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Directed Funding Opportunity for Biomass Compositional Analysis (Text Version)

This is the text version for the Directed Funding Opportunity for Biomass Compositional Analysis webinar.

Erik Ringle, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Well, hello, everyone, and welcome to today’s informational webinar on the Directed Funding Opportunity for Biomass Compositional Analysis. I’m Erik Ringle from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Today we’ll be hearing from Beau Hoffman, technology manager for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, and from Justin Sluiter, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Beau Hoffman works with the Conversion Technologies Research and Development Program. And his realm of expertise is in resource and energy recovery from waste streams. In this capacity, he manages a variety of projects involved in conversion of these waste streams to high-value products: liquid transportation fuels and renewable and natural gas. Beau also represents the United States as a task lead in International Energy Agency Bioenergy Task 36: materials and energy valorization of waste in a circular economy. His background is in chemical engineering and biochemistry. And prior to joining the U.S. Department of Energy, Beau worked as an engineer in Luca Technologies, where he served as the project engineer for the company’s eastern and United States fuels projects. He served as a staff technical lead for business development and technoeconomic analysis, merger acquisition, and regulatory activities.

Our next panelist today, Justin Sluiter, has more than 20 years of experience in biomass analysis, with extensive practice in performing, training, and developing new capabilities for the bioenergy industry. Justin leads the Analytical Development and Support Project at NREL, which researches novel methodology for chemical characterization of biomass. Justin is coauthor on most of NREL’s laboratory analytical procedures, which have been adopted worldwide. As a senior scientist and a recognized biomass analysis expert, Justin is responsible for the development of new analytical methods that extensively support the bioenergy industry. Justin has ongoing collaborations with many industry and academic stakeholders.

Before we get started, I would like to go over a few housekeeping items so you know how you can participate today. During the webinar, you will be in listen-only mode. You can select audio connection options to listen through your computer audio or dial in through your phone. For the best connection, we recommend calling in through a phone line. If you have technical difficulties or just need help today, you can use the chat section to reach me. The chat section appears as a comment bubble in your control panel.

You may submit questions for our speakers today using the Q&A Panel. If you are in the full screen view, click the question mark icon located on the floating toolbar at the lower righthand of your screen to open the Q&A panel. If you're in the split screen mode, the Q&A panel is already open and is located at the lower righthand of your screen. You may send in your questions at any time during the presentation. We will collect these and address them during the Q&A session at the end. We are also recording this webinar, and it will be posted on the National Renewable Energy Laboratory website at a later date along with the slides. Please see the URL provided on this screen here.

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All right, without further ado, I’d now like to turn things over to Beau to kick things off. Beau?

Beau Hoffman, Bioenergy Technologies Office: Good morning, everybody. And, again, thank you for your interest in this program. As Erik noted, I’m Beau Hoffman. I’m going to talk a little bit about why the Bioenergy Technologies Office is interested in this space. And then Justin will be talking about the analytical capabilities that we’re trying to bring to bear through this program. And then towards the end of the presentation, we’ll talk a little bit about the logistics of the program. So that’s kind of the rough outline and, of course, there will be time for Q&A at the end. Next slide, please?

So within the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is the Bioenergy Technologies Office. And the objective of this organization is to fund applied research and development to develop domestically produced biofuels, biopower, and coproducts. You know, we have five different programs that work across the supply chain to produce bioenergy, bioproducts, and biopower. And today I’ll be talking to you about some of the analytical development work that is housed under the conversion technologies program.

So our colleagues in the feedstock technologies program, they help to harvest, store, and preprocess terrestrial feedstocks. And, ultimately, within the conversion program, it’s our goal to convert these into high-value molecules, as was mentioned before. So there’s several research and development funding areas within this program: deconstruction of biomass, synthesis of new molecules from sugars and other intermediates, bioprocessing R&D (so that’s fermentation and advanced fermentation design), catalyst research and development to upgrade those intermediates into fuels and products, and then we have coproduct R&D, which explores areas such as plastics deconstruction, new molecules, and so on and so forth.

So I’ll just say we have five different programs. Our budget is about $250 million annually that is spread across these. Next slide, please. So it might be a lesser-known fact, but at present, biomass is the world’s largest generator of renewable energy. And, as a result, I think there is a lot of potential for further growth and in shifting of how we apply bioenergy. If you want to go ahead and click through, Erik …

Bioenergy represents a unique value proposition insofar as the transportation sector has been traditionally pretty difficult to decarbonize. We certainly made a lot of progress in recent years on electrifying light-duty vehicles. But sectors such as aviation or heavy-duty or marine, they're expected to grow considerably between now and 2050. And these are going to be end markets that are difficult to electrify.

