Energy Secretary Rick Perry announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected eight projects to negotiate for up to $15 million in total DOE funding to optimize integrated biorefineries. These projects will work to solve critical research and developmental challenges encountered for the successful scale-up and reliable operations of integrated biorefineries (IBRs), decrease capital and operating expenses and focus on the manufacture of advanced or cellulosic biofuels and higher-value bioproducts. These investments support the development of bioproducts, a workforce in bioenergy and help to spur the creation of a sustainable domestic bioeconomy.
This Integrated Biorefinery Optimization funding opportunity is coordinated and supported jointly between DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
Each of the selected IBR projects is focused on one or more of the following topic areas:
- Topic Area 1 -- Robust, continuous handling of solid materials (dry and wet feedstocks, biosolids and/or residual solids remaining in the process) and feeding systems to reactors under various operating conditions.
- Topic Area 2 -- High-value products from waste and/or other undervalued streams in an integrated biorefinery.
- Topic Area 3 -- Industrial separations within an integrated biorefinery (no projects have been selected from topic area 3).
- Topic Area 4 -- Analytical modeling of solid materials (dry and wet feedstocks and/or residual solids remaining in the process) and reactor feeding systems.
“The Integrated Biorefinery Optimization effort is a prime example of how the Department of Energy can leverage its resources to help solve real-world issues facing biorefineries,” Perry said. “These projects have the potential to increase the efficiency of producing biofuels and bioproducts, enabling the United States to better utilize its abundant biomass resources, boost economic development and advance U.S. competitiveness in the global energy market.”
Under Topic Area 1 (DOE selection):
- Thermochemical Recovery International Inc. (Baltimore, Md.) — Thermochemical Recovery International (TRI) will study and improve feedstock and residual solids handling systems targeted to commercial pyrolysis and gasification reactors. TRI’s work in these systems will promote feedstock flexibility and enable the processing of low-cost feedstock to enhance IBRs’ economic viability.
Under Topic Area 2 (DOE selections):
- Texas A&M Agrilife Research (College Station, Texas) — Texas A&M will work on achieving a multi-stream integrated biorefinery (MIBR), where lignin-containing IBR waste will be fractionated to produce lipid for biodiesel, asphalt binder modifier, and quality carbon fiber. The MIBR will improve IBR sustainability and cost-effectiveness.
- White Dog Labs (New Castle, Del.) — White Dog Labs’ project will use the residual cellulosic sugars in cellulosic stillage syrup to produce single-cell protein (SCP) for aquaculture feed. Currently, the syrup content is used for biogas production and as the solid fuel for boilers. The SCP is a higher-value product that could be generated from an existing stream and could enhance the economic feasibility of IBRs.
- South Dakota School of Mines (Rapid City, S.D.) — The South Dakota School of Mines will demonstrate the cost-effective production of biocarbon, carbon nanofibers, polylactic acid, and phenol from the waste streams generated from the biochemical platform technology. These products will generate revenue for IBRs and help lower the fuel cost from these facilities.
Under Topic Area 4 (DOE selections):
- National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colo.) — The National Renewable Energy Laboratory will leverage and extend state-of-the-art modeling and simulation tools to develop integrated simulations for feed handling and reactor feeding systems. The experimentally validated simulation toolkit will be generalized to aid in optimizing and de-risking biomass conversion processes that use these common feed handling and reactor feeding units. The toolkit will also provide correlations to adjust optimal operating conditions based on feedstock parameters.
- Clemson University (Clemson, S.C.) — Clemson University will develop analytical tools to identify an optimal IBR process design for the reliable, cost-effective, sustainable and continuous feeding of biomass feedstocks into a reactor.
- Purdue University (West Lafayette, Ind.) — Purdue University aims to develop strong, innovative computational and empirical models that rigorously detail the multi-phase flow of biomass materials. Purdue University will characterize physical, structural and compositional properties of biomass feedstocks and compare results of these models with actual flow behavior of biomass materials within a biorefinery.
- Forest Concepts (Auburn, Wash.) — Forest Concepts proposes to develop robust feedstock handling modeling and simulation tools based on systematic analysis. The team will develop and validate a comprehensive computational model to predict mechanical and rheological behavior of biomass flow to enable reliable design of biomass handling systems.