DOE awards $11.3 million to support bioproducts, enable biofuels

By U.S. Department of Energy | August 09, 2016

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced up to $11.3 million for three projects that support the development of biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels conversion pathways that can produce variable amounts of fuels and/or products based on external factors, such as market demand. Producing high-value bioproducts alongside cost-competitive biofuels has the potential to support a positive return on investment for a biorefinery. This funding will develop new strategies for biorefineries to diversify revenue streams, including chemicals and products manufacturing, resulting in long-term economic benefits to the United States.

DOE's Bioenergy Technologies Office has selected three projects for funding under MEGA-BIO: Bioproducts to Enable Biofuels.

The Dow Chemical Co. (Midland, Michigan)—The Dow Chemical Co., in partnership with LanzaTech and Northwestern University, will develop a process for the bioconversion of biomass-derived synthetic gas (syngas) to fatty alcohols as a pathway to biofuels. The fermentation of bio-syngas and the production of intermediate fatty alcohols offer a unique opportunity to leverage the robust chemical markets and high-margin applications of fatty alcohols and their derivatives.

Amyris Inc. (Emeryville, California)—Amyris Inc., in cooperation with Renmatix and Total New Energies, will develop a manufacturing-ready process to produce farnesene, a hydrocarbon building block used in the manufacture of a variety of consumer products ranging from cosmetics to detergents, as well as in the transportation industry for diesel and jet fuel. They plan to produce farnesene from cellulosic sugar at the same projected cost of current farnesene manufacturing using cane syrup. The project will accomplish its goal by engineering multiple new capabilities into its current farnesene manufacturing strain, and at the end of the project, Renmatix expects to develop a process to deliver cost-competitive sugars to produce farnesene.

Research Triangle Institute (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina)—Research Triangle Institute will partner with Arkema and AECOM to investigate the technical feasibility and economic potential, as well as the environmental and sustainability benefits, of recovering mixed methoxyphenols from biocrude as building block chemicals alongside the production of biofuels. These methoxyphenols can be used in the production of pharmaceuticals, food flavorings, and perfume products. Achieving technical success in recovering high-value methoxyphenols prior to upgrading to biofuels could provide a significant source of revenue to improve overall process economics and help meet the modeled $3/gasoline gallon equivalent production-cost target for advanced biofuels technologies by 2022.

DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates the development and deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. Learn more about how EERE's Bioenergy Technologies Office supports the development of a sustainable, domestic bioenergy industry.