Advanced Biofuels USA gets grant to study energy beets

By Ann Bailey | December 28, 2016

Maryland-based Advanced Biofuels USA has been awarded a $16,893 grant by USDA to study the feasibility of making bio-jet fuel from energy beets grown on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

The funding by the Maryland-Delaware USDA Office Rural Development is part of the action plan USDA, U.S. Department of Energy, U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Navy are following to develop sustainable, bio-based jet fuel that would replace fossil fuel and not require modification of aircraft engines and infrastructures, Advanced Biofuels USA said.

The study will research the technical and economic aspects of a project developed by University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Purdue University and small businesses in Maryland, Advanced Biofuels USA said. Co-products that can provide economic opportunities to rural communities on the Eastern Shore when fluctuating petroleum markets result in low jet fuel prices are also are important to the economic feasibility of the project. Meanwhile, University of Maryland Eastern Shore will research the beet’s uptake of Eastern Shore legacy phosphates and look at whether the proteins from the biomass can be a high-value poultry feed or animal feed source, Advanced Biofuels USA said. If the beets can take up phosphate, the beets-to-bio jet fuel project could be an effective way to reduce the run-off of nutrients into Chesapeake that has resulted from the long-term use of poultry litter as fertilizer.

The project is unique because it includes use of non-food, low nutrient input energy beets developed by Plant Sensory Systems, LLC of Baltimore and a proprietary enzyme conversion system that uses the entire biomass of the energy beet root, including biomass that is ignored during the production of conventional sugar beets, Advanced Biofuels USA said. Atlantic Biomass, LLC and Hood College, both located in Frederick, Maryland, developed the process. The bio-jet fuel feasibility study’s objective is to determine if the first-stage data produced from the UMES energy beef pilot crop and commercial simulation processing shows that the crop and supply chain have enough yield and production advantages to warrant investments that should be made to overcome hurdles, outlined in the feasibility analysis, so the project can be taken to commercialization. Meanwhile, the feasibility study will look at priorities identified in the White House’s National Science and Technology Council’s report “Federal Alternative Jet Fuels Research and Development Strategy.”