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US Navy and USDA make $30M available for commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels, with potential for $180M follow-on; $32M from DOE for earlier stage research

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Navy will provide $30 million in federal funding (FOA-12-15-PKM) for Phase 1 projects to match private investments in commercial-scale advanced drop-in biofuels. The program envisions a subsequent investment of up to $180M in follow-on Phase 2 projects.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is also announcing a total of $32 million in new investments through two earlier-issued solicitations (DE-FOA-0000739 (earlier post) and DE-FOA-0000719) (earlier post) for earlier stage biofuels research that will continue to drive technological breakthroughs and additional cost reductions in the industry and that complement the commercial-scale efforts announced by the Navy and USDA.

Commercial-stage program. The commercial-stage program, which is being run by the Air Force Research Laboratory, Materials and Manufacturing Directorate (AFRL/RX), envisions a total investment of $420 million—$210 million government share plus $210 million recipient share. AFRL/RX expects to make approximately five Phase 1 awards at up to $6M each ($30M total government share), plus recipient cost share. It also expects to make up to three Phase 2 awards at approximately $70M each ($180 million total government share, depending on FY13 and later funding appropriations) plus recipient cost share in a Phase 2 down-select. Awardees selected for the anticipated project will be required to share at least 50% of the cost.

The goal of this project is to establish one or more complete domestic value chains capable of producing drop-in replacement biofuels. This includes feedstock production and logistics, conversion facilities (Integrated Biorefineries), and fuel blending, transportation, and logistics. The government intends to form an Integrated Biofuels Production Enterprise (IBPE) comprised of partnerships that establish the complete value chain.

The contemplated effort will include the design, construction and/or retrofit, validation, qualification and operation of a domestic commercial-scale IBPE that meets a target of at least 10 million gallons per year neat biofuel production capacity. The IBPE will be capable of producing drop-in liquid transportation fuels targeted for military operational use, and as such, must be approved and certified MILSPEC JP-5, JP-8 and/or F-76 equivalents by the time the IBPE becomes operational.

Additionally, the total enterprise envisioned in this effort must include a capability to blend the neat biofuel product with petroleum-based equivalent fuels in order to meet approved certifications and specifications, which must include blends of up to a maximum 50/50 ratio. Capabilities and/or facilities to store and transport the resulting product must also be an element of the project.

In Phase 1, applicants will submit a design package and comprehensive business plan for a commercial-scale biorefinery, identify and secure project sites and take additional required steps spelled out in the announcement. Awardees selected to continue into Phase 2 will submit additional information for the construction or retrofit of a biorefinery.

Made possible through the Defense Production Act (DPA), this funding opportunity is intended to enhance national security by supporting the creation and commercial viability of a defense-critical domestic biofuels industry to advance alternatives to petroleum, the agencies said. DPA is an authority that dates back to 1950 and has been used to boost industries such as steel, aluminum, titanium, semiconductors, beryllium, and radiation-hardened electronics.

DPA is a critical component of strengthening our national security, and energy is a national security issue. Our reliance on foreign oil is a significant military vulnerability and it would be irresponsible not to address it. Pursuing a viable, domestic alternative is the best way to preserve the budget for operational necessities like training and shipbuilding, and this funding opportunity is an important step in accelerating an economically self-sufficient alternative fuels market.

—Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus

DOE early research. The DOE funding includes $20 million to support innovative pilot-scale and demonstration-scale biorefineries that could produce renewable biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel using a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials and algae. (DE-FOA-0000739: Innovative Pilot And Demonstration Scale Production Of Advanced Biofuels)

Topic Area 1 requests applicants to design, construct and/or operate an integrated pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery in order to validate the proposed technology using an acceptable lignocellulosic or waste-based feedstock, to produce an acceptable biofuel. Processes are also eligible under this topic that can utilize advanced technology approaches for the efficient conversion of carbon dioxide (CO2) (rather than direct conversion of lignocellulosic biomass) directly to liquid transportation fuels.

Topic Area 2 requests applicants to design, construct and/or operate an integrated pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery in order to validate the proposed technology using an acceptable algal type feedstock, to produce an acceptable biofuel.

In addition, the Energy Department also announced $12 million to support up to eight projects focused on researching ways to develop bio-based transportation fuels and products using synthetic biological processing. (DE-FOA-0000719: Innovative Biosynthetic Pathways To Advanced Biofuels)

Synthetic biological processing offers an innovative technique to enable efficient, cost-saving conversion of non-food biomass to biofuels. These projects will develop novel biological systems that can enhance the breakdown of raw biomass feedstocks and assist in converting feedstocks into transportation fuels.

The focus of this FOA is found in two topic areas:

  • Intermediate Production: Innovative synthetic biological approaches to the cost-effective fractionation of lignocellulosic biomass, both terrestrial and aquatic, into processable components such as fermentable sugars, modified lignin suitable for conversion to higher value materials, and oligomeric sugar fractions or biopolymers that are more easily converted to monomers for further processing.

  • Intermediate Transformations: Innovative synthetic biological approaches to the cost-effective and high yield conversion of processable component fractions into advanced biofuels and high-energy impact bioproducts.

The projects will be led by small businesses, universities, national laboratories and industry and will seek to overcome various technical and scientific barriers to cost-competitive advanced biofuels and bioproducts.



The Pentagon paid Solazyme Inc $8.5 million in 2009 for 20,055 gallons of biofuel based on algae oil, or $424 a gallon.

For the Great Green Fleet demonstration, the Pentagon paid $12 million for 450,000 gallons of biofuel, nearly $27 a gallon.
Source: Tweets From the Editor(@GreenCarCongress)

Does cost not matter for anything GREEN - even though biofuel is being questioned on all sides, for the short and long term.

National security? Shale oil, or even CTL if Iran invades the US.

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