So enter biofuels. Certainly, we can produce energy-dense molecules that lend themselves well to these applications. If you want to click two more times, Erik …

One area is in the space of chemicals and products. Within a given barrel of oil, a significant amount of revenue to a refiner is derived from the coproducts. About half of the revenue to a refiner comes from the product slate, but that’s only about 20% of the barrel of oil on a volumetric basis. So we have a significant opportunity to replace some of those petroleum-derived molecules and, in doing so, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

And then elsewhere within biomass production, biomass production has a lot of potential to help decarbonize other sectors of the economy as well. In the agricultural sector, our land use practices emit more than 600 million metric tons per year of CO2. In the waste management sector, the newer handling alone accounts for 82 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, mostly in the form of methane and nitrous oxide. And, of course, renewables can be used in irrigation, ecosystem services, and other value propositions to decarbonize agriculture.

So this is all to say that there’s a variety of different value propositions, both economically and from a sustainability perspective, as to why we’re investing in the bioeconomy. Next slide, please.

So you're not here to hear about the bioeconomy at large. You're probably here because you are interested in analytical chemistry and really getting into the molecular level of how do we break down biomass? How do we quantify what we’ve broken down? How do we know that we have—how do we know what we’ve produced? And so, as you’ll see in this presentation, and from Justin in particular, we have three areas of interest for this directed funding opportunity. One is in regards to quantification of lignocellulosic materials and lignocellulosic intermediate streams.

So traditionally when we talk about lignin, for instance, when we break down lignin, it’s oftentimes presented as a decrease in molecular weight. And, again, I think there’s, you know, with all respect to these authors of this work, that’s pretty impressive work, to show that you have reduced your median molecular weight from around 1,000 grams per mole to around 200 grams per mole. That definitely shows that you are depolarizing that lignin.

The natural next question is what have you broken it down into? And so one of the unique capabilities at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory is the ability to close these mass balances on lignin depolarization and other streams found in lignocellulosic mass. So by no means is this restricted to lignin. But just giving an example of, you know, we went from breaking down this reductive catalytic fractionation oil—again, a lignin-based oil—and really understanding what linkages we have so that we can better understand how can we convert this, how can we convert its products, how can we break it down further, et cetera? Next slide, please.

Within lignocellulosic biomass, carbohydrates are obviously incredibly important. I think probably everybody on this call knows the challenges associated with quantifying glucan and where glucose is derived from. There’s certainly a lot of financial interest in understanding was this glucose derived from starch, or was it derived from a cellulosic material?

And so over the last several years, NREL has developed a method to accurately and precisely quantify the origin of that glucose. And so, in doing so, they targeted particular EPA precision and accuracy metrics and achieved a very low coefficient of variation (CV). And in addition to hopefully being able to satisfy some of the EPA’s requirements for written classification, this low coefficient of variation also reduces the number of replicates that a particular industrial entity would need to use for each batch of samples. So, hopefully, it’ll reach EPA targets but also save time and money for the analytical teams that are tasked with providing these samples for regulatory purposes. Next slide, please? You can click one more time.

So we also know that in the organic waste space, organic wastes represent a huge amount of emissions year-over-year between landfills, manure management, wastewater treatment plants. Those are three of the seven largest sources of fugitive methane emissions. And with methane being such a potent greenhouse gas, we should really strive to do anything we can to reduce those fugitive emissions. A lot of organizations have employed codigestion as a way of taking food waste and combining it with a wastewater treatment digester or a manure digester.

However, for right now the RIN regulations really don’t know how to account for the various fractions that are present in that stream. So I think as a lot of folks on the call probably know, when you're codigesting, you basically downgrade your RINs from a D3 RIN, which is right now about $2.44 per RIN, to a D5 RIN, which is a little more than half of that. And, unfortunately, that has the consequence of resulting in more waste that is probably becoming methane in landfills.

So this is all to say that one area of interest in this is to help understand what is in our organic waste streams and those food waste streams so that we can more accurately quantify what is cellulosic waste and what is, I guess, noncellulosic waste.

