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The DOE Funding Recipients

I am so far behind on the things that I have been intending to write. It is hard to believe that it has already been over a week since the most recent US DOE biorefinery grants were announced. I have been meaning to list them and comment, but I have finally decided just to list them without too much comment. Let’s just say that some of these names have been around for a while and have issued a lot of press releases, but they haven’t produced any biofuel.

The reason for keeping my comments to a minimum is that I have potential conflicts of one sort or another with several of these companies or projects. Sometimes it is just that I know some of the people involved; in other cases it is more complicated than that. But I don’t want to be accused of possible conflicts of interest by getting into some of the names/technologies that I am surprised to see listed. I know that there were also a number of high profile companies (i.e., they issue a lot of press releases) who did not make the cut.

It is probably worth a future post to check into the six prospective cellulosic ethanol plants funded by the DOE in February 2007 (see the list at the bottom of my post here). As far as I know only one – Broin/POET – has completed a project from those funds that is producing cellulosic ethanol.

Below is the list of recent award recipients, from A(lgenol) to Z(eachem), as compiled by Biofuels Digest (the list/description is verbatim from the DOE announcement, but the original DOE link is offline right now). I embedded links to all of the companies. There were nineteen projects awarded, for a grant total of up to $564 million.

And if you ever wondered how the DOE determines the winners and losers, the New York Times did an interesting story on that a few days ago:

How DOE Dealt With a ‘Tsunami’ of Clean-Tech Applicants

The outpouring of grants — and the preponderance of unsuccessful applicants — has stirred curiosity and some complaints over the DOE rating process.

The review involved a series of screening steps that included technology capability, job creation, likelihood of success, and ability to generate matching funds, DOE says.

Rogers was asked whether DOE would make public the winners’ applications and the review teams’ analysis, to shed more light on the decision-making.

“Our plan is not to make that public. First off, all of the [private-sector] reviewers are doing this as a matter of public service, and we don’t need to draw them into getting interviewed about every application.”

The Winners

Bluefire Ethanol
DOE Grant: $81,134,686
Non-fed funding: $223,227,314

Fulton, MS: This project will construct a facility that produces ethanol fuel from woody biomass, mill residue, and sorted municipal solid waste. The facility will have the capacity to produce 19 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Demonstration Scale

BioEnergy International
DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $89,589,188

Lake Providence, LA: This project will biologically produce succinic acid from sorghum. The process being developed displaces petroleum based feedstocks and uses less energy per ton of succinic acid produced than its petroleum counterpart.

Enerkem
DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $90,470,217

Pontotoc, MS: This project will be sited at an existing landfill and use feedstocks such as woody biomass and biomass removed from municipal solid waste to produce ethanol and other green chemicals through gasification and catalytic processes.

INEOS New Planet BioEnergy
DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $50,000,000

Vero Beach, FL: This project will produce ethanol and electricity from wood and vegetative residues and construction and demolition materials. The facility will combine biomass gasification and fermentation, and will have the capacity to produce 8 million gallons of ethanol and 2 megawatts of electricity per year by the end of 2011.

Sapphire Energy
DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $85,064,206

Columbus, NM: This project will cultivate algae in ponds that will ultimately be converted into green fuels, such as jet fuel and diesel, using the Dynamic Fuels refining process.

Pilot and Demonstration Scale FOA – Pilot Scale

Algenol Biofuels
DOE grant: $25,000,000
Other funding: $33,915,478

Freeport, TX: This project will make ethanol directly from carbon dioxide and seawater using algae. The facility will have the capacity to produce 100,000 gallons of fuel grade ethanol per year.

American Process
DOE grant: $17,944,902
Other funding: $10,148,508

Alpena, MI: This project will produce fuel and potassium acetate, a compound with many industrial applications, using processed wood generated by Decorative Panels International, an existing hardboard manufacturing facility in Alpena. The pilot plant will have the capacity to produce up to 890,000 gallons of ethanol and 690,000 gallons of potassium acetate per year starting in 2011.

