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As part of a White House roundtable to launch the Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) Grand Challenge to decarbonize the aviation sector by 2050 (earlier post), the US Department of Energy (DOE) announced $64.7 million in funding for projects focused on producing cost-effective, low-carbon biofuels. These investments will advance technologies to create replacements for petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation such as airplanes and ships.

The 22 selected projects fall into five topic areas for the “Bioenergy Technologies Office Scale-Up and Conversion” funding opportunity (earlier post):

  • Scale-Up of Biotechnologies
  • Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion
  • Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion
  • Residential Wood Heaters
  • Renewable Natural Gas

The topic areas include high-impact biotechnology research, development, and demonstration to bolster the body of scientific and engineering knowledge needed to produce low-carbon biofuels at a lower cost.

Among the projects are:

  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory will lower the cost and carbon intensity of producing a highly fermentable sugar from corn stover. (Award amount: $2,800,000)

  • Archer Daniels Midland will couple isobutanol (a precursor for sustainable aviation fuel) fermentation with a membrane separations system, reducing energy used in the separation process by 50%. (Award amount: $3,466,844)

  • Alder Energy will convert miscanthus, a highly promising biomass crop, to SAF through their advanced pyrolysis oil technology, a process that utilizes heat, pressure, and solvents to deconstruct the miscanthus into oils for conversion to SAF. (Award amount: $4,000,000)

  • AVAPCO will demonstrate a production process for clean, affordable cellulosic sugars, which are derived from agricultural or woody waste residues and can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions for a variety of products including SAF, bioplastics, and biopolymers. (Award amount: $2,800,000)

  • Quasar Energy Group will use an anaerobic digestor to convert food waste to SAF precursors. The microbes that digest the food waste produce a type of chemical called a volatile fatty acid, which can be converted to SAF. (Award amount: $3,500,000)

  • Gast Technology Institute will scale-up an electric reformer/reverse water gas shift reactor for conversion of waste carbon dioxide from ethanol plants or biogas from digestors to synthesis gas. The synthesis gas from the reformer will be used to make drop-in fuels using the Gas Technology Institute’s (GTI) Cool GTL (gas-to-liquid) Fischer Tropsch technology or be used in other gas to liquids processes. (Award amount: $3,994,252)

  • LanzaTech proposes to build and operate a pre-pilot implementation of an innovative highly energy efficient and nearly 100% carbon-efficient pathway to produce Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) from biogenic waste carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2), using renewable electricity. The pathway uses gas fermentation to produce an ethanol feedstock for conversion to SAF via the LanzaJet Alcohol-to-Jet process (ATJ). (Award amount: $3,994,307)

  • D3MAX will design a pilot plant to validate technology for first-generation ethanol plants to produce ethanol from corn stover, which is then converted to SAF. (Award amount: $499,988)

  • T2C Energy was selected to design a demonstration scale plant that converts waste landfill gas to SAF or renewable diesel. (Award amount: $533,619)


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