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DOE, USDA Announce Up To $33M in Funding for Biomass Research and Development Initiative

The US Departments of Energy (DOE) and Agriculture (USDA) jointly announced up to $33 million in funding, subject to annual appropriations, for the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) to develop biomass feedstocks for the associated production of advanced biofuels (such as biobutanol, renewable hydrocarbons and Fischer-Tropsch fuels), bioenergy and high-value biobased products.

USDA and DOE are issuing this joint funding announcement (DE-FOA-0000341) for several types of projects aimed at increasing the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products. Advanced biofuels produced from these projects are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50%, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency.

USDA and DOE are soliciting applications that integrate all three of the technical areas listed in the Food Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. The technical areas are:

  • Feedstocks development;
  • Biofuels and biobased products development;
  • Biofuels development analysis.

BRDI requires that each proposed project integrate all three of the technical areas. The intent of requiring integration is to encourage a collaborative problem-solving approach to all studies funded under BRDI, to facilitate formation of consortia, identify and address knowledge gaps, and accelerate the application of science and engineering for the production of sustainable biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products.

Feedstocks Development. This area include research, development and demonstration activities regarding feedstocks and feedstock logistics (including harvest, handling, transport, preprocessing, and storage) relevant to production of raw materials for conversion to biofuels and biobased products.

The lack of logistics systems capable of handling and delivering sufficiently high tonnage of feedstocks year round to support the rapid escalation of cellulosic biofuels production has been identified as a significant barrier to the expansion of a sustainable domestic biofuels industry. Feedstocks or combinations of feedstocks that will be considered include:

  • Agricultural residues;
  • Energy crops (switchgrass, miscanthus, energycane, sorghum, poplar, willow, etc.);
  • Forest resources (forest thinnings, wood chips, wood wastes, small diameter trees, etc.);
  • Urban wood wastes;
  • Oilseed crops;
  • Animal waste; and
  • Algae.

Projects should include the use or development of the following:

  • Dedicated biofuel or industrial product crops with desired features, including enhanced productivity, broader site range, low requirements for chemical inputs, and enhanced processing characteristics;
  • Advanced crop production methods and management technologies and systems to achieve optimal yields while conserving soil and water resources;
  • Innovative equipment designs and systems for harvest, handling, preprocessing, transport, and storage that will be compatible with the biomass conversion technology;
  • Compatibility of the selected feedstock with potential conversion systems;
  • Strategies for integrating feedstock production into existing managed land;
  • Generation of data that can contribute to a best management practices database; and
  • Development of tools that land managers and community developers can use to evaluate the technical and economic viability of biomass production systems; tools should integrate management, harvesting, and processing technologies and methods with economic analyses of utilization options for biofuels, bioenergy and biobased products.

Biofuels and Biobased Products Development The area includes research, development and demonstration (R,D&D) activities to support the development of diverse cost-effective technologies for the use of cellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels and biobased products; and product diversification through technologies relevant to production of a range of biobased products (including chemicals, animal feeds, and cogeneration power) that potentially can increase the feasibility of fuel production in a biorefinery.

USDA and DOE will support advanced biofuels, such as biobutanol, renewable hydrocarbons and Fischer-Tropsch gasoline and diesel, which are still in the early stages of investigation in terms of production technologies, cost-effectiveness, and performance characteristics.

For FY 2010, DOE and USDA have identified areas of particular interest for BRDI. These areas of interest will not be given a priority over applications that address other technologies and are not intended to deter submission of applications that address other technologies. Research, development, and demonstration projects of particular interest include, but are not limited to, technologies that would address:

  • Small scale gasification and pyrolysis R,D&D to address issues of local and on-farm production of biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks;
  • Research and development of local-scale woody biomass-to-energy conversion with a major thrust focusing on the simultaneous generation of electricity and useful heat;
  • Conversion, via biological, thermal, catalytic or chemical means, of acceptable feedstocks into advanced biofuels and biobased products including intermediate and end-use products;
  • Improvement of the production and performance or commercial viability of biobased products and co-products;
  • Improvement of the potential for developing rural based processing and manufacturing of biofuels and biobased products;
  • Demonstration of commercial relevance of the technology, its expected marketability, and its potential commercial viability for processing and manufacturing biobased products; and
  • Field demonstration of biobased products for functional and environmental performance including comparison analysis with the petroleum-based counterparts to validate performance and to enable modification or development of industry standards and specifications; specific categories of interest include lubricants, hydraulic fluids, solvents and packaging materials.

Research, development, and demonstration projects of particular interest for Biochemical, Thermochemical, and Chemical conversions, based on known barriers to successful commercialization, include, but are not limited to, technologies that would address:

  • Biochemical Conversion
    • Pretreatment technologies
    • Hydrolysis and saccharification technologies that enhance advanced biofuels production
    • Fermentation technologies for advanced biofuels
    • Advanced bioprocessing technologies
  • Thermochemical Conversion
    • Gasification
    • Pyrolysis
  • Chemical Conversion
    • Tolerance to inhibitory compounds
    • Reduction of biomass components at mild conditions
    • Selective dehydrations without side reactions
    • Catalyst development for cleaving C-O and C-C bonds
    • Cleavage of C-N bonds while preserving molecular structure

Biofuels Development Analysis This technical area addresses methods to quantify the proposed technology and/or the project’s positive impact on sustainability and on the environment; therefore, successful applications will consider the life-cycle (cradle-to-grave) impacts including environmental, social, and economic implications that are attributable to the project.

To integrate Technical Area (C) with (A) and (B), the proposed project should consider the full life-cycle of the technology, which can be characterized by the following stages:

  • Biomass feedstock development and cultivation;
  • Feedstock harvesting and preparation;
  • Feedstock logistics (handling, storage, and transportation);
  • Biomass pre-processing (as appropriate);
  • Biomass conversion;
  • Production of biofuels/bioenergy/biobased products;
  • Product logistics and distribution;
  • Product consumption; and
  • End of useful life.


Henry Gibson

It is very simple arithmetic that will show that biofuels are obsolete for an Industrial society. The Forests of England were destroyed by ironmaking alone 200 years ago, and it was before that that the Icelandic forests disappeared for cooking. The redwoods in the US are a small fraction of their original number. ..HG..

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