News Release: DOE Selects NREL as a New Biofuels R&D Program Leader

Jan. 13, 2010 | By George Douglas | Contact media relations

The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will co-lead a new national program to develop advanced biofuels that are compatible with the nation's existing hydrocarbon fuels infrastructure.

The $33.8 million in funding for this research effort comes as part of a larger package of biofuels investments under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act announced today by Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

“Advanced biofuels are crucial to building a clean energy economy,” said Secretary Chu. “By harnessing the power of science and technology, we can bring new biofuels to the market and develop a cleaner and more sustainable transportation sector.   This investment will help spur the creation of the domestic bio-industry, while creating jobs and reducing our dependence on foreign oil.”

Known as the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium (NABC), NREL and DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will lead cutting-edge research to develop biomass-based hydrocarbon fuels that follow a sustainable, cost-effective production process and maximize the use of existing refining and distribution infrastructure. 

"Securing this leadership role with the National Advanced Biofuels Consortium demonstrates the Department of Energy's confidence in NREL's biofuels expertise and is a significant achievement for biomass program manager Tom Foust and his team," NREL Deputy Laboratory Director for Science & Technology Robert McGrath said.

"Biofuels must be compatible with the nation's engines, pipelines and refineries to play a substantial and effective role in reducing carbon emissions and reducing oil imports," said NREL Associate Director for Renewable Fuels and Vehicles Dale Gardner. "The Department of Energy's investment will allow NREL and the consortium to systematically identify and develop commercially sustainable biofuels from renewable sources for this critical energy supply."

The NABC will spend about a year investigating six process options, including fermentation, catalytic conversion, catalytic fast pyrolysis, hydropyrolysis, hydrothermal liquefaction, and low‐cost one‐step syngas-to-distillates.

One or two of these processes will be selected for larger-scale demonstration over the subsequent two years. The NABC plans to further develop these strategies to deliver a pilot-ready process, with full lifecycle analysis to measure the environmental benefits.

Other members of the consortium include Albemarle Corporation, Amyris Biotechnologies, Argonne National Laboratory, BP Products North America Inc., Catchlight Energy, LLC, Colorado School of Mines, Iowa State University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Pall Corporation, RTI International, Tesoro Companies Inc., University of California-Davis, UOP, LLC, Virent Energy Systems and Washington State University. Collectively, these partners will contribute $8.4 M of non-federal cost share contributions, bringing the total NABC project size to $42.2 million.

Secretary Chu also announced $44 million in funding for the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts (NAABB). Led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (St. Louis, Mo.), the NAABB will develop a systems approach for sustainable commercialization of algal biofuel and bioproducts.

Together, these two programs will be matched by private and non-federal cost-share funds of more than $19 million for total project investments of over $97 million.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

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