U.S. to Invest in Small-Scale Cellulosic Biorefineries

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week it will provide up to $200 million over the next five years to support the development of small-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the United States. The projects are expected to be operational within three to four years and speed the adoption of new technologies to produce ethanol and other biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks.

The funds build on an announcement made by the DOE in March, which makes available up to $385 million over four years for the development of six full-scale biorefineries. The full-scale biorefineries will focus on near-term commercial processes, while the small-scale facilities will experiment with new feedstocks and processing technologies. Combined, these small- and full-scale projects will receive up to $585 million in federal investment. “This research will provide the next necessary step toward developing cellulosic biorefineries that can transform our transportation sector in a clean and cost-effective manner,” U.S. DOE Secretary Samuel W. Bodman said. “As world demand for energy continues to grow, so too must our supply of clean, domestic sources of energy — and cellulosic biofuels provide a promising way to meet President Bush’s goal of displacing twenty percent of gasoline usage within the decade.” The recent Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will support demonstration projects that test key refining processes and provide operational data needed to lower the technical hurdles sometimes associated with financing a full-size commercial plant. The DOE requests applicants design, construct and operate an integrated biorefinery demonstration facility, employing lignocellulosic feedstocks for the production of some combination of liquid transportation fuel(s), biobased chemicals, and substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and products. In addition, the DOE seeks projects that can rapidly move to commercial-scale, supported by a sound business strategy and; encourages applications that demonstrate breakthrough technologies and collaboration between industry, universities and DOE’s national laboratories. Up to $15 million is expected to be available in FY’07, with the remaining $185 million expected to be available in FY’08-’11, subject to appropriation from Congress. DOE anticipates selecting 5-10 awards under this announcement. These projects require a minimum of 50 percent cost share from applicants. This research aims to advance President Bush’s goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012, and assist in reducing America’s gasoline consumption by 20 percent in ten years by expanding the availability of alternative and renewable transportation fuels. Applications for this FOA are due August 14, 2007. For more information on the FOA, “Demonstration of Integrated Biorefinery Operations for Producing Biofuels and Chemical/Materials Products”, visit the below links.
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