Tag Archives: Biofuels

$62M to Biofuels Industry



  special thanks to U.S. Department of Energy | USA.gov

As part of President Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future, he directed the Navy, USDA and DOE to collaborate to support commercialization of “drop-in” biofuel substitutes for diesel and jet fuel. Competitively priced drop-in biofuels, he said, will help improve America’s energy security, meeting the fuel needs of U.S. armed forces, as well as the commercial aviation and shipping sectors. The recent announcement of an available $30 million in funding promotes speeding the development of biofuels for military and commercial transportation. The Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is available.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Navy and Department of Energy are announcing $30 million in federal funding to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. The Energy Department is also announcing a total of $32 million in new investments for earlier stage research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry.
This funding opportunity is made possible through the Defense Production Act (DPA), an authority that dates back to 1950 and has been used to boost industries such as steel, aluminum, titanium, semiconductors, beryllium, and radiation-hardened electronics.

    “…through this DPA effort the nation will be able to harvest an aviation biofuels industry to satisfy the world’s needs, not just our U.S. military.” — USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

The new funding comprises a two-phased approach, with government and industry sharing in the cost. In Phase 1, applicants will submit a design package and comprehensive business plan for a commercial-scale biorefinery, identify and secure project sites and take additional required steps spelled out in the announcement. Awardees selected to continue into Phase 2 will submit additional information for the construction or retrofit of a biorefinery.

Agencies participating in this initiative will make additional funding requests to Congress to support the initiative, including President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request of $110 million.

“This is an important time for the biofuels industry to step up and show the Department of the Navy how they have developed biofuels that are certified and certifiable for military use,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “The ability for U.S. industry to make, create and innovate has never been more important to our national and energy security. I know that through this DPA effort the nation will be able to harvest an aviation biofuels industry to satisfy the world’s needs, not just our U.S. military.”

The Energy Department has also announced new investments in earlier stage biofuels research that complement the commercial-scale efforts announced by the Navy and USDA. Totaling $32 million, these early-stage, pre-commercial investments are the latest steps in the Obama Administration’s efforts to advance biofuels technologies to continue to bring down costs, improve performance, and identify new effective, non-food feedstocks and processing technologies.

“Advanced biofuels are an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil and support American industries and American jobs,” said Secretary Chu. “By pursuing new processes and technologies for producing next-generation biofuels, we are working to accelerate innovation in a critical and growing sector that will help to improve U.S. energy security and protect our air and water.”

The new funding announced by DOE includes $20 million to support innovative pilot-scale and demonstration-scale biorefineries that could produce renewable biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel using a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials and algae. These projects may support new plant construction, retrofits on existing U.S. biorefineries or operation at plants ready to begin production at the pilot- or pre-commercial scale. This investment will also help federal and local governments, private developers and industry collect accurate data on the cost of producing fuels made from biomass and waste feedstocks. The full funding solicitation is available.

In addition, the Energy Department also announced $12 million to support up to eight projects focused on researching ways to develop bio-based transportation fuels and products using synthetic biological processing. Synthetic biological processing offers an innovative technique to enable efficient, cost-saving conversion of non-food biomass to biofuels. These projects will develop novel biological systems that can enhance the breakdown of raw biomass feedstocks and assist in converting feedstocks into transportation fuels.

The projects will be led by small businesses, universities, national laboratories and industry and will seek to overcome various technical and scientific barriers to cost-competitive advanced biofuels and bioproducts. The full funding opportunity announcement is available.



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Way to Create Biofuels

Way to Create Biofuels


Way to Create Biofuels

Is there a new path to biofuels hiding in a handful of dirt? 
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) biologist Steve Singer leads a group that wants to find out. They’re exploring whether a common soil bacterium can be engineered to produce liquid transportation fuels much more efficiently than the ways in which advanced biofuels are made today.

The scientists are working with a bacterium called Ralstonia eutropha. It naturally uses hydrogen as an energy source to convert CO2 into various organic compounds.

The group hopes to capitalize on the bacteria’s capabilities and tweak it to produce advanced biofuels that are drop-in replacements for diesel and jet fuel. The process would be powered only by hydrogen and electricity from renewable sources such as solar or wind.

The goal is a biofuel—or electrofuel, as this new approach is called—that doesn’t require photosynthesis.

Why is this important? Most methods used to produce advanced biofuels, such as from biomass and algae, rely on photosynthesis. But it turns out that photosynthesis isn’t very efficient when it comes to making biofuel. Energy is lost as photons from the sun are converted to stored chemical energy in a plant, which is then converted to a fuel.

“We’re after a more direct way,” says Singer, who holds appointments with Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and with the Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), a multi-institutional partnership led by Berkeley Lab.

“We want to bypass photosynthesis by using a microbe that uses hydrogen and electricity to convert CO2 into a fuel,” he adds.

Widespread use of electrofuels would also reduce demands for land, water, and fertilizer that are traditionally required to produce biofuels.

Berkeley Lab’s $3.4 million electrofuel project was funded in 2010 by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program, which focuses on “high risk, high payoff concepts—technologies promising genuine transformation in the ways we generate, store and utilize energy.”

That pretty much describes electrofuels. ARPA-E estimates the technology has the potential to be ten times more efficient than current biofuel production methods. But electrofuels are currently confined to lab-scale tests. A lot of obstacles must be overcome before you’ll see it at the pump.

Fortunately, research is underway. The Berkeley Lab project is one of thirteen electrofuel projects sponsored by ARPA-E. And earlier this year, ARPA-E issued a request for information focused on the commercialization of the technology.

Singer’s group includes scientists from Virginia-based Logos Technologies and the University of California at Berkeley. The project’s co-principal investigators are Harry Beller, Swapnil Chhabra, and Nathan Hillson, who are also with Berkeley Lab and JBEI; Chris Chang, a UC Berkeley chemist and a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Chemical Sciences Division; and Dan MacEachran of Logos Technologies.

The scientists chose to work with R. eutropha because the bacterium is well understood and it’s already used industrially to make bioplastics.

They’re creating engineered strains of the bacterium at JBEI, all aimed at improving its ability to produce hydrocarbons. This work involves re-routing metabolic pathways in the bacteria. It also involves adding pathways from other microorganisms, such as a pathway engineered in Escherichia coli to produce medium-chain methyl ketones, which are naturally occurring compounds that have cetane numbers similar to those of typical diesel fuel.

The group is also pursuing two parallel paths to further boost production.

In the first approach, Logos Technologies is developing a two-liter bioelectrochemical reactor, which is a conventional fermentation vessel fitted with electrodes. The vessel starts with a mixture of bacteria, CO2, and water. Electricity splits the water into oxygen and hydrogen. The bacteria then use energy from the hydrogen to wrest carbon from CO2 and convert it to hydrocarbons, which migrate to the water’s surface. The scientists hope to skim the first batch of biofuel from the bioreactor in about one year.

In the second approach, the scientists want to transform the bacteria into self-reliant, biofuel-making machines. With help from Chris Chang, they’re developing ways to tether electrocatalysts to the bacteria’s surface. These catalysts use electricity to generate hydrogen in the presence of water.

The idea is to give the bacteria the ability to produce much of their own energy source. If the approach works, the only ingredients the bacteria will need to produce biofuel would be CO2, electricity, and water.

The scientists are now developing ways to attach these catalysts to electrodes and to the surface of the bacteria.

“We’re at the proof-of-principle stage in many ways with this research, but the concept has a lot of potential, so we’re eager to see where we can take this,” says Singer.

 special thanks to 
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Croatian Center of Renewable Energy Sources (CCRES)

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