Amyris Biotechnologies
DOE grant: $25,000,000
Other funding: $10,489,763

Emeryville, CA: This project will produce a diesel substitute through the fermentation of sweet sorghum. The pilot plant will also have the capacity to co-produce lubricants, polymers, and other petro-chemical substitutes.

Archer Daniels Midland
DOE funding: $24,834,592
Other funding: $10,946,609

Decatur, IL: This project will use acid to break down biomass which can be converted to liquid fuels or energy. The ADM facility will produce ethanol and ethyl acrylate, a compound used to make a variety of materials, and will also recover minerals and salts from the biomass that can then be returned to the soil.

Clearfuels Technology
DOE funding: $23,000,000
Other funding: $13,433,926

Commerce City, CO: This project will produce renewable diesel and jet fuel from woody biomass by integrating ClearFuels’ and Rentech’s conversion technologies. The facility will also evaluate the conversion of bagasse and biomass mixtures to fuels.

Elevance Renewable Sciences
DOE funding: $2,500,000
Non-Fed funding: $625,000

Newton IA: This project was selected to complete preliminary engineering design for a future facility producing jet fuel, renewable diesel substitutes, and high value chemicals from plant oils and poultry fat.

Gas Technology Institute
DOE funding: $2,500,000
Non-Fed funding: $625,000

Des Plaines, IL. This project was selected to complete preliminary engineering design for a novel process to produce green gasoline and diesel from woody biomass, agricultural residues, and algae.

Haldor Topsoe
DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $9,701,468

Des Plaines, IL. This project will convert wood to green gasoline by fully integrating and optimizing a multi?step gasification process. The pilot plant will have the capacity to process 21 metric tons of feedstock per day.

ICM
DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $6,268,136

St. Joseph, MO. This project will modify an existing corn ethanol facility to produce cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and energy sorghum using biochemical conversion processes.

Logos Technologies
DOE funding: $20,445,849
Non-Fed funding: $5,113,962

Visalia, CA. This project will convert switchgrass and woody biomass into ethanol using a biochemical conversion processes.

Renewable Energy Institute International
DOE funding: $19,980,930

Non-Fed funding: $5,116,072

Toledo, OH. This project will produce high quality green diesel from agriculture and forest residues using advanced pyrolysis and steam reforming. The pilot plant will have the capacity to process 25 dry tons of feedstock per day.

Solazyme
DOE funding: $21,765,738
Non-Fed funding: $3,857,111

Riverside PA. This project will validate the projected economics of a commercial scale biorefinery producing multiple advanced biofuels. This project will produce algae oil that can be converted to oil based fuels.

Honeywell’s UOP
DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $6,685,340

Kapolei, HI. This project will integrate existing technology from Ensyn and UOP to produce green gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from agricultural residue, woody biomass, dedicated energy crops, and algae.

ZeaChem
DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $625,000

Boardman, OR: This project will use purpose grown hybrid poplar trees to produce fuel-grade ethanol using hybrid technology. Additional feedstocks such as agricultural residues and energy crops will also be evaluated in the pilot plant.

December 14, 2009 Posted by | Amyris, DOE, solazyme, zeachem | 31 Comments

Slides from the Pacific Rim Summit

I am hopping on a plane again today, this time bound for the Orlando Energy Conference. The topic I will present is An Overview of Global Energy Issues. Good thing they asked for something easy and non-controversial. 🙂

This is the last trip I have scheduled for this year, and I am hoping not to have to travel again for a while. Following Orlando, I will spend a few days at the family farm in Oklahoma, where Internet access has yet to make an appearance. Therefore, I will be slow to return e-mails and respond to comments. If all goes according to plan I will be back in Hawaii on November 21st (after having missed my wife’s birthday for the 4th consecutive year).

I quite enjoyed the presentations at the Pacific Rim Summit. I got to talk to a lot of people about what they were doing, and I got to hear the latest from the algae and cellulosic ethanol camps. With the exception of the guys doing algae fermentations, the mood wasn’t great as the challenges of turning cellulose into ethanol and algae into fuel start to manifest themselves. Like I have said before, we have been trying to commercially make ethanol from cellulose for 100 years. There were multiple panels going on simultaneously, though, and I didn’t get to see all of them. Maybe the news in some of the other panels was better.

