The Department of Energy (DOE) will award as much as $200 million in grants to 5-12 projects over the next six years for advanced biofuel pilot refineries.
By giving support, the US hopes to help reduce emissions and ultimately to increase its energy supply security and wean the country off dependence on energy imports.
Criteria for the selection is tough. Potential projects must show that they have the technical and economic performance – at the bench or pilot scale – and prove that they are close to commercial readiness. In fact, projects are expected to go live within 3-4 years of receiving their funds, said the DOE’s acting assistant secretary.
The funding would push the advancement of renewable biomass as a resource for second-generation transportation biofuels, which would contribute to the new national renewable-fuels mandate, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Under the mandate, the US would produce 36 billion gallons of biofuels by 2022 – 21 billion of which should come from advanced fuels such as cellulosic ethanols, bio-butanol, and “green gasoline” – a goal that the Energy Information Administration said will likely not be met.
Biofuels have been hit hard by recent economic factors: Ethanol stocks plummeted due to overproduction, restrictions in blending infrastructure, and financial woes, and the credit crisis made finding funding difficult.
Government support is therefore warmly received by the industry, and is expected to accelerate under President-elect Barack Obama’s nominee for energy secretary, Steven Chu – a strong proponent of cellulosic ethanol.