In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy announced four research and development projects to bring next generation biofuels on line faster and drive down the cost of producing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuels from biomass. The projects — located in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin — represent a $13 million Energy Department investment. It was an additional $1 million over the $12 million target when DOE set the project in motion last December.
“By partnering with private industry, universities and our national labs, we can increase America’s energy security, bolster rural economic development, and cut harmful carbon pollution from our cars, trucks and planes,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “As the President made clear in his plan to cut carbon pollution, partnerships like these will help move our economy towards cleaner, more efficient forms of energy that lower our reliance on foreign oil.”
Stripping out the Washington-speak, the Secretary is ultimately pointing in this round of partnerships to extract more energy, more efficiently from biomass via the thermochemical route. Primarily, the separation and extraction problem. Which anyone who has ever tried to light a fire with wet, green wood knows all about. Too much of the wrong material — in the case of green wood, too much water — and you get a whole lot of smoke and no fire.
The CHASE Project Background
The is is the CHASE Bio-Oil project, for those who recall its origins. CHASE – short for Carbon, Hydrogen, and Separation Efficiencies.
This funding project grew out of a stakeholder workshop held in December 2011 called “Conversion Technologies for Advanced Biofuels” (CTAB) and from a Request for Information circulated last November 2012. The workshop itself stems from the DOE’s efforts to ensure it reaches its stated goal of producing cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon by 2017.
The project is intended to move knowledge and understanding of basic or fundamental principles observed at Technical Readiness Level 1 into practical, applied research and development at TRLs 2-3 or beyond – regarding key technical barriers to improved yield and economic feasibility of producing biofuels via thermochemical, direct liquefaction pathways (i.e. fast pyrolysis, catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and solvent liquefaction).
The Three Big Barriers
Specifically, the focus is on three barriers repeatedly identified at CTAB and in the RFI.
The experimental data and technology innovations or inventions produced from this research are crucial to realizing the Office of the Biomass Program’s goal of producing bio-oils with desirable qualities for making hydrocarbon transportation fuels in the gasoline, diesel, and jet range at less than $3 per gallon (gasoline equivalent) and that will enable technologies that contribute to the EISA Section 202 RFS goals.
Successful applicants had to provide an R&D work-plan to address the technical barriers that must be overcome to produce a hydrocarbon fuel blendstock at $3.00/gallon or less (gasoline equivalent), and demonstrate the potential to transfer findings to pilot- and demonstration-scale systems.
Projects are expected to last for up to three years, and DOE anticipates that up to $12 million in funding will be available for projects resulting from this FOA.