The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that it has awarded up to $17.7 million in grants to assist several biorefineries in developing drop-in biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and shipboard diesel. The funds will go to four pilot-scale biorefineries: BioProcess Algae; Cobalt Technologies; Frontline BioEnergy LLC; and Mercurius Biorefining, Inc. Recipients of the grant money are required to contribute a minimum of 50% matching funds for these projects.

“Advanced biofuels are an important part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above strategy to reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil, improve our energy security, and protect our air and water,” said former Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The innovative biorefinery projects announced today mark an important step toward producing fuels for our American military and the civil aviation industry from renewable resources found right here in the United States.”

As part of this effort, the Department is helping to speed the development of hydrocarbon-based biofuels that are more compatible with today’s infrastructure and engines, including heavy-duty vehicles. According to the Energy Department’s Billion Ton Study, advanced biofuels have the potential to displace approximately one-third of the nation’s current petroleum usage.

CVEC gasifier site

The DOE announced plans to award up to $17.7 million in funds to four biorefineries, including Frontline BioEnergy LLC. Pictured above is their commercial gasifier installation at the Chippewa Valley Ethanol Company (CVEC) in Benson, Minnesota. Credit: Frontline BioEnergy LLC.

The four projects selected for the DOE grant-funding will use a variety of non-food biomass feedstocks, waste-based materials, and algae in innovative conversion processes to produce biofuels that meet military specifications for jet fuel and diesel.

More details on each of the projects are listed below.

BioProcess Algae (up to $6.4 million; Shenandoah, Iowa): The BioProcess Algae project will evaluate an innovative algal growth platform that will produce hydrocarbon fuels meeting military specifications using renewable carbon dioxide, lignocellulosic sugars, and waste heat. The proposed biorefinery will integrate low-cost autotrophic algal production, accelerated lipid production, and lipid conversion. While the primary product from the proposed biorefinery will be the military fuels, the facility will also co-produce additional products, including other hydrocarbons, glycerine, and animal feed.

Cobalt Technologies (up to $2.5 million; Mountain View, California): Cobalt Technologies will operate a pilot-scale integrated biorefinery to convert switchgrass to bio-jet fuel. Together with its partners, including the Naval Air Warfare China Lake Weapons Division, Show Me Energy Cooperative, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Cobalt intends to build a pilot-scale facility to purify and convert butanol to jet fuel.

Frontline BioEnergy LLC (up to $4.2 million; Ames, Iowa): Building on prior commercial-scale gasification success, Frontline BioEnergy, along with its project partners SGC Energia, Stanley Consultants, and Delphi Engineering and Construction LLC, will build and integrate an innovative new pilot-scale TarFreeGas reactor and new gas conditioning processes with an existing Fischer Tropsch (FT) unit capable of producing one barrel per day of FT liquids from woody biomass, municipal solid waste, and refuse derived fuel at the Iowa Energy Center’s Biomass Energy Conversion Facility. These liquids will be upgraded to produce samples of biofuels that meet military specifications.

Mercurius Biorefining, Inc (up to $4.6 million; Ferndale, Washington): For its project, Mercurius will build and operate a pilot plant that uses an innovative process to convert the cellulosic biomass into non-sugar intermediates, which are further processed into drop-in bio-jet fuel and chemicals. Several organizations are participating in this consortium led by Mercurius Biorefining, including Purdue University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Incitor.

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