So that’s just a little bit of why BETO is interested in the analytical space. I’m going to turn it over to Justin now, who is going to talk about some of the analytical capabilities that NREL possesses and a little bit more detail on the specific areas of interest for this directed funding opportunity. So I’ll kick it over to you, Justin.

Justin Sluiter, National Renewable Energy Laboratory: Thank you, Beau. Erik, if you could just go to the next slide, please? I’m going to start off talking about the Analytical Development Support Project, which is an established project at NREL. It’s been responsible for the method development and method support over the years. The analytical directed funding opportunity will be added to this project at NREL and will be using the capabilities that are already available to that team. We do the method development that supports the biochemical conversion platform. In this sense we’re looking to quantify carbohydrates that are going in, carbohydrates that are going out, but also the lignins and the unrelated—the unreacted —during a biological conversion. We have a team of chemists that have over 50 years of experience at the core of this. And we have significant experience working with external agencies such as those listed off to the right: ASTM and NIST, the EPA, but also Fortune 500 companies who are looking to understand how their conversion is working using either our established methodology or developing new methodology with us. But then we’re also trying to work with the startup companies that are just trying to start out knowing what it is that their feedstock looks like and whether or not their conversions are more effective.

As I said earlier, we’re active with ASTM. The Subcommittee E48.05 holds a lot of the analytical methods that are used and pointed to by the industry that are based on our LAPs. This is just some of the ways that we’ve already collaborated with industry, so we are familiar with working with the needs of external agencies. Next slide, please.

The team itself is made up of four core people with a lot of experience. Myself, I’ve been with NREL for over 20 years. Most of that time has been with carbohydrate chemistry and—feedstock analysis. I lead the external collaborations with people that are looking to collaborate with NREL and also the internal collaborations to maybe improve methods for new process streaming. In recent times I’ve been working to better understand this speciation in mixed carbohydrate streams such as municipal solid wastes and other waste characterizations.

My colleague Ed Wolfrum has been here at NREL for about 20 years as well. His interests include a lot of rapid, low-cost at-line or on-line predictive modeling using near-IR spectra projected back to the wet chemical data to do instantaneous prediction of wet chemistry that can take bench scale times of up to weeks.

Darren Peterson is our lab manager. He is—excuse me. He develops a lot of the HPLC methods for new products. He is also interested in developing new methods in wet chemical areas such as municipal solid waste. He’s worked with greases. He’s worked with fats. He’s worked some with our algae groups

Katie Michael has just recently joined us, but she has a dozen years of commercial analytical experience working at commercial laboratories. She’s been instrumental in letting us understand what the capabilities of these external commercial labs are. Not everybody has access to a couple different types of NMR, what the practices are at these labs, and how we can better adapt them to the needs of the industry. Next slide, please.

The core to our capabilities are our laboratory analytical procedures. These procedures have been free for download from our website for over 10 years. As you can see, kind of in the middle of the citations, “Determination of Structural Carbohydrates and Lignin in Biomass,” which is kind of the main LAP for us, has been cited over 6,000 times. They are very well accepted throughout industry. They are very heavily used throughout industry. And the goal of those is to be able to quantify all the different components that are present in a biomass feedstock or an intermediate product so that we’re getting 100%  mass collected back.

Things that we’re typically analyzing for are like this nonstructural material, such as glucose and fructose, and then waxes that might be in a soluble material, but also the structural materials, which are the carbohydrates that are typical in a biomass: glucans, xylans, galactans, arabinans, mannans and then lignin. We have the capability of analyzing things like acetates, the inorganic fractions, proteins, total solid contents. All of that is pretty standard to our analysis. We’ve applied these procedures fairly well to herbaceous feedstocks, grains, animal and food wastes. We’re beginning to apply them to MSW and various other conversion treatments from those processes as well. Next slide, please.

Getting into, kind of like, some of the systems that we have available to us, starting on the top left, there is a list of all the individual LAPs that we have. These are the capabilities that we do on a daily basis, that we’re familiar with in and out, adapting them to new feeds as necessary. There you’ll find all the things that I just said: proteins, extractives, carbohydrates, lignin. We also have some capabilities in looking at things like muconic acids. To the right the equipment that we use to do this, you know, we have all of this standard analytical equipment that a laboratory would have. It looks like it’s overlapping some of our publications there at the bottom. We have autoclaves, balances, all the things you’d expect us to find. But in addition to that, we have an ASE extractor, which we’ve used to quantify the nonstructural materials, such as waxes and fats. But we can also perform some small-scale acid and alkaline treatments if necessary so we can test whether or not things are labile to different treatment processes.

