DOE announces $79M for bioenergy research and development 04 May 2019 The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced more than$79 million in funding for bioenergy research and development including biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower (DE-FOA-00002029). The FOA topics will advance DOE’s Bioenergy Technology Office’s (BETO) objectives to reduce the price of drop-in biofuels, lower the cost of biopower, and enable high-value products from biomass or waste resources.

Topics Areas of Interest (AOI) for this funding opportunity include the following:

1. Cultivation Intensification Processes for Algae: Develop technologies for outdoor algae systems that increase the harvest yield, reliability and quality of algae.

Developers of algal biofuel technologies face significant challenges in translating results between laboratory research systems and larger-scale outdoors (or mass culture) systems. These difficulties limit reliable experimental durations, adequate and representative experimental volumes of material, and results that can be reproduced reliably. By overcoming the challenge in translating results between laboratory and mass cultures, the objective of AOI 1 is to increase the harvest yield, robustness, and quality of algae cultivation for biofuels and bioproducts.

By the end of the project, projects must show their technology and operational strategies can successfully predict that high-performance strains and traits of interest can be reproducibly cultivated in field-research campaigns. This will allow projects to achieve a 50% improvement in harvest yield (g/m2/d AFDW) and robustness as compared to the applicant’s internal baseline paired with a 20% improvement in quality (i.e., achieved cultivation compositions), enabling at least 80 GGE per ton conversion yield using literature-based conversion efficiencies.

2. Biomass Component Variability and Feedstock Conversion Interface: Research to lower the cost and improve the reliability of biomass handling and preprocessing. For purposes of this AOI, “biomass” is defined as the raw material obtained at the site of production, collection, or cultivation. The term “feedstock” is used to denote biomass materials that have undergone one or more preprocessing operations (e.g., drying, grinding, milling, chopping, size fractionation, de-ashing, blending, formulation, densification, and extraction) to ensure that the physical and chemical quality specifications are acceptable for feeding into a biorefinery process.

AOI 2 will provide funding for early stage R&D to investigate (a) the physical and chemical characteristics associated with individual tissue components of certain types of biomass (e.g., rind, pith, leaves, and cobs from corn stover; and needles, juvenile wood, and bark from southern pine forest residues), (b) how biomass characteristics change during storage, handling, and when undergoing preprocessing and conversion, and (c) the utilization of this knowledge to improve feedstock performance (and therefore reduce costs) during preprocessing and conversion. Corn stover and pine forest residues were selected as they are the target (“proof of concept”) feedstocks.

3. Efficient Wood Heaters: Develop technologies to reduce emissions and increase efficiency of wood heaters for residential heating. Residential wood heaters (excluding open fireplaces) are used in approximately 10% of US households with 2% using wood as a primary source of heat. Smoke emissions from residential wood heaters are a significant national air pollution and health issue. These emissions contain fine particulate matter (PM) along with other pollutants including carbon monoxide (CO), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), toxic air pollutants (e.g., benzene and formaldehyde), and black carbon.

4. Systems Research of Hydrocarbon Biofuel Technologies: Integrate new technologies and processes in experimental prototype systems to improve and verify real-world performance and lower the cost of drop-in biofuels.

Applications proposing the use of economically advantaged feedstocks, or other process improvements likely to achieve \$2.50/GGE with a maximum reduction in emissions relative to petroleum-derived fuels by 2030 are specifically encouraged to apply.

The Primary Product from the proposed process must be a biofuel with a maximum reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and also a liquid at standard temperature and pressure (STP).

5. Optimization of Biomass-Derived Jet Fuel Blends: Identify and develop cost-competitive drop-in renewable jet fuel with improved energy density and lower particulate matter emissions. The market penetration for alternative jet fuels (AJFs)—despite the approval of six pathways for commercial aviation use—has not been fully realized due to large gaps in their prices relative to conventional jet fuel (CJF).

CJF is composed of thousands of molecules which can be largely classified into four categories: n-alkanes, iso-alkanes, cyclo-alkanes, and aromatics. Not all of these molecules play a significant role in jet combustion operability and performance characteristics. Certain categories of molecules could maximize engine performance and fuel efficiency, and provide avenues to reduce the cost of fuel production.

