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DOE to Award Up to $564M to 19 Integrated Biorefinery Projects

4 December 2009

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 19 integrated biorefinery projects to receive up to $564 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate the construction and operation of pilot, demonstration, and commercial scale facilities. The projects selected are to produce advanced biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts using biomass feedstocks at the pilot, demonstration, and full commercial scale. The awards span a range of feedstocks, technologies and outputs, including drop-in hydrocarbon fuels.

Of the nearly $564 million in Recovery Act funding announced today, up to $483 million will go to 14 pilot-scale and 4 demonstration-scale biorefinery projects across the country. The remaining $81 million will focus on accelerating the construction of a biorefinery project previously awarded funding. Collectively, these projects will be matched with more than $700 million in private and non-Federal cost-share funds, for total project investments of almost $1.3 billion.

Joining Energy Secretary Steven Chu for the announcement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also noted that USDA Rural Development has selected Sapphire Energy—one of the 19 recipients of the biorefinery awards—to receive a loan guarantee for up to $54.5 million through the Biorefinery Assistance Program for its project to demonstrate an integrated algal biorefinery process that will cultivate algae in ponds, and will use dewatering and oil extraction technology to produce an intermediate that will then be processed into drop-in green fuels such as jet fuel and diesel.

The USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program, authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill, promotes the development of new and emerging technologies for the production of fuels that are produced from non-corn kernel starch biomass sources. The program provides loan guarantees to develop, construct and retrofit viable commercial-scale biorefineries producing advanced biofuels. The maximum loan guarantee is $250 million per project. The loan guarantee will be subject to the availability of funds and contingent upon Sapphire Energy meeting the conditions of the loan agreement.

The projects selected for awards are:

Pilot and Demonstration Scale FOA – Pilot Scale (in alphabetical order)
Grantee Description DOE Grant Amount Non-Fed Amount
Algenol Biofuels Inc. This project will make ethanol directly from carbon dioxide and seawater using algae. The facility will have the capacity to produce 100,000 gallons of fuel-grade ethanol per year. $25,000,000 $33,915,478
American Process Inc. This project will produce fuel and potassium acetate, a compound with many industrial applications, using processed wood generated by Decorative Panels International, an existing hardboard manufacturing facility in Alpena, MI. The pilot plant will have the capacity to produce up to 890,000 gallons of ethanol and 690,000 gallons of potassium acetate per year starting in 2011. $17,944,902 $10,148,508
Amyris Biotechnologies, Inc. This project will produce a diesel substitute through the fermentation of sweet sorghum. The pilot plant will also have the capacity to co-produce lubricants, polymers, and other petro-chemical substitutes. $25,000,000 $10,489,763
Archer Daniels Midland This project will use acid to break down biomass which can be converted to liquid fuels or energy. The ADM facility will produce ethanol and ethyl acrylate, a compound used to make a variety of materials, and will also recover minerals and salts from the biomass that can then be returned to the soil. $24,834,592 $10,946,609
Clearfuels Technology Inc This project will produce renewable diesel and jet fuel from woody biomass by integrating ClearFuels’ and Rentech’s conversion technologies. The facility will also evaluate the conversion of bagasse and biomass mixtures to fuels. $23,000,000 $13,433,926
Elevance Renewable Sciences This project was selected to complete preliminary engineering design for a future facility producing jet fuel, renewable diesel substitutes, and high-value chemicals from plant oils and poultry fat. $2,500,000 $625,000
Gas Technology Institute This project was selected to complete preliminary engineering design for a novel process to produce green gasoline and diesel from woody biomass, agricultural residues, and algae. $2,500,000 $625,000
HALDOR TOPSOE, Inc. This project will convert wood to green gasoline by fully integrating and optimizing a multi-step gasification process. The pilot plant will have the capacity to process 21 metric tons of feedstock per day. $25,000,000 $9,701,468
ICM, Inc This project will modify an existing corn-ethanol facility to produce cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and energy sorghum using biochemical conversion processes. $25,000,000 $6,268,136
Logos Technologies This project will convert switchgrass and woody biomass into ethanol using a biochemical conversion processes. $20,445,849 $5,113,962
Renewable Energy Institute International This project will produce high-quality green diesel from agriculture and forest residues using advanced pyrolysis and steam reforming. The pilot plant will have the capacity to process 25 dry tons of feedstock per day. $19,980,930 $5,116,072
Solazyme, Inc This project will validate the projected economics of a commercial scale biorefinery producing multiple advanced biofuels. This project will produce algae oil that can be converted to oil-based fuels. $21,765,738 $3,857,111
UOP LLC This project will integrate existing technology from Ensyn and UOP to produce green gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from agricultural residue, woody biomass, dedicated energy crops, and algae. $25,000,000 $6,685,340
ZeaChem Inc. This project will use purpose-grown hybrid poplar trees to produce fuel-grade ethanol using hybrid technology. Additional feedstocks such as agricultural residues and energy crops will also be evaluated in the pilot plant. $25,000,000 $48,400,000

