US government dishes out more than USD24 million for biomass R(and)D

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Projects selected for more than $24 million in grants to research and develop technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products

The US Departments of Agriculture and Energy have announced projects selected for more than $24 million in grants to research and develop technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products

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 US 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 winning projects must contribute a minimum of 20% of matching funds for R&D projects and 50% of matching funds for demonstration projects. Funding is provided through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and DOE’s Biomass Program. 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.

Biomass gasifiers to biomass-to-gasoline

Winning projects were wide ranging and included the following:

GE Global Research: up to $1,597,544to develop detailed and simplified kinetic models of biomass gasification. A fundamental modelling capability will enable the widespread design of feedstock-flexible biomass gasifiers that are cost-effective and scaled to match the regional distribution of biomass feedstocks.

Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corporation: 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. Yenkin-Majestic will use these products to demonstrate a distributed stand-alone system for the operation of a large industrial facility.

Exelus, Inc.: 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. The technology uses unique, engineered catalysts that facilitate new reaction pathways to liquid motor fuels from biomass. The BTG process replaces conventional high-temperature processes like gasification and pyrolysis with a series of mild, low-temperature reactions. The self-contained process uses minimal water and no acids or chemical additives.

Consortium for Research on Renewable Industrial Materials: 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. National estimates of biofuel production will be based on stratified biomass collection and processing implementation scenarios that can be evaluated against the Renewable Fuel Standard greenhouse gas emission objectives.

Oklahoma State University: up to $4,212,845: to develop best practices and technologies necessary to ensure efficient, sustainable and profitable production of cellulosic ethanol feedstocks. Utilizing large-scale feedstock production research, the economic and environmental sustainability of switchgrass, mixed-species perennial grasses and annual biomass cropping systems will be evaluated, and the synergy between bioenergy and livestock production will be explored.

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