We have at least a dozen different Agilent 1100 or 1200 HPLCs with refractive index and UV detection. We use these for carbohydrate quantification, quantification of organic acids. As I mentioned before, we have a team of people who are capable of developing new analytical methods for this as necessary. Another capability that we have is a NanoDrop Spectrometer, which is a UV vis spectrometer that we use for quantification of soluble lignins, but it does capture an entire length of the spectra. And so if we’re looking to hit different wavelengths, we can do that with that instrument.

Publications down below include things that we’ve done recently for comparison of different types of biomasses. The second one up from the bottom there, the correlation of detergent fiber analysis and dietary fiber analysis, that was done by near-IR but it was backed by some chemical analysis. I find that one particularly interesting because it’s comparing the typical NDF/ADF feed analysis within the dietary fiber analysis, which is the acid hydrolysis method that we typically perform and whether it seems there’s a strong correlation there.

We recently published the paper in Cellulose that Beau alluded to, but we also have there the “Compositional Analysis of Lignocellulosic Feedstocks.” We have Part 1 and 2, where we determine the method uncertainties through an internal round robin using different types of instruments and different analysts to see what these procedures actually are capable of performing in terms of precision that we recorded publicly. Next slide, please.

The predictive modeling capabilities that we have—this is Ed Wolfrum’s area. We have two main systems that are able to capture the spectra that you can see on the right there in the graphic. That spectra is taken on different types of biomass. You can then take that and mathematically project it to the chemical composition. And with the minutes on an on-line or at-line capability, you can get that same wet chemical capability that you have just as an on-line or at-line. The Metrohm and the Thermo Antaris are both benchtop spectrometers. The picture on the bottom right there shows the size of a typical benchtop spectra.

And then the two cutout ones are some of the smaller, handheld near-infrared spectrometers that Ed Wolfrum has been working with recently. Those are cheaper. They have a better capability to be putting into a process area because they are smaller. They have some compromises that you have to make in the capabilities for the spectra that are taken. And what we’ve shown is that with proper treatment, you can get similar quality data from those two spectrometers, making it much more easy to put ubiquitous detection throughout a process. I’m not going to go through all of the different publications here. Many of them are detailing different feedstocks that we have worked with. I didn’t have room on this slide to list the different models that we have licensed and available for instant use. Things like corn stover and woody materials are in that list. Erik can we go to the next slide, please?

In addition to those core capabilities, we have access to some advanced analytical systems. We typically would use these for validation. We have LC/MS and GC/MS capabilities that we’ve used to make sure when we’re doing like a refractive index or a UV vis detection on an HPLC that we can go in and we can actually get a mass spectra of those compounds to ensure that we’re measuring what we think we’re measuring. We’ve used these systems a lot for the lignin work that Beau was talking about earlier because it’s easier to quantify things if you can speciate them more clearly through a mass spec. We have GC mass spec systems. We have LC mass spec systems. We have some time of light systems that are able to do some very nice things with quadruple splitting.

In addition that, we have some NMR systems. We have systems capable of doing liquid and solids NMR. These are really good for doing analysis of aromatic compounds. Some of the expertise has allowed for different characterization of different carbohydrates that look similar. But the expertise that we have has allowed us to speciate those. Some of them have autosamplers so we can get several samples done as necessary. Again, we use these largely for validation purposes because we’re not anticipating that if you develop a method that requires an NMR, it’s going to transfer well to industry or commercial analytical. Next slide, please.

So going over the topic areas of interest, characterization of mixed carbohydrate streams is the first topic area. This one is looking to develop a primary analytical procedure around some sort of a feed or an intermediate stream that has more than one carbohydrate that is difficult to speciate between the two. A good example is cellulose and starch as both of them are just glucose polymers. Once you do an acid hydrolysis or an enzymatic hydrolysis, it’s difficult to tell where those glucoses came from. It could also be something that looks like speciation of different hemicellulose streams, whether you have xylans or mannans or arabinans present, and you want to look to speciate those. Another area of possible interest would be something like trying to speciate the different degrees of polymerization on xylans that are produced by low-temperature treatment of various biomasses. All of those are just kind of areas of interest, but as examples, they work fairly well. Next slide, please.

