DOE offers $61.4 million for biofuel, bioenergy projects

By Erin Voegele | April 08, 2021

The U.S. Department of Energy on April 8 announced it will award $61.4 million to support the development and demonstration of a variety of bioenergy projects, including those related to marine and aviation fuels, cellulosic sugars, separations technologies, residential wood heating, and renewable natural gas (RNG).

The funding opportunity announcement (FOA), issued Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy on behalf of the Bioenergy Technologies Office, focuses on biofuel production pathways that can deliver at least 70 percent lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than petroleum. For biofuels, the FOA targets the production of low-carbon drop-in biofuels at $2.50 per gallon gasoline equivalent (GGE) by 2030, as well as associated renewable chemical coproducts to achieve that target. Issuance of the FOA follows a notice of intent released by DOE earlier this year. 

The FOA includes five topic areas. The first is the scale-up of biotechnologies, including support for pre-pilot, pilot and demonstration projects for biofuels and bioproducts. For pre-pilot projects, allowable feedstocks include lignocellulosic feedstocks, algae, organic wet waste, sorted municipal solid waste (MSW), food waste, biogas and waste carbon dioxide. Grain starch and oilseed crops are also eligible for pilot and demonstration-scale projects. Allowable primary products include sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), renewable diesel, sustainable marine fuels and bioproducts.

The FOA indicates that projects selected under the first topic area may leverage first-generation biorefinery infrastructure, supply chains, and resources to integrate technologies to produce fuels from grain starch. Projects may also leverage other existing infrastructure from sister industries, including but not limited to petrochemical and pulp and paper. In addition, projects may leverage certain U.S.-produced oilseed crops. A total of $30.28 million is expected to be awarded to projects under the first topic area.

The second topic area focusses on affordable, clean cellulosic sugars for high yield conversion. This topic area aims to lower the price of cellulosic sugars and de-risk their use by downstream partners through increased availability and performance. Applicants are to achieve monomeric sugars that can be produced for less than 20 cents per pound. Approximately $8.5 million is expected to be awarded to projects under topic area two.

The third topic area addresses separations to enable biomass conversion. According to the FOA, separations are energy-intensive and critical to the economics of bioprocess, and can account for up to 50 percent of the cost of producing biomass-based chemicals and fuels. The DOE is expected to award up to $8 million to projects under topic area three.

The fourth topic area is dedicated to residential wood heaters. The topic area aims to support the development and testing of low-emission, high-efficiency residential wood heaters, including room heaters, hydronic central heaters and forced air central heaters. Applicants must propose to utilize wood chips, cord wood or wood pellets. The FOA states no other biomass feedstocks are acceptable for this funding opportunity. Up to $5 million will be awarded to projects under this topic area.

The fifth topic area focuses on RNG. Eligible projects include those that aim to develop new technologies to upgrade biogas through the use of advanced sorbents, membranes, and/or process intensification and separations strategies, or to develop and demonstrate technologies for conversion of carbon dioxide in biogas and hydrogen to methane. Funding is also open to projects focused on pilot-scale biogas upgrading and processes for the conversion to methane, to assist projects in maturing from bench scale to pilot scale, or to demonstrate integration of the process in a continuous fashion. A total of $9.6 million will be awarded to projects under topic area five.

Concept papers are due on April 30. Full applications must be submitted by June 21. An information webinar focused on topic area one will be held April 16. Projects selected for funding are expected to be notified in August. Additional information is available on the EERE Exchange website under DE-FOA-0002396.