matching funds for demonstration projects. The USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and DOE’s Biomass Program are providing funding for the projects. Selected projects are aimed at increasing the availability of alternative fuels and biobased products that are produced from a diverse group of renewable sources of biomass.
Grants for Research on Biofuels and Bio-based Products
The USDA projects selected for awards included the following research initiatives that are focused on biofuels and bio-based products:
• GE Global Research (Irvine, Calif.) up to $1,597,544: to develop detailed and simplified kinetic models of biomass gasification.
• Gevo, Inc. (Englewood, Colo.) up to $1,780,862: to develop a yeast fermentation organism that can cost-effectively convert cellulosic-derived sugars into isobutanol, a second-generation biofuel/bio-based product.
• Itaconix ( Hampton Falls, N.H.) up to $1,861,488: to develop production of polyitaconic acid from Northeast hardwood biomass, using an integrated extraction-fermentation-polymerization process.
• Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation (Columbus, Ohio) up to $1,800,000: to demonstrate, at scale, the operation of a dry fermentation system that uses pre- and post-consumer food wastes from supermarkets and restaurants, waste sawdust, grass, leaves, stumps, and other forms of wood waste to produce biogas, heat, and electrical power.
• Velocys, Inc. (Plain City, Ohio) up to $2,651,612: to improve biorefinery economics through microchannel hydroprocessing.
The DOE also awarded a grant to the following project-focused biofuels and bio-based products:
• Exelus, Inc. (Livingston, N.J.) up to $1,200,000: to develop a biomass-to-gasoline (BTG) technology that represents a fundamental shift in process chemistry and overall approach to creating biofuels.
Grants for Biofuels Development Analysis
In the category of biofuels development analysis, the USDA awarded the following projects:
• Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) up to $933,883: to develop an analysis of the global impacts of second-generation biofuels in the context of other energy technologies and alternative economic and climate change policy options.
• University of Minnesota (St. Paul, Minn.) up to, $2,715,007: to assess the environmental sustainability and capacity of forest-based biofuel feedstocks within the Lake States region.
The DOE awarded a grant to the following project focused on biofuels development analysis:
• Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials (Washington, Idaho, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Tennessee) up to $1,430,535: to compare the life cycle environmental and economic impacts for collecting forest residuals, short rotation crops, mixed waste, and biomass from fire risk reduction activities on federal lands for conversion to fuels via biochemical, pyrolysis, and gasification systems.
Grants for Feedstock Development
The USDA gave awards to the following projects focused on feedstock development:
• Agrivida (Medford, Mass.) up to $1,953,128: to develop new crop traits that eliminate the need for both expensive pretreatment equipment and enzymes.
• Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, Okla.) up to $4,212,845: to develop best practices and technologies necessary to ensure efficient, sustainable, and profitable production of cellulosic ethanol feedstocks such as switchgrass and mixed-species perennial grasses.
The DOE also made an award to this research project devoted to feedstock development:
• The University of Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.) up to $2,345,290: to compare three varieties of switchgrass using various management practices, harvesting equipment, and harvesting timelines in eastern Tennessee.
Additional information about the grant program and the individual grant recipients is available at the DOE website.