On October 27, 2014, President Obama announced new plans to strengthen the manufacturing sector. One of the listed plans involved the Departments of Defense, Energy, and Agriculture, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) coming together to invest in advanced materials, advanced sensors, and digital manufacturing. These three areas were determined to be critical to U.S. competitiveness and include biobased materials in the advanced materials category. Over $300 million is going to be invested across the three categories and the research investments by the federal government are expected to be matched by efforts in the private sector. More information about the announcement can be found in the statement released by the Office of the Press Secretary.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) issued an announcement for its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs, including the technology transfer opportunity, which focuses on small businesses' commercialization of intellectual property from DOE-funded laboratories and universities. Small businesses selected for the programs are allowed to maintain the rights to new technologies they develop, and are encouraged to transfer these technologies to the marketplace.
On October 17, 2014, Abengoa opened -- and DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz dedicated -- the world's largest cellulosic biorefinery in Hugoton, Kansas. This second generation cellulosic ethanol plant will process 1,000 tons of biomass per day and utilize mainly corn stover, as well as wheat straw, milo stubble, and switch grass. This biorefinery will produce up to 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol every year. It benefited from a $132.4 million loan guarantee and a $97 million grant, both from DOE. More information about the plant and comments from the opening ceremony are available in a DOE press release, "Secretary Moniz Dedicates Innovative Commercial-Scale Cellulosic Biofuel Plant" and on the Biofuels Digest website.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced up to $25 million in funding to reduce the cost of algal biofuels to less than $5 per gasoline gallon equivalent (gge) by 2019. On behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy posted a notice of a funding opportunity, entitled "Targeted Algal Biofuels and Bioproducts" (TABB). The TABB Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) looks for pathways to overcome the key barriers to commercializing algal biofuels: the high cost of producing algal biomass and the low yield of target biofuel and bioproduct feedstocks produced from algae. Specifically, the TABB FOA will support: (1) the development of algae cultures that produce valuable bioproducts alongside fuels to increase the overall value of the biomass; and (2) the development of crop protection and carbon dioxide utilization technologies to boost culture productivity and yield to reduce the cost of the biomass. There will be an information webinar on October 8, 2014. Information on the webinar is available online.
More information on the TABB FOA and applications is available online.
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.