By Oliver M. Bayani – EcoSeed
The United States Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture jointly launched a new $47 million grant program to fund researchers and start-up companies developing renewable fuels from biomass sources.
The federal grant program divides $47 million among eight projects located in different areas of the country, including Hawaii, chosen through a competitive selection process. The biofuels produced through these projects are also expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared to fossil fuels.
The projects will be funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative, a joint project of the two departments which initially had $30 million in funding. Grant recipients are required to contribute a minimum of 20 percent of matching funds for research projects and 50 percent for demonstration projects.
“The projects selected today will help produce affordable, renewable biofuels right here in the United States to power our cars and trucks,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. He mentioned that President Barack Obama has committed to reduce America’s oil imports by one-third in a little more than a decade, in line with the president’s renewed calls for ending $4 billion in taxpayer subsidies for oil and gas companies last April.
Domtar Paper Company, LLC, a South Carolina-based unit of Montreal’s forestry and paper products company Domtar Corp, received the largest grant among the recipients with $7 million to develop a three-year demonstration plant to convert waste from paper mills into fermentable sugars and oil.
The University of Kentucky follows with a $6.93 million grant to study further a process to convert biomass to a mixture of butanol, ethanol, acetone and organic acids that can be easily transported to a biorefinery for further processing.
In regards to unique technologies, Cellana LLC, a subsidiary of Hawaii-based HR BioPetroleum, will receive a $5.5 million grant to develop a protein supplement to be used in animal feeds from marine algae byproduct to increase the value large-scale production of feedstock for biofuels, aquaculture and other animal feeds.
Exelus Inc. will use its $5.19 million grant to develop energy crops that can tolerate drought and salt and will grow on poor lands. The New Jersey-based company will also use the money to design more efficient catalytic processes for turning those plants into hydrocarbon fuels that avoids high temperatures and large energy inputs.
Metabolix Inc., of Cambridge, Massachusetts received a $6-million grant to improve processes for making fuels such as butanol and chemicals such as propylene from switchgrass to improve the economic competitiveness of future bio refineries with products aside from fuel.
The University of Kansas Research Center, the United States Forest Service and the University of Florida also received $5.64 million, $5.31 million and $5.43 million, respectively, for their projects.
“Permanently reducing our dependence on foreign oil and getting a handle on out of control gas prices will require our brightest scientists, our smartest companies, and strategic investments in research, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.