The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded a cumulative $13 million to projects in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Wisconsin that promise to accelerate the development and adoption of a new generation of biofuels by bringing down costs, improving performance; and identifying effective, non-food feedstocks and conversion technologies. The agency’s ambitious overall goal is to produce cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon by 2017.
The transportation sector currently accounts for two-thirds of total U.S. oil consumption and one-third of nationwide greenhouse gas emissions. To address that problem, researchers are developing hydrocarbon-based biofuels made from non-food feedstocks, waste materials, and algae that can directly replace gasoline, diesel and jet fuels.
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"By partnering with private industry, universities and our national labs, we can increase America's energy security, bolster rural economic development, and cut harmful carbon pollution from our cars, trucks and planes," said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.
The research projects announced this week build on the Obama Administration's recently announced plan to cut carbon pollution. Moniz noted, “As the President made clear in his plan…partnerships like these will help move our economy toward cleaner, more efficient forms of energy that lower our reliance on foreign oil."
The projects selected for negotiation will help maximize the amount of renewable carbon and hydrogen that can be converted to fuels from biomass and improve the separation processes in bio-oil production to remove non-fuel components—further lowering production costs. Among the facilities involved are:
Ceramatec - funding up to $3.3 million; Salt Lake City, Utah
This innovative R&D company—acquired by CoorsTek in 2008—will use an efficient electrochemical deoxygenation process to develop cost-effective technology to separate oxygen from bio-oil. The project will help produce hydrocarbon products suitable for further processing in conventional petroleum refineries.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory - up to $2.1 million; Oak Ridge, Tenn.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory will use a microbial electrolysis process to efficiently remove the hydrogen from the water found in bio-oil. This technology will help to reduce the corrosivity of bio-oil and improve the efficiency of converting hydrogen and biomass to biofuels. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Georgia Institute of Technology (News - Alert), Pall Corporation, OmniTech International and FuelCellsEtc also will participate in this project.
University of Oklahoma - up to $4 million; Norman, Okla.
The University of Oklahoma will investigate two methods—thermal fractionation and supercritical solvent extraction—to maximize the amount of renewable carbon and hydrogen that can be extracted from biomass and converted to a refinery-compatible intermediate suitable for final upgrading to a transportation fuel. The multidisciplinary research team includes experts in catalysis, separation, life-cycle analysis and techno-economic assessment.
Virent, Inc. - up to $4 million; Madison, Wis.
This chemical and fuel company will develop an innovative separation process that uses its BioForming technology to efficiently convert carbon from lignocellulosic biomass into hydrocarbon fuels. Virent will work to improve the overall carbon conversion efficiency of biomass—helping to reduce the cost of producing hydrocarbon biofuels that work with the existing transportation fuel infrastructure and are capable of meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard. Idaho National Laboratory also will bring its feedstock pre-processing capabilities to the project.
Edited by Alisen Downey