Topic area three [sic] is the rapid characterization methods for mixed carbohydrates and lignocellulosic streams. For this one we’re looking to develop rapid characterizations for on-line or at-line analysis. For this we’re kind of anticipating that there is somewhat of an established primary analytical procedure that we could build on. For this it would be things like building an analytical model to predict the feed going in and the feed coming out as an at-line or on-line so you can monitor process conversion capabilities and efficiencies. Make sure I’m saying everything on this one. I think that one covers that one. This one does include part of the lignin work, though. Next slide, please.

And then finally the analytical methods for characterization of wet organic waste. This is an area that BETO is recognizing that cost-advantaged feedstocks going into the future are going to be advantageous for producing low-cost biofuels. Wet organic waste is an area we want to start with because looking at municipal waste conversion plants, a lot of the analytical going into those is about BOD and COD and maybe total solids and then organics. These are gross analytical capabilities that don’t do a lot to speciate the different fractions going in. If we are going to be able to upgrade any of these chemical components that are available to us, we’re going to need more granular understanding of what different loyalties of, you know, carbohydrates are being converted. Which ones are more reluctant—I’m sorry, recalcitrant—to conversion. The analytical procedures that are involved in this need some real development. We’re defining wet waste as materials that contain at least 40% water by weight. This could be things like manures, biosolids, and food waste. The objective of this is to produce a new published procedure that will aid the entire industry in characterization in this area. Next slide, please.

So I’m going to provide an example, you know, what we alluded to earlier, where we worked with the cornstarch-to-ethanol industry recently to develop an analytical procedure that can speciate between starch and cellulose. There are a lot of procedures that are doing this currently. Many of them are proprietary, and it’s difficult to evaluate the efficiency of these proprietary materials when you can’t know the details of the analytical procedure that’s involved with it. And so what we did is we set out to develop a transparent, publicly available primary analytical procedure that could be evaluated by the stakeholders. And we’re currently in that process of evaluation to see whether or not the procedure is measuring everything that the stakeholders need us to do. For this we involved the other national laboratories to perform a round robin so that we could evaluate and quantify precision and accuracy, not just at our laboratory, but at our sister laboratories as well so we’d get a good feeling for what different capabilities and equipment are capable of getting so that we can meet that mark that EPA said of wanting at least 10% CV. We did this in under a year because we were very much interested in making sure that we weren’t the slow point in the step of trying to get these pathways approved because we understand the sensitivity around getting the RIN credits. Next slide, please.

What came out of it was we developed an analytical procedure. We used the NMR; we used the LC/MS to ensure the components that we said that we were speciating were actually the correct components. We were able to look for the specific bond differences between the alpha link starch and the beta link cellulose through the NMR an the LC/MS, and we were able to validate that the method was, indeed, measuring the things that we said we were measuring. What came out of that was a publication but also a new LAP procedure that is publicly available. That’s a great example of kind of how we’re anticipating that these DFOs will work, is that we will be approached with a problem and we’ll work with the stakeholder to develop a procedure that we are comfortable and they are comfortable as meeting their needs. But then what will come out of it is a publication and possibly a publicly available procedure. Because these are publicly available, we’re not anticipating the development of any IP associated with these DFOs. But if you do think that for some reason you're going to be developing some IP, you're going to need to talk to us pretty early on because the agreement that is associated with this does not handle IP. Next slide, please. I’ll hand it back over to Beau at this point.

Beau: Yeah. Thank you, Justin. So I’m going to talk a little bit about the process and what this program kind of hopes to accomplish and then kind of expand a little bit on logistically what is expected of an applicant so next slide?

So, ultimately, the goal of this directed funding opportunity, the biomass compositional analysis DFO, is to leverage the expertise that NREL has on biomass and biomass intermediate characterization. So this is a unique capability that many industrial entities and academic institutions, you know, they might—they may certainly have expertise in analytical chemistry and in biomass decomposition and such. But the actual method development and getting things in front of ASTM and approved is a more niche skill set, so we want to leverage that capability and make that available to academia and industry. And as such, we intend to publish these. And, as Justin mentioned in that last example, the EPA did approach us for that glucose quantification method just, again, in the interest of having a neutral nonproprietary method out there and available for industry. So that’s a good example of like why do we want to do this at the national laboratories. That’s to, again, not create any sort of perceived or real conflict of interest.

And then, last but not least—it’s not listed there—but with regards to some of the on-line or at-line systems that could do rapid characterization, we do know that that will benefit the industry insofar as developing control systems, improving process robustness, and probably a lot of other benefits that we cannot predict at this point.

