Biowaste for power and fuels — the DOE steps up in key R&D funding opp

March 4, 2019 |

Today, the US Department of Energy took a bold step forward in wastes to biopower and gaseous fuels for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. It’s part of a major $51 million funding package for advanced vehicle technologies that also includes work on energy-efficient engines and fast-fueling for hydrogen fuels.

In the topic most relevant to the advanced bioeconomy today, the Energy Department is focusing on “Gaseous Fuels Research and Technology Integration for Medium- and Heavy-duty Vehicles”. Specifically, high density gas storage and transport, advanced waste to energy technologies, and technology integration that focus on lowering the cost of and overcoming technical barriers to the use of medium- and heavy-duty natural gas and hydrogen fueled vehicles. 

Awards are anticipated to be $1.5-3 million for a total amount of $5 million. Concept papers for this funding opportunity are due March 29, and full applications will be due May 15.

The gaseous backstory — CNG, RNG, sources and players

Gaseous fuels have been the little-known bright star of cellulosic technologies — more than 98% of all cellulosic fuels used in the United States come in the form of renewable natural gas, usually known as CNG with the C standing for “compression”.

There’s been a surge of project interest in recent months — and companies like Sevena, Agri-Energy, Iogen, Trillium and British Gas are actively pursuing projects and/or project affiliations among the companies that will be presenting at ABLC 2019. Plus, the Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas will join the main trade associations on ABLC’s opening main stage day in the annual look at policy.

Meanwhile, we are reporting on a lot of project activity. Verbio is converting the former DuPont cellulosic facility in Iowa to cellulosic gaseous production, and VERBIO is also pursuing a project in Kanass, and more on that here.

In recent news, we reported yesterday that Clean Energy Fuels will offer Zero-Carbon Redeem renewable natural gas at all of its fueling stations by 2025. More on that here.

And we reported last month that Calgren Dairy Fuels is now injecting bio-RNG into Southern California Gas pipelines. More on that here.

Sources can include dairies, food waste, cattle ranches and more. Last month, we reported on a study that shows biogas from food industry waste can be profitable.

Some visual guides

Biogas Business: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Biogas Conversion

Challenges and Opportunities: The Digest’s 2019 Multi-Slide Guide to Biomass Gasification

The DOE Funding Opportunity Announce, in detail

Overall, the U.S. Department of Energy announced up to $51.5 million for new and innovative research of technologies for trucks, off-road vehicles, and the fuels that power them. Funded through the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the FOA addresses priorities in gaseous fuels research, including natural gas, biopower, and hydrogen; heavy-duty freight electrification; hydrogen infrastructure and fuel cell technologies for heavy-duty applications; and energy efficient off-road vehicles.

“As the fastest growing fuel users, trucks offer an important opportunity to use innovation to improve energy productivity,” said Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes. “Through research and new developments in both energy efficiency and domestically-sourced fuel technologies, we can not only strengthen our energy security but also improve transportation affordability for our nation’s trucking industry – helping those who deliver American goods and those who use them.”

Topic areas for this funding opportunity include the following:

Topic 1: Gaseous Fuels Research and Technology Integration for Medium- and Heavy-duty Vehicles (up to $16.5 million) – This topic includes multiple sub-topics, including novel materials for high density gas storage and transport, advanced waste to energy technologies, and technology integration that focus on lowering the cost of and overcoming technical barriers to the use of medium- and heavy-duty natural gas and hydrogen fueled vehicles.

Topic 2: Battery Electric Heavy-duty Freight Vehicles (up to $18 million) – Projects will  target specific technical barriers to advanced batteries, electric drive systems, and charging systems, and demonstrate solutions per requirements in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, Section 131.

Topic 3: High Throughput Hydrogen Fueling Technologies for Medium- and Heavy-duty Transportation (up to $6 million) – Projects will develop technologies for fast-fill hydrogen storage and fueling components.

Topic 4: High-durability, Low Platinum Group Metal Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEAs) for Medium- and Heavy-duty Truck Applications (up to $6 million) – Projects will focus on innovative membrane, catalyst, and electrode structures to improve fuel cell durability for heavy-duty truck applications.

Topic 5: Energy Efficient Commercial Off-road Vehicles (up to $5 million) – Projects focused on improving the system-level efficiency of off-road vehicles, including technologies such as fluid power systems, high efficiency engines, hybridization, and connected and automated control concepts.

For more information and application requirements, you can visit the EERE Exchange website or Grants.gov.

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