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DOE to Invest $18 Million for Advanced Biofuels User Facility

miscanthus, switchgrass, and mixed prairie grasses, potential feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production
Miscanthus, switchgrass, and mixed prairie grasses: Potential feedstocks for cellulosic ethanol production.
(cc) Nathan Schock

U.S. Department of Energy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi has announced that the Department’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory will build an advanced biofuels process development facility aimed at speeding the commercialization of advanced biofuels by allowing researchers and the private sector to test and integrate innovative technologies. The facility — funded with nearly $18 million from the Recovery Act — will be a publicly available facility where researchers can integrate process steps and test innovative technology pathways, such as those being developed at DOE’s Office of Science Bioenergy Research Centers. This facility will be the only one of its kind available for public use.

“The Department is committed to developing cost-effective and sustainable advanced biofuels. With this investment, we will vastly increase the capacity to test new innovative approaches on a larger, integrated scale,” said Assistant Secretary Zoi. “Scaling up these clean energy technologies is crucial to addressing climate change and building a strong, domestic clean energy economy.”

This facility is part of the Obama Administration’s continued commitment to building a robust and sustainable transportation system based on clean energy and domestic innovation. The Advanced Biofuels Process Development Unit (PDU) will leverage the efforts of the Department’s National Laboratories and the private sector to help move new technologies into the marketplace. The PDU will provide universities, national laboratories, and industry partners the opportunity to scale up promising processes discovered in their laboratories. Planned capabilities include unique pretreatment of biomass, enzyme production, fermentation for the production of multiple biofuels, and product purification in quantities sufficient for engine testing at partner institutions.

The PDU is scheduled to be fully operational by early 2011, and multiple possible sites for the facility are now being considered in the San Francisco East Bay region.

The Department’s Biomass Program has awarded nearly $718 million in Recovery Act funds to accelerate the commercialization of advanced biofuels and foster the growth of a sustainable U.S. bioindustry. These investments will facilitate the bioindustry’s ability to meet mandated production requirements for advanced biofuels, which increase from 950 million gallons per year in 2010 to 21 billion gallons per year in 2022. Advanced biofuels are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent and can be produced from diverse non-food biomass such as forestry and agricultural residues, mill wastes, energy crops, and sorted municipal solid waste.

Read Biofuels and Bioenergy: Processes and Technologies from Amazon.

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