So as to eligibility for this program, this is open for for-profit and academic institutions. Foreign entities are eligible to apply, but if they're selected, they will need to get approval from DOE in order to execute that technical service agreement, which I’ll talk about shortly. And so how does the funding on this work? So DOE is setting aside $1.5 million for this program, and we will be funding the National Renewable Energy Laboratory to develop these analytical methods.

And in addition to that, we do expect the partner organizations—whether that’s a for-profit or an academic institution—to provide cost share. And we’ll talk a little bit about what cost share is here shortly. That can be cash. That could be in-kind expertise and such. But all the funds will be spent by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, so this is not a pass-through type of solicitation.

The award size that we’re anticipating is between $150,000 and $500,000 of federal funds per project. So that does not include the cost share, so the total project cost might be a little bit more. But we anticipate we’ll be able to make at least three projects if they all are selected at that highest $500K amount. Next slide?

So as to the timeline and process, you're all here on the webinar here on May 11th. In several weeks you’ll have the opportunity to present to the NREL team about kind of what your idea is. So this is a good time to start thinking about what analytical needs you might have, and after the presentations are an opportunity to discuss with the team to make sure that the requisite expertise is there, that there’s the proper instrumentation, and to get a sense for how much this might cost. Again, it’s sometimes difficult to project how much another group is going to cost like charge to develop something, so that’ll create an opportunity for dialog. We’ve done this with some of the other directed funding opportunities between external partners and the national labs, again, to just make sure that expectations are aligned early on in the process.

The next step is we do request that anybody who’s going to submit will fill out a brief Notice of Intent. I’ll show you what that is in a moment, but we do want that just to have a sense of how many applicants we’re going to have for the purposes of recruiting reviewers. On June 18 proposals will be due. I’ll talk about that more later. And following that, we will conduct a third-party review of the proposals that come in. I’ll discuss the various criteria under which those will be evaluated. By late July, we do hope to make announcements on this, such that projects can get kicked off in September. Next slide?

So, as I mentioned, Notice of Intent is required if you are interested in the program. And that is going to be due no later than June 11. If you submit a Notice of Intent but do not apply, that’s okay. It’s nonbinding, but we do want to see kind of a minimum number of applications that we’re expecting. This is all that’s required on that Notice of Intent, so these four fields. And the area of application, I mean, that’s going to be pretty high level. You know, we want to do a method to quantify blank in blank would be sufficient. Next slide?

A week later, on June 18th, as I mentioned, the full proposal will be due. On the DFO website there is a template that we ask that you follow. So it breaks down the various sections: technical approach, scope of work, impact, and the rationale for government funding. And you’ll see kind of what’s expected for each of those sections. So definitely take a look at the website and that template to get an understanding of the expectations there. There’s likewise a table for your budgetary information, both at NREL and your cost share. Next slide?

Following the receipt of those proposals on June 18, we will be contracting third-party reviewers that will independently evaluate them. They will be looking at three different criteria: technical approach, potential impact, and appropriateness of government funding. So the technical approach is the largest factor, and that’s, again, trying to make sure that there’s like a clear line of sight to an end goal and kind of a critical path towards achieving that and developing this method or this analytical tool.

Potential impact is related to some of the market impact and the relationship to goals. So, for instance, we talked about like RIN certification. That would kind of fall into there as an area for impact because that, obviously, has a broad impact beyond just the organization that might be applying with this idea. And then, last but not least, appropriateness of government funding. We want to make sure that we are not creating a competitive advantage for one particular pathway or such, so again, that’s the thing we want our reviewers to consider as they look at these proposals. Next slide?

So some people might have balked at the idea that idea that we would announce in July and have projects going in September because it can be difficult to contract with the national laboratories. And I think the national lab folks on the call would agree that it can be challenging to negotiate those. To address this and something that we’ve learned through other similar funding opportunities, we have created an existing technical service agreement that you are eligible or able to look at right now to see what the terms are. We’d strongly encourage you to review this if you have any intention of applying. The terms are final on this so that we can get these projects started as quickly as possible.

