EPA awards biomass projects under SBIR program

By Erin Voegele | June 14, 2013

The U.S. EPA has announced more than $2 million in funding to 25 small businesses under its Small Business Innovation Research program, which funds innovative research resulting in new commercial products, processes and services that protect the environment, benefit the public and promote the growth of small businesses. Several biomass projects were awarded under the latest funding round.

“Over the past 30 years, EPA’s SBIR program has funded over 900 small businesses that develop unique environmental technologies,” said Lek Kadeli, principal deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Research and Development. “This funding opportunity allows these companies to help protect public health and the environment through innovative technology and more sustainable solutions while creating jobs and increasing economic competitiveness.”

Each selected company will receive a SBIR Phase I contract of up to $80,000 to further develop their technology over the next six months. Once the project is demonstrated to be commercially viable, companies become eligible to compete for a Phase II award of up to $300,000 to commercialize its technology.

Biomass projects awarded under Phase I include:

NexTech Materials—Nextech Materials is researching a catalytic reforming approach to remove waste tar from gasified biomass on nickel-based catalysts. While liquid scrubbing is a method of tar removal used today, the approach requires biomass syngas be cooled to near ambient temperature, reducing efficiency. NexTech Materials said in its EPA summary that its proposed catalytic reforming method will enhance overall energy efficiency and eliminate the process for the liquid waste disposal by converting tar, methane and light hydrocarbons into useful syngas, increasing the fuel value.

Applied Environmental Technology—Applied Envrionmental Technology is developing a multi-chamber treatment process that removes nitrogen from wastewater at a high percentage. The system features passive operation, low life cycle cost and resilient performance. It applies anaerobic biological treatment in a multi-chamber upflow solids blanket bioreactor. The system removes organics and recovers energy. Under its Phase I reward, the company will experimentally validate two prototype designs and provide a scale-up basis for Phase II.

Precision Combustion Inc.—Precision Combustion Inc. has developed a catalytic burner technology for biomass applications. The company said the low emissions, low pressure drop design will help to improve plant efficiency, reduce GHGs and provide process heat and power. A summary provided by the EPA specifies the burner would deal with the challenge of burning varying Btu byproduct gas that results from the conversion of biomass into liquid fuels or useful solids, such as char.

Ecovative Design LLC—Ecovative Design LLC has proposed a concept to demonstrate an ideal bioplastic by using mycelium as the polymer, resin or structural matrix. The company said preliminary studies have shown basidiomycete stipe tissue offers similar mechanical properties as thermo set, unreinforced polyurethane and balsawood.

Liquid Lignin Company—Liquid Lignin Company is proposing using lignin from biorefineries to allow borates to be used as wood preservatives in exterior applications exposed to rain. The lignin would enhance the retention of environmentally friendly borates.

Instrumental Polymer Technologies LLC—Instrumental Polymer Technologies LLC has developed an evolution polymerization process to produce high molecular weight dendrimers using soy-based biodiesel. The resulting soy-capped polycarbonate dendrimers would offer a solution for sustainable, durable, water-based wood coatings.