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US DOE Pledges $80 Million to Bioenergy Research

Earlier this month, the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of 36 projects totaling US$80 million to support early-stage bioenergy research and development (R&D). This R&D will enable cost-competitive, drop-in renewable hydrocarbon fuels, bio-based products, and power from non-food biomass and waste feedstocks. This work supports the DOE's goal of reducing the cost of bio-based drop-in fuels to US$3/gallon by 2022 to continue to provide consumers with affordable, reliable transportation energy choices. (Simply stated, a "drop-in" alternative fuel is one that is interchangeable and compatible with a particular conventional, typically petroleum-derived, fuel.)

"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 US 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 fall under four funding opportunities:

BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis (up to US$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 use waste streams like carbon dioxide (CO2) and biosolids, and creating high-value co-products that can improve the economic viability of biofuels production.
Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower (up to US$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 US$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.
Efficient Carbon Utilization in Algal Systems (up to US$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 or through the development of new, affordable technologies to capture CO2 directly from ambient air to enhance algal growth.

The first three project areas listed all include projects of particular interest to forest, pulp/organic fiber, papemaking/lignin, and related industry operations. These projects include:

BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis:
Georgia Institute of Technology: US$1.02 million for cellulose-chitin composites for performance advantaged barrier packaging bioproducts.
Visolis: US$2 million for integrated biorefinery for chemicals and fuels production from waste biomass.
Xylome Corp.: US$1.04 million for biodiesel and higher value products from stillage fiber.
Clemson University: US$1.8 million for lignin fractionation and valorization, focusing on both value and quality.
Spero Energy Inc.: US$1.61 million for SPERLU selective process for efficient removal of lignin and upgrading.

Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower:
Technology Holding LLC: US$2.5 million for novel method for biomass conversion to renewable jet fuel blend.
Research Triangle Institute: US$2.55 million for bio-crude production and upgrading to renewable diesel.
West Biofuels Development LLC: US$2.2 million for agricultural and woody biomass to diesel fuel with bio-oil intermediate.

Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops:
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: US$5 million for next-generation feedstocks for the emerging bioeconomy.
Texas A&M AgriLife Research: US$5 million for sustainable herbaceous energy crop production in the Southeast US.
North Carolina State University: US$$4.36 million for next-generation miscanthus: Hybrid performance evaluation and enhanced, sustainable feedstock production and supply in the Southeast US for biofuels and bioproducts.

As stated by the Bioenergy Technologies Office website, "The creation of a robust, next-generation domestic bioenergy industry is one of the important pathways for providing Americans with sustainable, renewable energy alternatives… we're supporting the development of bioproducts, which enable biofuels, since the production of bioproducts relies on much of the same feedstocks, infrastructure, and technologies that are central to biofuel production. This support is moving the United States toward a more secure, sustainable, and economically sound future."

To learn more about the projects selected for funding and DOE's work with industry, academia, and national laboratories, visit https://www.energy.gov/eere/bioenergy

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