The US Department of Energy (DOE) and the US Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA-NIFA) jointly announced $22.7 million to support the optimization of integrated biorefineries (IBR). DOE is providing majority funding with up to $19.8 million and USDA-NIFA is providing up to $2.9 million in funding.
Federal support for first-of-a-kind IBRs could significantly reduce the technical and financial risks associated with the operation of commercial scale biorefineries. The DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has identified, via stakeholder engagements through a request for information (RFI) and a Biorefinery Optimization Workshop, areas in which DOE and USDA-NIFA can effectively support technology development and engineering solutions to economically and sustainably overcome technology barriers.
Unresolved technical and non-technical challenges within the IBRs that need to be addressed in order to achieve reliable and continuous operation that effectively competes with the petroleum refining and petrochemical industries include and/or are related to:
Complexity and variability of non-food feedstocks;
Operational difficulties encountered with handling of solids in the production process;
Recalcitrance of feedstocks to efficiently convert into products;
Inhomogeneity of intermediates resulting in non-uniform heat and mass transfer during the manufacturing processes;
Complex multi-step separation and purification steps;
Non-monetization of byproducts and residual streams;
Difficulties in translating bench-scale and pilot-scale learnings to the next step in scale-up such as demonstration-scale or pioneer-scale commercial level;
Non-competitive cost of bioproducts due to higher capital and operational expenses; and
Shortage of capital for long-term industrial projects.
This funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will be coordinated and co-funded by BETO and USDA-NIFA. It seeks applications for projects focused on lowering technical and financial risk, addressing challenges encountered with the successful scale-up, and reliable, continuous operation of IBRs. Upon conclusion of the review process, meritorious proposals may be recommended for funding by either of the participating agencies.
As a result of these barriers, there are only a few pioneer-scale commercial IBRs in early stages of commissioning, start-up, and/or production, and a wider deployment of highly-efficient IBR facilities is still a goal to be realized. A number of the challenges result in schedule delays, increased capital (CapEx) and operational (OpEx) expenses, and scale-up complications.
The FOA will identify, evaluate, and select applications proposing projects to address challenges encountered with the successful scale-up and reliable continuous operation of IBRs for the manufacture of advanced or cellulosic biofuel and associated higher value bioproducts. The FOA seeks applications for projects focused on addressing these challenges, reducing risks, and providing resources to accelerate commercialization of biofuels and bioproducts.
This FOA invites applications for the following four topic areas:
Topic Area 1: Robust, continuous handling of solid materials (dry and wet feedstocks, biosolids, and/or residual solids remaining in the process) and feeding systems to reactors under various operating conditions.
Topic Area 2: High value products from waste and/or other under-valued streams in an IBR.
Topic Area 3: Industrial separations within an IBR.
Topic Area 4: Analytical modeling of solid materials (dry and wet feedstocks, and/or residual solids remaining in the process) and reactor feeding systems.
DOE has funded biorefinery technology development projects since 2002 to meet two EERE performance goals: 1) reduce dependence on imported oil, thereby enhancing energy security; and 2) spur the creation of a sustainable domestic bio-industry. USDA-NIFA has funded programs and projects that target vital topical areas related to the development of regional systems for the sustainable production of biofuels, industrial chemicals, biopower, and biobased products; as well as investing in America’s scientific corps and developing workforce in bioenergy, bioproducts, and the bioeconomy.