DOE signs MOU with USDA and China, awards biofuels grants

By Jessica Ebert
The U.S. DOE, the USDA and China's National Development and Reform Commission recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that would strengthen and expand cooperation on biofuels production and use. More specifically, the MOU encourages cooperation in biomass and feedstock production and sustainability, conversion technology and engineering, biobased product development and utilization standards, and rural and agricultural development strategies.

"This biofuels agreement with China builds on our work with Brazil, the International Biofuels Forum and the G8 Global Biofuels Energy Partnership to accelerate and intensify our global cooperation around the development and deployment of biofuels," said Reuben Jeffrey, U.S. Department of State Undersecretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs.
This is the third MOU between the United States and China in recent months. The first aims to promote the large-scale use of electric, hybrid-electric, fuel cell and alternative fuel vehicle technologies. The second aims to significantly increase cooperation and energy efficiency in China's industrial sector. "As the two largest energy consumers and automobile markets in the world, we are eager to strengthen cooperation with China to increase the use of renewable and alternative fuels to power our nation's vehicles," said Clay Sell, U.S. deputy secretary of energy and the U.S. representative at the MOU signing ceremony in Beijing.

In other news, the DOE recently announced it will invest up to $7.7 million in multi-year funding in four biofuels projects that will demonstrate the thermochemical conversion of grasses, stover, nonedible portions of crops and other materials into biofuel. In one of the projects, Emery Energy Co. in Salt Lake City has partnered with Ceramatec Inc. and the Western Research Institute to demonstrate a new approach to mitigating tars and oils in the production of synthesis gas from biomass. Another project involves a partnership between Iowa State University and ConocoPhillips Co., which will test an integrated biomass-to-liquids technology using switchgrass as a feedstock. Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina, along with North Carolina State University and the University of Utah, will produce syngas from woody biomass using a dual fluidized-bed reactor that allows for the continuous regeneration of a catalyst that can reform, crack and remove tar and other impurities. Lastly, Southern Research Institute in Alabama will collaborate with Pall Corp., ThermoChem Recovery International and Rentech to use a one-megawatt thermal gasifier and a unique cleanup technology to generate syngas.