And part of the reason the terms are final on that is that we are not expecting to generate IP, as Justin noted. We don’t want to develop a proprietary method that only one entity can use—especially if that’s going to be for some sort of certification of an RFS pathway. So we do intend to publish these methods publicly. That being said, we certainly would use discretion and negotiate how those data would be presented from a particular applicant. So if you're ABC Corp. and you're sharing data with NREL, we’d want to be careful about how that information ultimately gets published, so as not to release any sort of proprietary information on behalf of your organization. So, again, please take a look at that technical service agreement. It is intended as a way to make it a little bit easier to work with the national labs. Next slide?

So just a few quick frequently asked questions before we’ll open it up to other questions. And I see a couple have come in through the chat. As Erik mentioned, these slides will be posted as well as a recording of this webinar. So if there’s something you want to go back and listen to or might’ve missed, that’ll be posted in a few days here.

Second question: Will funding be available to companies and laboratories? All the federal funds on this program will be spent by the researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, so this is not a pass-through funding opportunity.

Are other DOE national laboratories allowed to apply? No. Other DOE national labs are not eligible as applicants to this program.

What is cost share? So there is an extensive discussion of what constitutes allowable cost share in the Code of Federal Regulations, and that can be cash—that’s probably the most obvious one—but oftentimes it comes in the form of in-kind cost share. That can be technical expertise, use of equipment. That can be feed streams, things like that. So we’d encourage you to take a look at that, and I’m happy to post a link to that federal reg in the chat here shortly. Next slide?

So I mentioned that 20% cost share is the minimum in order to apply. How’s that calculated? 20%cost share is based on the total project cost, not just the federal share. So to give an example here, if a project was requesting $250K of federal support, the minimum cost share would actually be $62,500 because that $62,500 is 20% of the total cost, not 20% of the federal share. So, again, use that kind of tip there. That can help you make sure that you're hitting the minimum threshold.

Can you submit multiple proposals? Yes, as long as the requests are unique and distinct scientific ideas.

And what if I have other questions? We do have a current list of frequently asked questions that we will continue to update over time. And please submit any questions that aren’t answered today to the email Analytical.DFO@nrel.gov. I believe that’s it for us, and so I think we will turn it over. Kathy, if you want to pose some of the questions that came in through the chat?

Erik: Well, thanks, Beau and Justin, for sharing these important insights and details on this DFO. We’ll now begin our DFO—excuse me—we’ll now begin our Q&A session and, as a reminder, you can still submit questions through the Q&A panel. But to kick things off, I do have a couple logistical questions and, Beau or Justin, feel free to answer as needed.

First of all, what is the purpose of the meeting between NREL and a potential applicant? Will this be an opportunity to make sure my technology is a good fit?

Justin: So I’ll take that. Yeah, the purpose of those meetings is definitely to see if the technology is a good fit for our capabilities. As Beau said, we want to make sure that we have both the personnel and the equipment to perform the research as it is requested.

Erik: Okay, great. And then one more—and I think, Beau, you’ve kind of summed this, but just to kind of confirm, Will any money flow to the partner organizations?

Beau: Yeah so I saw the question come in. Like does that mean an academic institute does not get funding to spend? That’s correct. So if we spent—if there was a $250,000 proposal of federal share, we will send the funds to the NREL team. The NREL team is going to spend that $250,000 amongst their team, the right experts. There won’t be money that’s subcontracted out to that potential academic partner or for-profit partner. The cost share that a partner provides would be in addition to that. But, again, at the risk of being redundant, no federal funds through this program are going to flow to an organization other than NREL.

Erik: Great. Thanks for that. Do have a couple questions on eligibility. First one here: Can municipalities apply to participate in this program?

Beau: Yeah, I’d be happy to take that. Yes, we do intend this to be—and I apologize if I didn’t include that on the slide. Municipalities are eligible to apply, so we will update the website accordingly to make sure that that’s reflected. So, for instance, if a wastewater district wanted to apply, then they would be an eligible applicant. Great question.

Erik: Thanks. Then some questions about joint proposals. So will joint proposals submitted by either two or more companies or universities be considered under this DFO? So can a for-profit university—for-profit company and university—co-apply? Can you speak to that a little bit?

Beau: Do you want me to handle this one, Justin? Happy to.

Justin: Sure.

Beau: Okay, yes, that’s allowed. So, yeah, if there are multiple partners from—yeah, that’s fine. Ultimately, somebody’s going to have to be the, I guess, point-of-contact on the application, and it’s going to, ultimately, be like the prime applicant, but that’s something you can negotiate with your partner. But, yeah, no restriction on having multiple entities as applicants.

