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By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On March 10, 2021, DOE EERE issued notices of intent (NOIs) for three sustainable transportation technologies funding opportunity announcements (FOAs). Expected in Spring 2021, these FOAs will focus on innovative research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) of technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across the transportation sector. Of particular interest is DOE EERE’s NOI for an FOA in Bioenergy Technologies Office Scale-Up and Conversion, which would be led by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO). BETO focuses on the development of technologies that convert domestic biomass and other waste resources into low-carbon biofuels and bioproducts that can enable a transition into a clean energy economy. These bioenergy technologies can also create high-quality jobs, support rural communities, and spur renewable energy and chemical production innovation. According to DOE, this particular NOI on the bioeconomy anticipates supporting high-technology RDD&D to improve scientific and engineering knowledge required to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs. DOE states that it will allow for partnerships with industry to demonstrate these technologies are relevant at industrial scales.


 

By  Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

DOE’s EERE announced an FOA of up to $35 million for bioenergy feedstock technologies and algae R&D. This FOA supports the White House’s priority to advance the domestic bioeconomy and DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BTO) goal to improve the performance and lower the cost and risk of technologies that can be used to produce biofuels, biopower, and bioproducts. Topic areas include the characterization of municipal solid waste (MSW) to enable production of conversion-ready feedstocks and algae productivity exceeding expectations (APEX). The application process requires a concept paper and a full application. While concept papers must be submitted to DOE by February 1, 2021, the full applications are due on April 5, 2021.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On July 31, 2020, DOE announced more than $97 million in funding for 33 projects to support research and development (R&D) of high-impact technology to accelerate the U.S. bioeconomy. The aim is for the selected projects to improve the performance and lower the cost and risk of technologies that can be used to produce biopower, biofuels, and bioproducts from biomass and waste resources. Selected projects will address the following R&D areas:

  • Scale-up of bench applications to reduce scale-up risks for biofuel and bioproduct processes;
  • Waste-to-energy strategies, including strategies for municipal solid waste; wet wastes, like food and manures; and municipal wastewater treatment;
  • Cost reduction of algal biofuels by improving carbon efficiency and by employing direct air capture technologies;
  • Quantification of the economic and environmental benefits associated with growing energy crops, focusing on restoring water quality and soil health;
  • Development and testing of low-emission, high-efficiency residential wood heaters;
  • Innovative technologies to manage major forms of urban and suburban waste, with a focus on using plastic waste to make recycled products and using wastes to produce low-cost biopower; and
  • Scalable carbon dioxide electrocatalysis technologies.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On October 1, 2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced that 35 projects have been selected to receive funding for bioenergy research and development (R&D). Totaling $73 million in funding provided by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), the selected projects aim to:

  • Reduce the price of drop-in biofuels;
  • Lower the cost of biopower; and
  • Enable high-value products from biomass or waste resources.

According to DOE, the United States has the potential to produce 1 billion dry tons of non-food biomass without the disruption of agricultural markets for food and animal feed. These domestic resources, however, are currently underutilized. Given these circumstances, the main goal of the 35 selected projects will be to produce affordable biofuels that are compatible with the existing fueling infrastructure and vehicles in a range of transportation modes.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 11, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced it would be presenting a Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium (ChemCatBio) webinar entitled “CatCost: An Estimation Tool to Aid Commercialization and R&D Decisions for Catalytic Materials” on Wednesday, September 26, 2018, from 2:00 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. (EDT).  CatCost is a catalyst cost estimation tool developed by DOE to more accurately estimate costs early in the catalyst development process prior to commercialization.  DOE states that the webinar will “detail the methods used by CatCost, discuss how the tool was validated using commercially available materials, … provide pre-commercial estimate examples[,]” and “include a tutorial on how to use CatCost.”  Registration is available online.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On September 4, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced its support for projects in Bioenergy Research and Development. The projects total about $80 million and address early-stage research and development in the hopes of achieving DOE’s goal of reducing biobased costs in fuels by 2022. Funding for these projects comes from four different programs:  BioEnergy Engineering for Products Synthesis, Efficient Carbon Utilization in Algal Systems, Process Development for Advanced Biofuels and Biopower, and Affordable and Sustainable Energy Crops. U.S. Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, stated that “[t]he selections announced…highlight some of the most innovative and advanced bioenergy technologies that have the potential to produce new sources of reliable and affordable energy for American families and businesses.” A full list of the projects being funded can be found here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

