DOE to award $30 million for advanced biofuels feedstock, processing improvements

December 15, 2010 |

In Washington, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a new $30 million round of funding for advanced biofuels. The new Funding opportunity announcement will provide funding for small-scale process integration projects that support the development of drop-in advanced biofuels.

The FOA will support as many as five projects, and focuses on optimizing and integrating process steps that convert biomass into biofuels and bioproducts that will eventually be used to support hydrocarbon fuels and chemicals.

These process improvements could include pretreatment methods, less costly and more efficient enzymes that produce sugars, and fermentation organisms and catalysts that convert the sugars into fuel and chemical intermediates.  A description of the solicitation, eligibility requirements, and application instructions can be found here.  Applications must be submitted through Grants.gov by no later than 11:59pm EST on February 7, 2011.

Notes on the solicitation:

1. The FOA is focused on agricultural residues. However, other feedstock sources can be proposed in applications, if the applicant can show compelling evidence that the feedstock will be sustainably available by 2015.

2. Applications that propose R&D which involves a combination of hybrid chemical and biological conversion processes are acceptable.

3. Applications that include thermochemical processes will be considered non-responsive and will not be considered for funding under this FOA. For example, fermentation of syngas from a gasification process will not be considered.

4. If a catalytic conversion process is proposed, the hydrogenation process may NOT be included in the proposed process improvements to be funded under this FOA.

5. Approximately $8,000,000 is expected to be available for new awards in FY 2011 and an additional $ 22,000,000 is expected to be available for awards made under this announcement in years FY 2012 through FY2014

6. Minimum award is $2 million and the maximum is $15 million. The cost share must be at least 20% of the total allowable costs for research and development projects. National labs (with the exception of NREL) are eligible to compete for awards.

More on the story.

The Digest’s take: Huzzah! A welcome opportunity – though highly targeted – for advanced biofuels producers to take their pretreatment or conversion processes to the next level towards commercial viability in partnership with Uncle Sam. While it is unfortunate that fermentation of syngas is not a process that can be considered – ruling out some processes from Coskata and LanzaTech that utilize syngas, there’s substantial opportunity in here for companies that are fermenting a broth of cellulosic sugars not only from agricultural sources, but potentially from the pulp and paper industry. Think Amyris, Gevo, LS9, Cobalt Technologies, BlueFire Renewables, Mascoma, Qteros, BP Biofuels, just to name a few companies that could be competing for awards.

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