Then there is Joule Biotechnologies. They gave one of the talks at lunch one day. To say people are skeptical is an understatement. I don’t really know what to make of them. I can’t find enough information yet to give them a really thorough critique, but I am not a big fan of issuing press releases following lab tests. Note that they haven’t yet advanced to pilot scale (that comment came out during the talk – that they were moving toward piloting), and they are already making pretty bold claims about yield, cost, and solving the energy crisis. Personally, I think I would wait to see how these things scale. As one cellulosic ethanol executive commented this past week, “These things don’t scale like you think they should.” That’s right, they don’t. That’s why most technologies don’t make it out of the lab. Always better to make conservative claims and then deliver beyond expectations than to make wild claims and fall short.

Anyway, here are the slides I presented at the Pacific Rim Summit. There is some overlap with what I presented at the First Nations’ Futures Program at Stanford University on September 27th, but there are a number of new slides there.

At some point I will probably write some posts around the theme of these slides, throwing in my notes pages to put the slides in context. To put these slides in some sort of context, here were three of the slides and the notes I had jotted down for them. From the Outline slide:

We have talked a lot about sustainability this week. I must have heard that word a few dozen times the past couple of days. So who in here lives sustainably? We don’t, and our parents didn’t. Some of our grandparents may have, but for the most part they didn’t either. As a society, it has been a very long time since we lived sustainably.

So, why is it important then? I once had a friend say “There really is no need to worry too much about sustainability. Mother Nature will ultimately resolve the problem.” The problem with that statement is that I might not like how Mother Nature solves the problem. Hence, it is important to move toward sustainability voluntarily.

From the Coming to Grips slide:

I am presently reading Big Coal by Jeff Goodell. Jeff opens with a comment that I think captures the nature of the problem we face. When we go to the gas station or turn on a light switch, we don’t have to face the consequences of our dependence – the externalities. The consequences are there nonetheless, as Pat Gruber of Gevo noted yesterday when he said “There’s mercury in our fish, and I don’t like that.”

Our actions have consequences. Who said that? My oldest son can tell you. He hears that all the time, because he doesn’t always connect the fact that when he takes certain actions, sometimes there are bad consequences. The difference between him and the person filling up with gas is he does get to face them immediately.

I also don’t know who said that last one – Deal with reality or reality will deal with you – but again it’s like something I tell my kids. The future is coming whether you plan for it or not. If you plan for it, you tilt the odds in your favor.

From the slide My Paradigm:

We all view the world through a set of lenses. These are my lenses, and they shape my opinions. I know where we are, but I want to know where we are going to be in 3 , 5, 20 years from now. I believe that we will end up paying a lot more for oil than we do now. I often point out to people that consumers in Europe pay the equivalent of $250/bbl for oil. Thus, I believe the technologies will need to compete against a higher future oil price.

We are burning fossil fuels at an unsustainable rate, and we have gotten away with it for a century. We won’t get away with it for another century.

As competition for biomass heats up, low-cost biomass is going to vanish. If your business model is based on tipping fees, then I don’t believe that’s a sustainable model. Jim Imbler from Zeachem commented yesterday that Macdonald’s in San Francisco used to pay to have their waste grease hauled off. A lot of people starting making their own biodiesel, and now not only does MacDonald’s charge for the grease, but the mob is stealing it. That’s my long-term view of biomass, and that theme has been repeated all week. You better lock in your feedstock. You don’t have the same luxury as an oil company to switch to a supplier halfway around the world. The energy density of biomass makes that proposition problematic.

Finally, those “renewable” solutions that are heavily dependent upon fossil fuels won’t compete. More on that later.

Anyway, off to the airport now. Probably no new posts from me for a week.

November 14, 2009 Posted by | algae, algal biodiesel, cellulosic ethanol, gevo, presentations, zeachem | 46 Comments