Erik: Great and are there any other guidelines or requirements for a joint application like that that people need to know about?

Beau: I would just say to make sure on the proposal template—you’ll see the budget. Make sure that it’s clear what—like if two different partners are providing cost share, what those contributions are. And, likewise, I think this is probably pretty obvious but saying what the expertise and role for involvement for both parties is. But no, there aren’t going to be any special requirements on those as long as, again, those are domestic entities. If there is a foreign entity, then, like I mentioned in the presentation, if that project is selected, that that will ultimately need to be reviewed by the Department of Energy for that technical service agreement to be executed. But otherwise, no other special requirements for application.

Erik: Well, great, and we do have a few more questions, and some specifically on research areas in particular. So the first one: Will this program be investigating the sequestration of carbon in biochar created in wood waste-to-energy processes? This is more of a specific kind of question?

Justin: So … it’s a possibility. I think that that would be one that I would want to see the presentation for to see what the expectations for areas of work and which area that it would fit into if we have the special expertise to handle it appropriately.

Erik: Okay so the presentation would be helpful?

Justin: Yeah.

Erik: Okay, great. And then another one on ASPEN, which is an acronym, ASPEN. Is NREL still using ASPEN to complement your work? If so, is NREL developing feedstock characteristic databases for use within ASPEN?

Justin: I know that we still are doing TEA modeling of the different characteristics of things. I don't know specifically if it’s ASPEN anymore. I apologize. That’s not my area of expertise. It is a possibility, I guess, that we could be using feedstock databases if that is an area, yeah.

Beau: I would also note with regards to that question that Idaho National Laboratory does have an extensive database of feedstock characteristics. So, for instance, if you were looking at—if you were looking for a bunch of different data on how does corn stover versus miscanthus versus some other feedstock, how do they compare in terms of particular analytes? They do have an extensive database. And if you Google “biomass feedstock library,” you’ll find the link, and that is housed at Idaho National Laboratory. Within the Bioenergy Technologies Office space, they certainly have that capability, so it’s a good question.

Erik: Okay so I think we do have one more. This one’s more kind of about eligibility. Will you support student training at NREL as part of this DFO?

Justin: I see it as within the realm of possibility, especially if we’re trying to work out the cost share portion of that. That could be a valuable tool for that, so I would say if it is part of the project and we can …

Beau: Okay, and then shifting back to kind of research areas again specifically, would projects to analyze algal biomass be considered?

Justin: It would depend on the specific speciation that you're attempting to do. We do have an algae group that is pretty established in what they do, and we can pull on their expertise. But I think it would need to fall into one of those three topic areas to really fit what it is that we’re looking to do with this. But I know the algae group has already done a lot of work for algal characterization, and so I wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat some of the work that they already have publicly available. So maybe, again, the presentation would be a good way to judge whether or not it’s a good fit.

Erik: Perfect. I’m not seeing any more questions at this point in time. If you have more, we do have a couple more minutes. Feel free to throw those in the chat. In the meantime, just a big thanks for Justin Sluiter and Beau Hoffman for taking the time to speak with us today and everyone for joining today. As a reminder, the webinar was recorded. We’re going to make that available along with the slides on NREL’s website using the link here on the screen. Also some contact information on there. If you have specific questions, they can follow up with that. And I do have one more question that came in and that is: So private entities are not allowed to be involved in this? A point of clarification.

Beau: Yeah, sure, so the purpose of this directed funding opportunity is to create analytical methods and analytical tools like rapid characterization methods on behalf of the industry. So we certainly will want and require external involvement in these projects. And so if your organization says, “I want help developing—I want help understanding how much of A, B, and C I have in this sample,” that’s what we want this program to do. We want to develop that method so that you don’t have to. Likewise, if you were saying, “Oh, we want to develop a sensor that can detect a particular constituent in an intermediate stream,” that’s something that this program is aimed to do. So private entities, as I mentioned, municipalities, academic institutions, we do want and expect the involvement of those entities so that the methods that we are creating are relevant to the broader bioenergy space. Justin, is there anything you’d like to add to that?

Justin: I think that captures it pretty well. We are looking to collaborate with the people that are in need of an analytical method that we can use to help the whole industry, if possible.

Erik: Well, very good. Again, thanks to both of you for sharing your time and describing this DFO opportunity a little bit more. Details on this slide. Thank you all for joining us today, and we hope you have a good rest of your day.

Beau: Thank you, everybody. Take care.