The Van Trump Report

How the DOE is Helping to Ramp Up U.S. Biofuel Production

The U.S. Department of Energy earlier this summer announced plans to award $59 million in funding to help accelerate the production of biofuels and bioproducts. The so-called “Scale-Up of Integrated Biorefineries” funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is intended to leverage the applied research, development, and deployment expertise of the DOE in order to cut costs and technical risks associated with biofuel production technologies. The funding is actually the second in a series of “Scale-Up” funding opportunities the DOE has planned to ultimately pave the way for commercial-scale biofuel production in the U.S.

While many industries are switching to electrification to meet current needs, the DOE says that the transportation sector is uniquely ill-suited for this transition. In particular, the marine and aviation sectors require higher energy densities to avoid the frequent stops long flights or cross-country rail routes would otherwise require. DOE says fossil fuels allow this, but electrification would be unable to meet the need. However, sustainable, energy-dense, liquid biofuels are are considered a strong alternative for those hard-to-decarbonize sectors.

In September 2021, DOE awarded $64 million to 22 projects focused on developing technologies and processes that produce low-cost, low-carbon biofuels. This latest $59 million FOA is expected to fund between four and 20 projects designed to advance biorefinery development and feedstocks improvement projects in pursuit of renewable diesel products. The submission deadline for full applications set for Sept. 9. Additional information is available HERE.

Applications are being accepted under four primary topic areas. According to the FOA, $49 million of the $59 million in available funds are expected to fund projects under the first, second, and third topic areas. The remaining $10 million is expected to fund projects under topic area four. Topics in this FOA include:
1: Pre-Pilot Scale-Up of Integrated Biorefineries and Biorefinery Technology: This topic focuses on projects focused on the production of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), renewable diesel, sustainable marine fuel, or sustainable rail fuel that achieves at least a -70% GHG (greenhouse gas) reduction. Eligible feedstocks include lignocellulosic feedstocks, algae, organic wet waste, sorted municipal solid waste (MSW), food waste, biogas, grain starch, oilseed crops, C&D waste, and waste carbon dioxide.

2: Pilot Scale-Up of Preliminary and Final Design and Construction: The eligible fuels and feedstocks are similar to those included under the first topic area. The resulting fuel must also achieve at least a -70% GHG reduction. Pilot projects awarded funding under the second topic area must produce at least 20,000 gallons of biofuel per year equivalent, according to the FOA.

3: Demonstration Scale-Up of Preliminary and Final Design and Construction: The requirements for fuel type, feedstocks and GHG reductions are largely the same as the first two topic areas, but the demonstration projects must produce at least 1 million gallons of biofuel per year equivalent.

4: Gen-1 Corn Ethanol Emission Reduction: This topic focuses on emission reductions at first-generation corn ethanol plants. According to the FOA, anticipated approaches for the fourth topic area include the use of waste and underutilized carbon feedstocks, carbon capture and utilization, or biorefinery technologies that take advantage of existing assets and infrastructure, such as bolt-on and retrofit technologies. Other possibilities include, but are not limited to, the inclusion of bioproducts, and the development of predictive models and high-performance computing as tools to accelerate scale-up. The DOE is not interested in funding proposals that include carbon capture and sequestration (CCS).

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