Drop-in biofuels can be made from non-food biomass sources, such as algae, shown growing here in a tent reactor at the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Credit: Dennis Schroeder, NREL
The Energy Department on July 1 announced its investment of $13 million in four research and development projects that aim to accelerate the deployment and cut the cost of next-generation biofuels. The projects—located in Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wisconsin—support the Energy Department goal of producing cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon by 2017. Drop-in biofuels are made from non-food sources but are almost indistinguishable from conventional fuels. They can include bio-oil, a biobased crude oil substitute that can be processed in a refinery, as well as biobased substitutes for gasoline, diesel fuel, and jet fuel.
The four selected projects include an effort by Ceramatec of Salt Lake City, Utah, to use an electrochemical process to remove oxygen from bio-oil, making it more suitable for processing in a refinery; a project led by the Energy Department's Oak Ridge National Laboratory to use a microbial electrolysis process to remove the hydrogen from the water found in bio-oil, making the bio-oil production process more efficient and the bio-oil less corrosive; an investigation by the University of Oklahoma in Norman into the use of heat and solvents to convert biomass into a refinery-compatible intermediate chemical; and an effort by Virent, Inc., of Madison, Wisconsin, to develop an innovative separation process that will work with the company's proprietary process to convert biomass into drop-in fuels. The Energy Department's Idaho National Laboratory will help with feedstock pre-processing for the Virent project. See the Energy Department Progress Alert .