On July 9, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $18 million in funding for six projects to develop bioproducts and biofuels from algae. The funding is intended to reduce the cost of algae-based biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019 to help reach DOE's target of $3 per gge for advanced algal biofuels by 2030. The projects that were selected for the funding are run by Producing Algae and Co-Products for Energy (PACE), Marine Algae Industrialization Consortium (MAGIC), Global Algae Innovations, Arizona State University, the University of California, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The projects aim to increase algal biofuel efficiency and sustainability by maximizing the productivity and recovery of materials used in fuel production, as well as researching ways to protect algae production ponds and ensure crop health by developing probiotic bacteria to fight pond infections and infestations.
On July 15, 2015, DOE posted a solicitation notice for candidates for the Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee. According to the notice, DOE is specifically looking for candidates with experience in biobased industrial/commercial products, non-federal government engineers or scientists, academia with expertise in biofuel and biobased products, and experts in crop or soil science. Candidates with other experience can also be nominated. Nominations should be submitted by August 14, 2015.
On June 30, 2015, 46 U.S. Senators sent a letter to the EPA, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and USDA stating that "[f]ederal policies across all departments and agencies must remove any uncertainties and contradictions through a clear, unambiguous message that forest bioenergy is part of the nation's energy future." Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) and Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) headed the letter and pointed to the recognized carbon neutrality of forest biomass as a renewable resource and asked that the federal government consistently recognize the energy source when making regulations to reduce emissions.
On July 9, 2015, the DOE announced a public workshop to collect information about challenges that occur during coproduction of biobased chemicals, products, and biofuels. The Bioproducts to Enable Biofuels Workshop was organized by the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and will cover the following topics:
- Identifying and evaluating economic drivers for producing bioproducts.
- Identifying and prioritizing targets for bioproducts produced from biofuel waste streams, coproduced with biofuels, or produced at standalone facilities.
- Identifying research and development challenges associated with bioproducts produced from biofuel waste streams, coproduced with biofuels, or produced at standalone facilities.
- Identifying environmental considerations (i.e., life-cycle analysis), carbon percentage dedicated to fuels vs. products (i.e., split stream), and ideal intermediates for bioproduct production to enable biofuels.
The workshop will be held on July 16, 2015, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (MDT) in Westminster, Colorado. Attendees must preregister online before July 15, 2014, at 4:00 p.m. (MDT) as space is limited.
On June 18, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $55 million in funding for projects to accelerate biomass development and develop generator technologies under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The funding will be divided between two of ARPA-E's programs, GENerators for Small Electrical and Thermal Systems (GENSETS) and Transportation Energy Resources from Renewable Agriculture (TERRA). GENSETS will receive $25 million to support 12 projects to improve generator technologies that will provide more affordable and efficient residential Combined Heat and Power (CHP) systems. CHP takes otherwise wasted head and uses it for water and home heating, reducing energy costs. The GENSETS program intends to use the 12 projects to focus on internal combustion engines, Stirling engines, microturbines, and solidstate devices to develop one-kilowatt CHP systems that are energy efficient and affordable for residential homes. TERRA will receive $30 million to support six projects with the goal of improving sorghum varieties for biofuel production by developing improved plant remote sensing, analysis, and breeding methods. The six project teams will identify limitations with the physical and genetic characteristics of the plant, and will create advanced algorithms to analyze data and predict plant growth based on recorded characteristics of the plant. A large public database will also be created with sorghum genotypes and field phenotypes, allowing a greater community of scientists to improve sorghum and bioenergy crops.
It is not too late to register for Bioenergy 2015, hosted by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the Clean Energy Research and Education Foundation (CEREF), and taking place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. on June 23–24, 2015.
Speakers include Jonathan Male, Director, BETO; Franklin (Lynn) Orr, Under Secretary for Science and Energy, DOE; Robert M. Simon, Principal Advisor to the Director for Energy, Transportation, and Resources, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, Executive Office of the President; and Gregory L. Rorrer, Program Director for the Energy for Sustainability Program in the National Science Foundation's Division of Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems. Richard E. Engler, Ph.D., Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) Science Advisor and Senior Chemist for BRAG affiliate Bergeson & Campbell, P.C., will be at Bioenergy 2015.
Bioenergy 2015 program highlights include:
- Policy and Market Overview
- Biofuels in a Global Marketplace
- Early Market Adopters
- Fuels of the Future: Accelerating the Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines
- Biofuels and Sustainability: Acknowledging Challenges and Confronting Misconceptions
- Biomass Feedstocks for the Bioeconomy
- Innovations in Basic Science across Agencies and Offices to Enable Bioenergy
- Bringing Biorefineries into the Mainstream
- The Pitch
- The Future of Algae-Based Biofuels
- New/Emerging Pathways
- Biogas and Beyond: Challenges and Opportunities for Advanced Biofuels from Wet-Waste Feedstocks
- Reaching Your Stakeholders: Effectively Engaging and Educating Key Audiences
- Growing a Water-Smart Bioeconomy
- The Changing Landscapes for Biobased Chemicals: A Decade After the Top Value Added Chemicals from Biomass
- Renewable Gaseous Fuels
- How States are Promoting Advanced Biofuels
On May 20, 2015, the House voted to pass the
COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015 (H.R. 1806)
(COMPETES), a research funding bill that was originally
enacted in 2007 to further U.S. scientific and
technological advantages. The new version of COMPETES
increases funding for nuclear energy and fossil fuel
research programs, while cutting clean and renewable
energy programs. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)
Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will have
funding reduced by 30 percent, or nearly $500 million,
while the DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy
will see funding cut by 50 percent. The
Administration has threatened to veto the bill, stating
that "the Administration believes that H.R. 1806 would be
damaging to the Administration's actions to move American
competitiveness, innovation and job growth forward through
a world-leading science, technology and innovation
On April 21, 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the initial installment of its Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). This first installment focuses on ways to modernize the U.S. energy infrastructure to increase the country's energy competitiveness and security. In its QER, DOE points out that while U.S. biofuel production has increased significantly over the past decade -- due largely to the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) --"[c]ontinued growth in ethanol use will depend in part on investment in additional distribution capacity; growth in the use of other biofuels, such as 'drop-in' fuels, will depend on continued investment in research, development, demonstration, and deployment." In its fact sheet accompanying the QER, the DOE states that it, along with the U.S. Department of Defense, should continue efforts to help facilitate the production and use of advanced, drop-in biofuels for use in aviation and large vehicles. Moreover, DOE should provide technical support to help investment in infrastructure to dispense higher-level ethanol blends.
The QER, and its recommendations with respect to infrastructure to support the distribution of ethanol, comes at a time when RFS stakeholders are eagerly awaiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) release of its final 2014 RFS renewable volume obligations (RVO), or volume requirements. Several biofuels groups expressed opposition to EPA's proposed 2014 RVOs because the proposed reduced RVOs for corn ethanol were based partly on EPA's determination of currently insufficient distribution infrastructure. The biofuels groups opposed to this analysis argued that infrastructure considerations should not go into EPA's calculation of its annual RFS requirements.