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US Departments of Agriculture and Energy to award up to $30M for biomass research and development for fuels and energy

The US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy (DOE) is soliciting projects for up to $30 million over three to four years for research and development in advanced biofuels, bioenergy, and high-value biobased products. The projects funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI) are intended to help create a diverse group of economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products.

Advanced biofuels produced from these projects (DE-FOA-0000510) are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 50% compared to fossil fuels. For fiscal year 2011, applicants seeking BRDI funding must propose projects that integrate science and engineering research in the following three technical areas that are critical to the broader success of alternative biofuels production:

Feedstock Development. Funding will support research, development, and demonstration activities for improving biomass feedstocks and their supply, including the harvest, transport, preprocessing, and storage necessary to produce 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.), and urban wood wastes. Other feedstocks that will be considered include oilseed crops, animal waste, other waste streams that are byproducts of alternative energy processes, such as anaerobic digestion 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;

  • Innovative uses of alternative waste streams that increase the cost, environmental impacts, greenhouse gas footprint or complexity of renewable energy systems for farm or small commercial applications;

  • 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. Research, development, and demonstration activities will support cost-effective technologies to increase the use of cellulosic biomass in the production of biofuels and/or biobased products. Funding will also support the development of a wide range of technologies to produce various biobased products, including animal feeds and chemicals that can potentially increase the economic viability of large-scale fuel production in a biorefinery.

The DOE Biomass Program has been focused on developing, demonstrating, and deploying cellulosic ethanol to enable a 2012 goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol. Over the last two decades, research and development have led to significant progress in the biochemical processes used to convert cellulosic biomass to ethanol. First-generation technology for cellulosic ethanol production is now in the demonstration phase.

USDA-NIFA and DOE will also support other advanced biofuels and/or biobased products, such as biobutanol, 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 2011, DOE and USDA-NIFA 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;

  • Gasification and pyrolysis of animal manure - manures from each major livestock and poultry species (beef, dairy, swine, and poultry) have different characteristics and, therefore, each will have specific requirements for thermochemical energy recovery (direct combustion of livestock manure will not be included in this FOA);

  • 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/or 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/or biobased products;

  • Demonstration of commercial relevance of the technology, its expected marketability, and its potential commercial viability for processing and manufacturing biobased products; and

  • Demonstration of biobased products to evaluate functional and environmental performance and to facilitate amending or developing industry standards and specifications.

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

  • Biochemical Conversion: pretreatment technologies; hydrolysis and saccharification technologies that enhance advanced biofuels production; fermentation technologies for advanced biofuels; and advanced bioprocessing technologies.

  • Thermochemical Conversion: gasification and pyrolysis.

  • Chemical Conversion: tolerance to inhibitory compounds; exothermic reactions for waste heat; reduction of cellulosic components at mild conditions with recycle of reactants; selective dehydrations without side reactions; catalyst development for cleaving C-O and C-C bonds; and cleavage of C-N bonds while preserving molecular structure.

Biofuels and Biobased Products 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; successful applications will consider the life-cycle (cradle-to-grave) impacts including environmental, social, and economic implications that are attributable to the project. As appropriate, the proposed project should include one or more of the following: strategic guidance; energy and Environmental Impact; and/or assessment of Federal land.

To integrate this technical area with the first two, the proposed project should consider the full life-cycle of the technology.

The agencies are also seeking projects that demonstrate the use of biodiesel in farming equipment and processing facility operations that are used to produce grain and/or cellulosic ethanol.

Subject to annual appropriations, USDA plans to invest up to $25 million with DOE contributing up to $5 million for this year’s Biomass Research and Development Initiative. This funding is expected to support five to ten projects over three to four years.



Wasn't this subject studied 100 times already? Isn't it time to develop effective technologies to do it?


"intended to help create a diverse group of economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of alternative renewable fuels and biobased products."

Only way to increase availability is to PRODUCE fuel. The Admin continues to do a very good job of seeding these renewable energy resources. No one renewable resource will answer the energy question - but a large portfolio of feedstocks and resources will steer us away from most imported oil.

Creating at least as many jobs producing renewables as those lost in producing oil seems reasonable. Especially since domestically produced energy will only come from domestic jobs.


OK but isn't it time to get the job done with non-food feed stocks?


"increase the availability of alternative renewable fuels"
"delivering sufficiently high tonnage of feedstocks year-round"
"making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with corn-based ethanol"

It sounds like they want to make high volume viable. It may be that the private sector is not investing because they do not see a sure thing. It is amazing to me why we continue to try and coax the capitalists to get rich doing something worth while.


SJC - You misinterpret the word Capitalist. The term refers to those corporate free-riders that go to the Capital to get guaranteed profits, followed by tax cuts.


When the corporate capitalists put the well being of the company over the country, I do not see how the general well being of the population can be assured.

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