Pilot-scale biorefineries in California, Iowa and Washington will test renewable biofuels as a domestic alternative to power cars, trucks and planes following nearly $18 million in funding from the Department of Energy in April. Should the research achieve the goals of advancing biofuels technologies while bringing down costs, improving performance and identifying effective, non-food feedstocks and processing techniques, it could pay dividends for years to come.

Frontline Bioenergy LLCM in Ames, Iowa, will receive up to $4.2 million to produce samples of biofuels that meet military specifications. Frontline BioEnergy, along with its project partners SGC Energia, Stanley Consultants, and Delphi Engineering and Construction LLC, will build a pilot-scale reactor and integrate gas-conditioning processes with an existing unit currently capable of producing 1 barrel per day from woody biomass, municipal solid waste and refuse-derived fuel.

Together with its partners — the Naval Air Warfare China Lake Weapons Division, Show Me Energy Cooperative and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory — Cobalt Technologies, Mountain View, Calif., will operate a pilot-scale integrated biorefinery to convert switchgrass to bio-jet fuel. According to DOE, Cobalt will receive up to $2.5 million.

In Ferndale, Wash., Mercurius Biorefining Inc. will receive up to $4.6 million to build and operate a pilot plant that converts cellulosic biomass into non-sugar intermediates, which are further processed into drop-in bio-jet fuel and chemicals. Several organizations are participating in this consortium led by Mercurius Biorefining, including Purdue University, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Incitor.

Finally, BioProcess Algae in Shenandoah, Iowa, will receive up to $6.4 million to evaluate an algal growth platform that will produce hydrocarbon fuels meeting military specifications using renewable carbon dioxide, lignocellulosic sugars and waste heat. According to DOE, the facility also will co-produce additional products, including other hydrocarbons, glycerine and animal feed.

 As noted by the DOE when announcing the awards, recipients are required to contribute a minimum of 50 percent matching funds for these projects.