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Biofuels receive US$786.5m from US Recovery Act

US Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, plans to provide US$786.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate advanced biofuels research and development, and to provide additional funding for commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects.

Chu says: “Developing the next generation of biofuels is key to our effort to end our dependence on foreign oil and address the climate crisis – while creating millions of new jobs that can't be outsourced.”

The Department of Energy (DoE) biomass programme aims to improve biofuels reliability and overcome technical challenges to produce third-generation biofuels like green petrol, diesel, and jet fuels.

The US$786.5m represents a mix of new funding opportunities and additional funding for existing biofuel projects.

US$480m for pilot- and demonstration-scale biorefineries

Projects under this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will work to validate integrated biorefinery technologies producing advanced biofuels, bioproducts, and heat and power in an integrated system.

DoE expects to hand out 10-20 awards for biorefineries of various scales and designs that will be operational in the next three years. The funding ceiling is US$25m for pilot-scale projects and US$50m for demonstration scale projects.

US$176.5m for commercial-scale biorefinery projects

US$176.5m will be allocated to increase the federal funding ceiling on two or more demonstration- or commercial-scale biorefinery projects that were selected and awarded in the last two years.

The goal is to reduce the risk of the development and deployment of these ‘first-of-a-kind’ biorefinery operations. The funds are expected to accelerate the timeline for start-up and commissioning.

US$110m for fundamental research

The Biomass Program plans to use US$110m on fundamental research in key programme areas, distributed as follows:

  • Expand the resources available for sustainability research through the Office of Science Bioenergy Research Centers and establish a user-facility/small-scale integrated pilot plant (US$25m);
  • Create an advanced research consortium to develop technologies and facilitate subsequent demonstration of infrastructure-compatible biofuels through a competitive solicitation (US$35m); and
  • Create an algal biofuels consortium to accelerate demonstration of algal biofuels through a competitive solicitation (US$50m).

This funding will help to develop conversion technologies, including generating more desirable catalysts, fuel-producing microbes, and feedstocks.

US$20m for ethanol research

The US$20m will be allocated for:

  • Optimising flex-fuel vehicles operating on high octane E85 fuel (85% ethanol, 15% petrol blend);
  • Evaluating the impact of higher ethanol blends in conventional vehicles; and
  • Upgrading existing refuelling infrastructure to be compatible with fuels up to E85.

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