Methylene blue consists of a blue dye used in the textile industry. A new study, published in mid-August 2018, reveals that the dye can be repurposed for use in redox flow batteries. After establishing that the chemical compound has electrochemical properties, chemists at the University of Buffalo divulged that, as an active ingredient, it can be used to store energy. In the textile industry, only about five percent of methylene blue is absorbed by fabrics and the rest produces large amounts of waste water that can be toxic to the environment. According to the University of Buffalo chemists Anjula M. Kosswattaarachchi and Timothy R. Cook, this waste water can be used by reducing the dye’s molecules to produce leuco-methylene blue through electricity generated by a power source. This process is reversible, which makes it a good fit in redox flow battery configurations as a green energy storage technology.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

On June 18, 2018, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced it would be releasing $40 million in funding for “31 projects to advance research in the development of microbes as practical platforms for the production of biofuels and other bioproducts from renewable resources.”  Projects were chosen by competitive peer review under two separate DOE Funding Opportunity Announcements, one for Systems Biology of Bioenergy-Relevant Microbes and another for Bioimaging Research for Bioenergy, both sponsored by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research within the Department’s Office of Science.  DOE states the projects will “further the ongoing revolution in biology and biotechnology, and will increase our understanding of how nature’s sophisticated production capabilities at the cellular level can be harnessed to produce sustainable, clean, and efficient fuel as well as drive other industrial production processes.”  The total funding is $40 million for projects lasting three years in duration.  The list of projects and more information is available on two different web pages here and here.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On January 19, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced the availability of up to $6 million in funding to support research in plant feedstock genomics for bioenergy.  Support is provided in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) through the Plant Feedstock Genomics for Bioenergy program, which aims to improve the use of biomass and plant feedstocks for the production of fuels or renewable chemical feedstocks.  Research projects should focus on overcoming biological barriers to the low-cost, high-quality, scalable, and sustainable production of dedicated bioenergy biomass feedstocks using the tools of genetics and genomics.  Eligible applicants, including state agricultural experiment stations, colleges and universities, university research foundations, individuals, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations, are encouraged to submit proposals.  Applications are due April 20, 2018.  More information on the funding opportunity is available on the NIFA website.


 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded 34 grants totaling $15.1 million for research on renewable energy, biobased products, and agroecosystems.  The grants, which are funded through the agency’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI), are expected to help develop the next generation of renewable energy, bioproducts, and biomaterials; protect the ecosystems that support agriculture; and improve the agricultural systems and processes that help feed the nation. 
 
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on cover crop systems for biofuel production:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) received $494,000 for the development of lupin, cereal rye, and carinata winter cover crops for biomass in the southern coastal plain;
  • Purdue University received $498,000 for the development of cover cropping for the development of sustainable co-production of bioenergy, food, feed (BFF) and ecosystem services (ES);
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $498,378 for the development of perennial cover crop systems for maize grain and biomass production;
  • Louisiana State University Agricultural Center received $387,000 to study the feedstock production potential of energy cane-sweet sorghum rotation with a winter cover crop system; and
  • University of Nebraska received $500,000 to assess innovative strategies to maximize cover crop yields for biofuel across a precipitation gradient.​​
The following institutions were awarded grants for projects focused on the socioeconomic implications and public policy challenges of bioenergy and bioproducts market development and expansion:
  • Auburn University received $499,886 to identify the economic barriers to biomass production, to evaluate the effectiveness of the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP) in stimulating biomass market expansion, and to explore the economic and ecosystem service implications of biomass production;
  • Colorado State University received $499,000 to produce a unified atlas of marginal lands in the U.S., and provide insight on the costs, potential environmental benefits, and overall practical likelihood of using those lands for biomass feedstock production;
  • Purdue University received $492,099 to develop a dynamic theoretical model on rejuvenating coal-power plants with biomass;
  • Iowa State University of Science and Technology received $499,622 to provide an integrated model-based assessment of the socioeconomic, policy, and market implications of sustainable bioenergy derived from cellulosic biomass; and
  • University of Missouri received $498,441 to evaluate impacts on forest resources surrounding power plants using woody biomass, assess economic impacts of wood biopower systems, and quantify tradeoffs between cost, carbon reductions, and renewable energy generation obtained by the increased use of wood biopower.  
More information on the grants is available at the NIFA website.

 
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