BRAG member Micromidas, along with the Michigan Molecular Institute and Michigan Sugar Company, is working on a $150,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from DOE with the goal of developing a process to convert sugar beet waste into useful chemicals. After sugar has been extracted from sugar beets, the remaining residue still contains a significant amount of sugars that can be converted into biobased PET. The development of biobased packaging materials, such as those championed by Coca-Cola, Heinz, and Proctor & Gamble, has resulted in an increased demand for biobased PET that can match the cost of petroleum-based PET. While research is still in the early phases, it is possible that additional work could continue "through an SBIR Phase II grant, which is $1,000,000." More information is available online.
On September 19, 2014, Secretary Vilsack was joined by Deputy Secretary of Energy, Dan Poneman, and Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, to announce contract awards to three separate companies to produce over one million gallons per year of advanced drop-in jet biofuels to be used by the U.S. Department of Defense and the private transportation sector. The three companies receiving the $210 million in contract awards are Emerald Biofuels, Fulcrum Bioenergy, and Red Rock Biofuels. The announcement was shown via live webcast via the White House website. More information is available here and here.
This announcement comes as part of an ongoing joint, combined $510 million effort among the Departments of Energy, Agriculture, and the Navy to help facilitate the production and use of U.S. advanced drop-in biofuels for military and commercial use.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has developed a computational platform known as Systems Biology Knowledgebase, or KBase, designed to help the biological community analyze, store, and share data. The project is led by scientists at DOE's Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne, Brookhaven, and Oak Ridge national laboratories. KBase compiles information on plants and microbes, and the interactions among them with the objective of improving the environment and energy production. KBase can be accessed at http://kbase.us/. More information on KBase and its objectives can be found online.
DOE recently released a notice of intent to issue a funding opportunity announcement (FOA), "Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts." The FOA will seek to reduce algal biofuels' projected cost by up to 50% through the creation of valuable bioproducts alongside fuels, thus achieving increased biomass productivity. See online.
On August 20, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it intends to issue a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) sometime in September to help reduce the cost of algae biofuels and bioproducts. DOE explains in the announcement that the Agency's Bioenergy Technologies Office's (BETO) "2019 projected state of technology for the cost of algal biofuels is modeled at about $7 per gallon gasoline gallon equivalent, without valuable co-products such as animal feed or commodity chemicals. This FOA seeks to improve the value proposition for algal biofuels by employing multi-disciplinary consortia to produce algae bioproduct precursors (alongside fuel components), as well as single-investigator or small-team technology development projects focused on crop protection and CO2 utilization technologies for improving biomass productivity. BETO hopes these strategies will enable a 30-50% cost reduction for algal biofuels." The FOA will be available online. Currently, the formal notice of intent to issue this FOA is available via this link.
A copy of DOE's announcement is available online.
This week, DOE hosted its seventh annual biomass conference. This year's conference focused on "Growing the Future Bioeconomy." Over 500 attendees from throughout the country and around the world gathered in Washington, D.C. to discuss challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Keynote speakers included U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy from DOE, and Kate Brandt from the Federal Environmental Executive, Council on Environmental Quality. Policy and technology innovations were discussed in breakout sessions with a focus on how to best position the bioeconomy for future growth. While biofuels were a focus of this conference, there was also interest in other bioproducts that can further grow the bioeconomy. This was explored in a breakout session titled "Integration of Supply Chains II: Bioproducts -- Enabling Biofuels and Growing the Bioeconomy," where industry professionals and researchers discussed how increasing production and commercialization of bioproducts can bring in more revenue while also spurring the production of biofuels. Photos, quotes, and insights shared by a variety of sources can be found on Twitter by searching #biomass2014. A copy of the conference agenda is available online. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) were proud sponsors of Biomass 2014.
DOE will reportedly join the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) "Farm to Fly" initiative to help promote the development and use of sustainable aviation biofuels. Under the initiative, USDA, Boeing, and the Air Transport Association of America are working together to accelerate the availability of commercially viable and sustainable aviation biofuels in the United States to increase domestic energy security, establish regional supply chains, and support rural development. The initiative was renewed in 2013 for another five years. More information on the "Farm to Fly" program is available online.
On July 11, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that several biobased DOE research projects were recognized by R&D magazine as the most outstanding technology developments with promising commercial potential. According to the DOE notice, projects included in the awards were:
* Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Tissue-Specific Cell-Wall Engineering for Biofuels and Biomaterials. This suite of precision genetic tools is expected to improve crops bred for production of food, biofuels, industrial polymers, and pharmaceuticals. The technology fine-tunes lignin by manipulating chemical signals that govern plant-cell metabolism. This synthetic biology platform can enhance drought-resistance, make cattle forage more nutritious, and even coax plants or fungi to yield high-value drugs and biomaterials.
* Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, The Berkeley Lab Multiplex Chemotyping Microarray. This technique performs rapid chemical analyses of prospective biofuel crops and microbial communities by combining high-throughput micro-contact printing technology with high-fidelity vibrational spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. Its ability to identify rapidly the chemical composition and biological function in plant and animal cells is unparalleled.
* Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Super-hydro-tunable HiPAS Membranes. This new class of membrane products can selectively separate molecules in the vapor/gas phase and perform liquid-phase separations that could be especially useful in reducing the price of bio-ethanol, ethanol-gasoline blend fuels, and drop-in fuels from bio-oil processing. The membrane acts as an energy-efficient alternative to the distillation process by using a superhydrophobic or superhydrophillic surface to separate molecules.
More information is available online.
On July 3, 2014, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that it is making an additional $4 billion available in loan guarantees for innovative renewable energy and energy efficiency projects located in the U.S. that avoid, reduce, or sequester greenhouse gases. Part one of the solicitation is due October 1, 2014. Copies of the solicitation and fact sheet about the solicitation are available online.
According to DOE's press release on the announcement, "the Department has identified five key technology areas of interest: advanced grid integration and storage; drop-in biofuels; waste-to-energy; enhancement of existing facilities including micro-hydro or hydro updates to existing non-powered dams; and efficiency improvement." A copy of DOE's press release is available online.
DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) hosts its seventh annual conference -- Biomass 2014: Growing the Future Bioeconomy -- July 29-30, 2014, in Washington, D.C. Co-hosted with Advanced Biofuels USA, this year's conference will take place at the Washington Convention Center. As in past years, Biomass 2014 will bring together top government officials and members of Congress -- with industry leaders and experts from across the bioenergy supply chain -- to continue ongoing dialogue about the critical challenges and key opportunities for the industry. The event will focus on the innovative technologies, priority pathways, financing strategies, and public policies needed to grow the bioeconomy of the future. Bergeson & Campbell, P.C. (B&C®) and the Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG®) will be at Biomass -- stop by our table and say "Hi." More information is available online.