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Repost: DOE will award up to $12M to research projects to drive down the cost of drop-in biofuels via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways

[Ed. Note: This is a repost due to the Typepad publishing system eating the original version posted on Friday. Apologies to those commenters whose comments have been lost.]

Thermochemical pathways for producing bioproducts from biomass. Source: DOE. Click to enlarge. Click to enlarge.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $12 million in new funding (DE-FOA-0000812) for projects to drive down the cost of producing drop-in gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways (i.e. fast pyrolysis, ex situ and in situ catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and solvent liquefaction). The funding will support up to five research and development projects that will boost biofuel yields from non-food-based lignocellulosic feedstocks such as agricultural residue, fast-growing poplar trees, and switch grass.

The FOA is addressing research and development (R&D) challenges that were identified at a stakeholder workshop held in December 2011 called “Conversion Technologies for Advanced Biofuels” (CTAB) and from a Request for Information (RFI) conducted in November 2012. (Earlier post.)

The FOA will focus on moving knowledge and understanding of basic or fundamental principles observed at Technical Readiness Level (TRL) 1 into practical, applied research and development at TRLs 2-3 or beyond. The results of the experimental data produced at TRLs 2-3 should validate the researcher’s analytical predictions and lead to inventions or innovations that help overcome key technical barriers to improved yield and economic feasibility of producing biofuels via the targeted pathways.

Specifically, this FOA will focus on three barriers repeatedly identified at CTAB and in the RFI:

  • carbon efficiency: developing selective fractionation and separation systems in bio-oil processing;

  • hydrogen efficiency: improving H2 production, use, and transfer in biomass liquefaction and bio-oil upgrading; and

  • separations efficiency: developing technologies for use and mitigation of the aqueous fraction of bio-oil.

DOE said that the experimental data and technology innovations or inventions produced from this research will be crucial to realizing the Office of the Biomass Program’s goal of producing bio-oils with desirable qualities for making hydrocarbon transportation fuels in the gasoline, diesel, and jet range at less than $3 per gallon (gasoline equivalent) and that will enable technologies that contribute to Renewable Fuel Standard goals.

Successful applicants will provide an R&D work-plan to address the technical barriers that must be overcome to produce a hydrocarbon fuel blendstock at $3.00/gallon or less (gasoline equivalent), and demonstrate the potential to transfer findings to pilot- and demonstration-scale systems. The Department of Energy (DOE) expects to make 3–5 awards through this FOA. Awards will be in the $3 million range for the total lifetime of the project, and projects are expected to last for up to three years.




(my comment to the original post mysteriously re-appeared here, dated 2 days before the post!  Re-posting it here.)

What these things really need is a non-fossil source of hydrogen; if all or nearly all of the carbon in the biomass can be converted to product instead of being used for process energy, the potential output at least doubles.

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