Deep Impact: DOE aims for $2.50 ultra-low carbon fuels in $61.4M funding announce: biofuels, RNG, bioproducts in the mix 

April 8, 2021 |

In Washington, The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced $61.4 million for technologies that produce low-cost, low-carbon biofuels. Biofuels are derived from renewable resources, and can power heavy-duty vehicles that are difficult to electrify with current technologies—including airplanes and ships—to help accelerate America’s path to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

The $2.50 per gallon target

This FOA supports high-impact technology RDD&D to accelerate the bioeconomy and, in particular, the production of low-carbon fuels for the aviation industry. BETO is focusing on applied RDD&D to improve the performance and reduce cost of biofuel production technologies and scale-up production systems in partnership with industry. The Program is focused on developing and demonstrating technologies that are capable of producing low-carbon drop-in biofuels at $2.50 per gallon gasoline equivalent (GGE) by 2030, as well as associated renewable chemical co-products to achieve this target.

The pivot back to larger scales in pursuit of Deep Impact

DOE noted: “The Bioenergy Technologies Office is turning its attention to reducing risk of commercialization by partnering with industry to demonstrate technologies at large scale that can deliver at least 70% lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum. 

The due dates

The application process will include two phases: a concept paper and a full application. Concept papers are due on April 30, 2021, and full applications are due on June 21, 2021.

The Topics

Subtopic Area 1a: Scale-up of Biotechnologies – Pre-Pilot for Biofuels and Bioproducts 

This subtopic area will scale up key process steps from lab scale unit operations (TRL 3) to industrially-relevant piece(s) of equipment (TRL 5). Engineering solutions for the key process steps can include a single or multiple unit operations moving from batch to continuous operation, utilizing real-world feed and recycle streams, as well as specialized engineering scale equipment. The proposed unit operation(s) within an application do not have to comprise a fully integrated pilot scale unit (TRL 6) by the end of the project, but rather can be utilized to support future integration of the entire process at pilot or demonstration scale. 

Subtopic Area 1b: Scale-up of Biotechnologies – Pilot Scale for Biofuels and Bioproducts

Subtopic Area 1b will identify, evaluate, and select applications proposing project definition, development, and execution plans for the scaling of pre-pilot biofuel and bioproduct technologies to pilot scale including for: 

● the manufacture of sustainable aviation and marine fuels; or 

● waste and underutilized carbon feedstocks14; or 

● novel process technologies that leverage existing first generation, grain starch, biorefinery assets and infrastructure. 

● novel process technologies that leverage US-produced, oilseed crops (see Appendix G) that meet all other metrics of the topic area, including achieving at least 70% GHG reduction 

Subtopic Area 1b will provide the ability for pre-pilot scale technologies to scale to pilot scale. Pilot scale facilities developed under Subtopic Area 1b must produce at the plant’s rated capacity, a minimum quantity of 20,000 gallons per year of liquid biobased hydrocarbon fuel for aviation, marine, or heavy-duty applications. 

Subtopic Area 1c: Scale-up of Biotechnologies – Demonstration Scale for Biofuels and Bioproducts 

Subtopic Area 1c will provide the ability for pilot scale technologies to scale up to demonstration scale. Demonstration scale facilities developed under Subtopic Area 1c must produce at the plant’s rated capacity a minimum quantity of 1,000,000 gallons per year of liquid biobased hydrocarbon fuel for aviation, marine, or heavy-duty applications. 

s per year of liquid biobased hydrocarbon fuel for aviation, marine, or heavy-duty applications. 

Topic Area 2: Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion Overview 

These technologies could include a variety of low severity pretreatment processes, detoxification/impurity removal technologies, amongst others. The topic area also may include funding for downstream partners that are critical to evaluating the quality and convertibility of these sugars. The potential topic area seeks a variety of downstream upgrading approaches (biological, chemical, and electrochemical catalysis) to gain a diverse understanding of the quality of these substrates. 

Topic Area 3: Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion Overview 

The two (2) subtopic areas below address the complexity and cost of bioprocess separations. 

Subtopic Area 3a: Separations to Improve Arrested Anaerobic Digestion Process Development 

This subtopic area seeks to develop efficient and cost-effective separations approaches to isolate and potentially upgrade organic acids and products of interest from digesters. 

Subtopic Area 3b: Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion (Bioprocessing Separations Consortium) 

Topic Area 4: Residential Wood Heaters Overview 

This topic area will support the development and testing of low-emission, high efficiency, and cost competitive residential wood heaters. Categories of residential woo

Subtopic Area 5a: Renewable Natural Gas (R&D) 

Subtopic Area 5a is targeted at bench-scale research and development to produce RNG and specifically to develop new technologies for upgrading biogas and carbon dioxide/hydrogen to pipeline quality renewable natural gas. 

Subtopic Area 5b: Renewable Natural Gas (Pilot Scale) 

Subtopic Area 5b seeks to advance the technology readiness of next generation biogas upgrading and RNG production technologies through piloting, integrated operations, and increased duration of continuous run-time. Applicants are encouraged to pilot their technology on-site with a biogas or biogas/hydrogen source to the extent possible. 

Reaction from the stakeholders

“Biofuels are one of our most promising paths to zero-carbon aviation and shipping, so it’s time to double down on R&D and begin to deploy these technologies at scale,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “This funding is critical for decarbonizing the transportation sector—the largest source of our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions—and delivering good-paying union jobs and clean air and water to American communities.”

“On behalf of Airlines for America’s member airlines, we applaud Secretary Granholm and the DOE for helping to lead the way to a more energy secure and sustainable future, including through support for the further development and deployment of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF),” said A4A President and CEO Nicholas E. Calio

More on the story

More on the story here at the US Department of Energy website.

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