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NREL to be biofuels R&D programme leader for DoE

The Department of Energy's (DoE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will co-lead a new national programme to develop advanced biofuels that are compatible with the nation's existing hydrocarbon fuels infrastructure.

The US$33.8 million in funding for the R&D comes as part of a larger package of biofuels investments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

“Advanced biofuels are crucial to building a clean energy economy,” says Secretary Chu. “By harnessing the power of science and technology, we can bring new biofuels to the market and develop a cleaner and more sustainable transportation sector. This investment will help spur the creation of the domestic bio-industry, while creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

Known as the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC), NREL and DoE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will lead research to develop biomass-based hydrocarbon fuels that follow a sustainable, cost-effective production process and maximise the use of existing refining and distribution infrastructure.

Other members of the consortium include:

  • Albemarle Corporation
  • Amyris Biotechnologies
  • Argonne National Laboratory
  • BP Products North America Inc
  • Catchlight Energy LLC
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Iowa State University
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory
  • Pall Corporation
  • RTI International
  • Tesoro Companies Inc
  • University of California-Davis
  • UOP, LLC
  • Virent Energy Systems
  • Washington State University

"Biofuels must be compatible with the nation's engines, pipelines and refineries to play a substantial and effective role in reducing carbon emissions and reducing oil imports," says NREL Associate Director for Renewable Fuels and Vehicles, Dale Gardner. "The Department of Energy's investment will allow NREL and the consortium to systematically identify and develop commercially sustainable biofuels from renewable sources for this critical energy supply."

The NABC will spend about a year investigating 6 process options, including fermentation, catalytic conversion, catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and low-cost one-step syngas-to-distillates.

One or two of these processes will be selected for larger-scale demonstration over the subsequent two years. The NABC plans to further develop these strategies to deliver a pilot-ready biofuels process, with full lifecycle analysis to measure the environmental benefits.

Collectively, these partners will contribute US$8.4m of non-federal cost share contributions, bringing the total NABC project size to US$42.2m.

Secretary Chu has also announced US$44m in funding for the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB). Led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (St. Louis, Mo.), the NAABB will develop a systems approach for sustainable commercialisation of algal biofuel and bio-products.

Together, these two programmes will be matched by private and non-federal cost-share funds of more than US$19m for total project investments of over US$97m.

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