The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected four research and development projects designed to bring next-generation biofuels on line faster and to drive down the cost of producing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass. The projects represent up to a combined $13-million Energy Department investment.
In the United States, the transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of total US oil consumption and about one-third of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrocarbon-based biofuels made from non-food feedstocks, waste materials, and algae can directly replace gasoline and other fuels. DOE is continuing to pursue the development of these renewable biofuels, with the goal of producing cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon by 2017.
The selected research projects will help maximize the amount of renewable carbon and hydrogen that can be converted to fuels from biomass and improve the separation processes in bio-oil production to remove non-fuel components—further lowering production costs.
The projects selected for negotiation include:
Ceramatec (up to $3.3 million). Ceramatec will utilize an efficient electrochemical deoxygenation process to develop cost-effective technology to separate oxygen from bio-oil. This project will help produce hydrocarbon products suitable for further processing in conventional petroleum refineries.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (up to $2.1 million). Oak Ridge National Laboratory will use a microbial electrolysis process to efficiently remove the hydrogen from the water found in bio-oil. This technology will help reduce the corrosivity of bio-oil and improve the efficiency of converting hydrogen and biomass to biofuels. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pall Corporation, OmniTech International, and FuelCellsEtc will also participate in this project.
University of Oklahoma (up to $4 million). The University of Oklahoma will investigate two methods—thermal fractionation and supercritical solvent extraction—to maximize the amount of renewable carbon and hydrogen that can be extracted from biomass and converted to a refinery-compatible intermediate and suitable for final upgrading to a transportation fuel. The multidisciplinary research team includes experts in catalysis, separation, life-cycle analysis and techno-economic assessment.
Virent, Inc. (up to $4 million). Virent will develop an innovative separation process which uses its BioForming technology efficiently to convert carbon from lignocellulosic biomass into hydrocarbon fuels. Virent will work to improve the overall carbon conversion efficiency of biomass—helping to reduce the cost of producing hydrocarbon biofuels that work with the existing transportation fuel infrastructure and that are capable of meeting the Renewable Fuel Standard. Idaho National Laboratory will also bring their feedstock pre-processing capabilities to the project.