Some compounds in CJF (e.g., n-alkanes) contribute to high specific energy while iso-alkanes and cyclo-alkanes provide good fuel flow properties at low temperatures which are critical requirements for jet fuel operability. Aromatics have low specific energy relative to the other family of compounds in jet fuels, negatively impacting fuel performance and efficiency, and they contribute to higher emissions of PM. Minimum levels of aromatics (8% by volume) in blended fuel are needed in order to maintain seal swelling requirements of O-rings used in aircraft engines. Recent studies have highlighted that certain cyclic alkane molecules—for example decalin—offer potential replacements for aromatics in jet fuels that could result in higher blending levels of AJFs thereby increasing performance, and decreasing PM emissions.

AOI5 is particularly interested in a) the identification and production of molecules (or categories of molecules) from biomass or waste resources to develop jet fuel blend-stock with reduced or zero aromatics; and b) the utilization of (including lignins) and waste feedstocks (e.g., fats, oils, and greases (FOG), sewage sludge, industrial process generated waste gases, biogas from landfills, low value biomass municipal solid waste).

Applicants must produce a minimum of 2 gallons of fuel blend-stock and carry out ASTM tests (e.g., two-dimensional gas chromatography (GCxGC), Infrared (IR) Absorption, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), Derived Cetane Number (DCN), density, distillation curve, viscosity, surface tension, swelling tests for O-ring seals and sealants etc.) to show achievability of ‘drop-in’ requirements.

6. Renewable Energy from Urban and Suburban Wastes: Support academic research and educational programs that focus on strategies to produce bioenergy and bioproducts from urban and suburban waste feedstocks. By the end of the performance period, all projects will be required to show a minimum 25% cost improvement over a 4-5 year project performance period.

7. Advanced Bioprocessing and Agile BioFoundry: Reduce the time and cost of developing biological processes for biomanufacturing fuels and products through the use of synthetic biology, low capital intensity methods, and continuous production systems.

The Advanced Bioprocessing and Agile BioFoundry AOI contains two sub-areas of interest: a) which seeks to use advanced bioprocessing techniques to dramatically improve bioprocessing productivity, lower capital costs, and expand the range of potential bioproducts; and b) which seeks to create partnerships with the ABF to engineer more efficient production hosts at a reduced time and cost.

8. Plastics in the Circular Carbon Economy: Develop biobased plastics with improved performance and recyclability and lower the cost and energy-intensity of recycling existing plastics through enhanced degradation.

9. Rethinking Anaerobic Digestion: Develop anaerobic processes or alternative strategies to enhance carbon conversion efficiency and lower costs of smaller scale wet waste systems.

Anaerobic digestion is a proven technology for the conversion of heterogeneous and dynamic mixtures of wet wastes to biogas. However, the required capital expense for traditional anaerobic digestion systems presents challenges at scales smaller than 5 dry tons/day. Wastes are produced and managed locally, so anaerobic digestion systems need be economically viable at relevant scales and be designed to most efficiently integrate into appropriate waste management and energy infrastructure.

This AOI seeks to develop technologies that leverage anaerobic processes for wet-waste conversion, and/or present novel alternatives that substantially enhance overall carbon conversion efficiency and/or reduce disposal costs, and could be economically viable at relevant scales.

10. Reducing Water, Energy, and Emissions in Bioenergy: Identify biofuels or bioproducts technologies with the greatest potential for reducing water consumption, energy consumption, and/or emissions relative to existing conventional fuels or products.

Projects must illustrate potential for improvement of at least two of the following metrics for a specific biofuel or bioproduct pathway:

• 10%-30% reduction in water consumption over convention fuel or product (gal/gal or gal/ton)
• 20%-60% reduction in energy consumption over conventional fuel or product (MJ/gal or MJ/ton)
• 50%-80% reduction in GHG emissions over conventional fuel or product (gCO2e/gal)
• 10%-30% reduction in criteria pollutants over conventional fuel or product.

This FOA also supports the Water Security Grand Challenge, a White House initiated, DOE-led framework to advance transformational technology and innovation to meet the global need for safe, secure, and affordable water. In particular, this funding will support research and development focused on anaerobic digestion, a technology that can help achieve the Grand Challenge’s goal to double resource recovery from municipal wastewater.