Technologies to produce biofuels, bioenergy and high-value bio-based products are the focus of projects selected for more than $24 million in federal grants. Advanced biofuels produced through the funding are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent compared to fossil fuels.

Projects selected for awards include:
  • Yenkin-Majestic Paint Corp., Columbus, Ohio, up to $1,800,000, to demonstrate, at scale, the operation of a dry fermentation system that uses pre- and post-consumer food wastes, waste sawdust, grass, leaves, stumps and other forms of wood waste to produce biogas, heat and electrical power. Yenkin-Majestic will use the products to demonstrate a distributed stand-alone system for the operation of a large industrial facility.

  • Velocys Inc., Plain City, Ohio, up to $2,651,612, to improve biorefinery economics through microchannel hydroprocessing. The project will explore the capabilities of heat and mass transfer inherent in microchannel reactor technology with advanced catalysts to intensify chemical processes. The technology is expected to provide more efficient conversion of cellulosic residues to liquid transportation fuels.

  • Exelus Inc., Livingston, N.J., up to $1,200,000, to develop a biomass-to-gasoline (BTG) technology. The technology uses engineered catalysts that facilitate new reaction pathways to liquid motor fuels from biomass, which the agencies propose could represent a fundamental shift in process chemistry and the overall approach to creating biofuels. The BTG process replaces conventional high-temperature processes like gasification and pyrolysis with a series of mild, low-temperature reactions. The self-contained process uses minimal water and no acids or chemical additives.

  • Agrivida, Medford, Mass., up to $1,953,128, to develop new crop traits that eliminate the need for pretreatment equipment and enzymes. Transgenic switchgrass will be engineered with cell-wall-degrading proenzymes that are dormant when the plant is in the field. They will activate after harvest under processing conditions with specific temperature and pH.

  • Gevo Inc., Englewood, Colo., up to $1,780,862, to develop a yeast fermentation organism that can cost-effectively convert cellulosic-derived sugars into isobutanol, a second-generation biofuel/bio-based product. As an advanced biofuel, isobutanol strikes a unique balance between high octane content and low vapor pressure. It can be converted into hydrocarbons and, as a bio-based product, it can be used as a chemical precursor for high-value products such as isobutylene and PET plastic products.

  • Itaconix, Hampton Falls, N.H., up to $1,861,488, to develop production of polyitaconic acid from Northeast hardwood biomass, using an integrated extraction-fermentation-polymerization process. Polyitaconic acid is a water-soluble polymer with a 2 million metric ton per year market potential as a replacement for petrochemical dispersants, detergents and super-absorbents.
The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Energy, which jointly issued the grants, stipulated that the projects must contribute a minimum of 20 percent of matching funds for research and development projects and 50 percent of matching funds for demonstration projects. DOE plans to invest up to $4.9 million with USDA contributing up to $19.5 million. Funding is provided through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and DOE's Biomass Program.