Pilot and Demonstration Scale FOA – Demonstration Scale (in alphabetical order)
Grantee Description DOE Grant Amount Non-Fed Amount
BioEnergy International, LLC This project will biologically produce succinic acid from sorghum. The process being developed displaces petroleum based feedstocks and uses less energy per ton of succinic acid produced than its petroleum counterpart. $50,000,000 $89,589,188
Enerkem Corporation This project will construct a facility that produces ethanol fuel from woody biomass, mill residue, and sorted municipal solid waste. The facility will have the capacity to produce 19 million gallons of ethanol per year. $50,000,000 $90,470,217
INEOS New Planet BioEnergy,LLC This project will produce ethanol and electricity from wood and vegetative residues and construction and demolition materials. The facility will combine biomass gasification and fermentation, and will have the capacity to produce 8 million gallons of ethanol and 2 megawatts of electricity per year by the end of 2011. $50,000,000 $50,000,000
Sapphire Energy, Inc This project will cultivate algae in ponds that will ultimately be converted into green fuels, such as jet fuel and diesel, using the Dynamic Fuels refining process. $50,000,000 $85,064,206

Increased funding to existing biorefinery projects
Grantee Description DOE Grant Amount Non-Fed Amount
Bluefire LLC This project will construct a facility that produces ethanol fuel from woody biomass, mill residue, and sorted municipal solid waste. The facility will have the capacity to produce 19 million gallons of ethanol per year. $81,134,686 $223,227,314

December 4, 2009 in Bio-hydrocarbons, Biomass, Biomass-to-Liquids (BTL), Biorefinery, Fuels, Policy | Permalink | Comments (14) | TrackBack (0)


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Looks like Bluefire LLC blew everyone away, getting by far and away the most while having to put up the least. Also interesting how corporate behemoth supermarket-to-the-world ADM is getting another $25 Mil, no doubt already on a government teet for other ethanol projects / facilities.

It is fair game to use public $$$M to develop and start-up new technologies to keep the country competitive. It is doubly fair when the introduction of a new technology will reduce fossil fuel imports and clean the environment.

Why is the ratio pubic $$ to private $$ so different from one project to another?

Bluefire put up almost 3 times what they received, while ADM put up less than 1/2 of what they received as a grant. It seems a large company like ADM would put up more than they received and not less.

I would guess it has to do with risk, likelihood of success and potential contribution to the energy situation. Some are long shots and some are viable. It just seems to me that large companies can fund their own development without incentives.

Whoops ...thanks SJC... I still don't like the idea of ADM getting money.

Sigh. I wish that at least one project would have focused on butanol rather than ethanol. The same feedstocks can be used for either or butanol, it just needs some modification to the processes and/or organisms being used for production.

Butanol has a lot of inherent advantages such as being able to transport it in existing oil/gas infrastructure, more readily used in existing engines in higher concentrations, higher energy density, etc.

I guess everyone is so used to thinking in terms of ethanol that we just can't get them to consider an alternative that might be better.


As far as I know, butanol can be synthesized from syngas made from the gasification of biomass. It is a more complex alcohol than methanol, but I would imagine that they could do it, it would just be a lower yield. If you can get 140 therms of methane from a ton of biomass and 100 gallons of methanol, as you go to ethanol and butanol there would be fewer gallons per ton, but it would be easier to use and distribute.

I did a bit of research and apparently it is not easy nor perhaps even possible to make butanol from biomass gasification synthesis gas. I would have thought that the F/T process could have done it, but it appears algae and fermentation are the ways. I would say that they fund methods that can be brought to widespread deployment soon and in great volume. I do not know if butanol fermentation is one of those ways.

I thought it was fairly straightforward to produce butanol from synthesis gas (through F/T) and that it was even a natural "side product" from traditional ABE for making ethanol and the relative amounts of each depended on the process and organisms involved.

For example, here is a very encouraging article that seems to be balanced and waiting to prove some of the claims are viable before declaring victory. Of course, this was from 2006 so it is either progressing or some steps proved harder. Regardless, they raise some interesting points:

Here is another post from Sept about some larger scale production from a converted ethanol plant:

Considering the advantages of butanol, it just seems like a promising area to pursue.

Sorry to flood you guys, but I found this as a little background to where Gevo got some of it's technology:

Harvy D,

You wonder at the ratio of moneys disbursed.

All you have to do is look at the ratios of campaign contributions and to whom, for a guide.

And you thought government control of investment funds woud be equally responsive to all?

I'm with ejj on this one....why would ADM be getting any money? I just hate to see it.

Butanol does seem like a good biofuel in many ways. I guess it will depend on the market system which is biased by subsidies for ethanol. Congress goes on what their staff and the lobbyists tell them, that ethanol from corn is good for the farmer and the country. Since money can be made, money flows in until the hedge funds flooded with tax break money bid up the price of corn.


You cannot synthesize selectively any alcohol from synthesis gas other than methanol. There are catalysts for higher alcohols, but they give always a mixture. The pressures required are much higher than for F-T, which adds to the cost. By comparison F-T synthesis can be done even at atmospheric pressure. In my opinion this is the best general approach to convert biomass completely into clean hydrocarbon fuel.
Bacteria make individual alcohols selectively such as ethanol and butanol. But these proceses are slow, and convert only a fraction of input biomass energy into the product alcohol. However, they can be viable if a suitable feedstock is available locally at low cost.

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