Recovery act funds granted to 19 advanced biofuel projects

By Susanne Retka Schill | November 20, 2009
Posted December 7, 2009

Several biomass-based diesel projects are among the 19 advanced biorefinery projects receiving up to $564 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate the construction of pilot, demonstration and commercial scale facilities producing advanced biofuels, biopower and bioproducts using biomass feedstocks. The announcement was made Dec. 4 by U.S. DOE Secretary Steven Chu and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"Advanced biofuels are critical to building a cleaner, more sustainable transportation system in the U.S." Chu said. "These projects will help establish a domestic industry that will create jobs here at home and open new markets across rural America."

Of the nearly $564 million in Recovery Act funding, up to $483 million will go to 14 pilot-scale and four demonstration-scale biorefinery projects across the country. The remaining $81 million will focus on accelerating the construction of a biorefinery project previously awarded funding. Collectively, these projects will be matched with more than $700 million in private and non-Federal cost-share funds, for total project investments of almost $1.3 billion.

Joining Chu in making the announcement, Agriculture Secretary Vilsack noted that USDA Rural Development has selected San Diego, California based Sapphire Energy to receive a loan guarantee for up to $54.5 million through the Biorefinery Assistance Program to demonstrate an integrated algal biorefinery process that will cultivate algae in ponds, and will use dewatering and oil extraction technology to produce an intermediate that will then be processed into drop-in green fuels such as jet fuel and diesel. The actual project will be constructed in Columbus, N.M. "The development of renewable energy is a critical component of our efforts to rebuild and revitalize rural America," Vilsack said. "This Farm Bill program is instrumental in increasing our energy independence and expanding new technologies and markets for agricultural and environmental waste material."

The Biorefinery Assistance Program, authorized through the 2008 Farm Bill, promotes the development of new and emerging technologies for the production of fuels that are produced from non-corn kernel starch biomass sources. The program provides loan guarantees to develop, construct and retrofit viable commercial-scale biorefineries producing advanced biofuels. The maximum loan guarantee is $250 million per project. The loan guarantee will be subject to the availability of funds and contingent upon Sapphire Energy meeting the conditions of the loan agreement.

Other projects involving biomass-based diesel include:

- Amyris Biotechnologies Inc., Emeryville, Cal., receiving $25 million for a project producing a diesel substitute through the fermentation of sweet sorghum. The pilot plant will also have the capacity to coproduce lubricants, polymers and other petro-chemical substitutes.

- Clearfuels Technology Inc., Commerce City, Colo., $23 million for a project to produce renewable diesel and jet fuel from woody biomass by integrating ClearFuels' and Rentech's conversion technologies. The facility will also evaluate the conversion of bagasse and biomass mixtures to fuels.

- Elevance Renewable Sciences, Newton, Iowa, $2.5 million to complete preliminary engineering design for a future facility producing jet fuel, renewable diesel substitutes and high-value chemicals from plant oils and poultry fat.

- Gas Technology Institute, Des Plaines, Ill., $2.5 million to complete preliminary engineering design for a novel process to produce green gasoline and diesel from woody biomass, agricultural residues and algae.

- Renewable Energy Institute International, Toledo, Ohio, $19.9 million for a pilot plant with a capacity to process 25 dry tons of feedstock per day to produce high-quality green diesel from agriculture and forest residues using advanced pyrolysis and steam reforming.

- Solazyme Inc., Riverside, Pa., $21.8 million to validate the projected economics of a commercial scale biorefinery producing multiple advanced biofuels. The project will produce algae oil that can be converted to oil-based fuels.

- UOP LLC, $25 million for a project at Kapolei, Hawaii, to integrate existing technology from Ensyn and UOP to produce green gasoline, diesel and jet fuel from agricultural residue, woody biomass, dedicated energy crops and algae.

Other projects being funded included American Process Inc. $17.9 million for ethanol and potassium acetate, Archer Daniels Midland Co., $24.8 million for ethanol and ethyl acrylate, Haldor Topsoe Inc. $25 million for wood to green gasoline, ICM Inc. $25 million for corn ethanol retrofit to cellulosic ethanol, Logos Technologies $20 million for cellulosic ethanol, ZeaChem Inc. $25 million for poplar trees to ethanol, BioEnergy International LLC $50 million for succinic acid from sorghum, Enerkem Corp. woody biomass and landfill waste to ethanol and green chemicals, Ineos new Planet BioEnergy LLC $50 million to produce ethanol and electricity from wood and vegetative residues, Bluefire LLC $81 million form ethanol from woody biomass and municipal solid waste.
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