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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on January 23, 2023, that researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) examined the benefits and trade-offs of current and emerging technologies for recycling certain types of plastics to determine the optimal options. According to BETO, the researchers provided a comparison of various closed-loop recycling technologies, which allow for the reuse of plastic through mechanical and chemical reprocessing, eliminating the need for fossil-fuel-derived virgin materials. They considered technical metrics, such as the quality and retention of recycled plastics, as well as environmental metrics, including energy use and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. BETO and the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office provided funding for the research as part of the BOTTLE™ Consortium (Bio-Optimized Technologies to keep Thermoplastics out of Landfills and the Environment). The Consortium is a collaborative effort among industry, academia, national labs, and the government to change the way we recycle. More information is available in the January 2023 article “Technical, Economic, and Environmental Comparison of Closed-Loop Recycling Technologies for Common Plastics,” published in ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on January 20, 2023, that a collaborative team of BETO-funded scientists from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) are searching for carbon utilization technologies that can make better use of the carbon dioxide generated by industry, transportation, and agriculture by transforming it into sustainable aviation fuel and other useful products. According to BETO, the goal is to identify catalysts that can make beneficial products, such as sustainable aviation fuel, efficiently and selectively. BETO states that methanol has “rich potential for uses that contribute to lower greenhouse gas emissions and help in the fight against climate change.” It can generate electricity when used for fuel cells, serve as a heating fuel for boilers, or be used as a sustainable or blended fuel for road, marine, or (potentially) aviation. Additionally, methanol is used as a chemical industry feedstock for the synthesis of formaldehyde, acetic acid, and other health and life sciences products. BETO notes that the long-term challenge of the research will be scaling up scientific findings into commercial applications. With atmospheric carbon dioxide levels on the rise, “innovative research that finds ways to transform CO2 in the atmosphere into something positive is more important than ever.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on December 15, 2022, that it intends to issue two funding opportunity announcements (FOA) in early 2023. According to BETO, these potential FOAs, “Reducing Agricultural Carbon Intensity and Protecting Algal Crops” (RACIPAC) and the “2023 Conversion R&D,” will enable the sustainable use of domestic biomass and waste resources to produce biofuels and bioproducts, and to advance the Biden Administration’s goal of delivering an equitable, clean energy future that puts the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, no later than 2050. The prospective RACIPAC FOA would support high-impact research and development (R&D), focusing on reducing the carbon intensity of agricultural feedstocks, improving soil carbon levels, and protecting cultivated algae from pests under two areas of interest:

  • Climate-smart agricultural practices for low carbon intensity feedstocks; and
  • Algae crop protection.

The prospective 2023 Conversion R&D FOA would support the development of technologies that convert domestic lignocellulosic biomass and waste resources, including industrial syngas, into affordable biofuels and bioproducts that significantly reduce carbon emissions under two main areas of interest:

  • Overcoming barriers to syngas conversion; and
  • Strategic opportunities for decarbonization of the chemicals industry through biocatalysts.

According to BETO, both potential FOAs will help to meet the goals of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, which are to reduce aviation emissions by 20 percent by 2030 and produce sufficient sustainable aviation fuel to meet 100 percent of domestic aviation demand by 2050.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has postponed the webinar originally scheduled for December 13, 2022, on the “SAF Grand Challenge Roadmap: Soaring Towards Sustainable Fuel Production Goals.” According to BETO, the webinar will take place in early 2023. As reported in our November 29, 2022, blog item, the webinar will cover the six action areas that support the Grand Challenge’s goals of:

  • Reducing life cycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 50 percent compared to conventional fuel;
  • Producing enough sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050; and
  • Enhancing fuel sustainability.

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) Chemical Catalysis for Bioenergy Consortium (ChemCatBio) will hold a webinar on December 14, 2022, on what is ahead for the consortium. From 2020 to 2022, ChemCatBio’s research and development (R&D) focus was on improving carbon efficiency during catalytic conversion to drive down minimum fuel selling price. ChemCatBio states that now, with three more years of funding, it aims to develop and advance biomass and waste conversion technologies for hard-to-decarbonize fuels and chemicals to achieve greater than 70 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, and to provide foundational knowledge to address risks associated with catalyst/process durability and carbon efficiency. During the webinar, ChemCatBio Deputy Director Dan Ruddy will share highlights from the last three years of consortium R&D. He will then present plans for the next three years, focusing on process integration and fuel production with engineered catalysts.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and the Agile BioFoundry (ABF) will hold a webinar on September 22, 2022, highlighting technologies used by the ABF to accelerate biomanufacturing. According to BETO, the ABF consortium collaborates with industry and academia to develop technologies that enable commercially relevant biomanufacturing of sustainable bioproducts. During the webinar, attendees will hear from ABF scientists on how they use state-of-the-art machine learning, deep learning, testing, and modeling techniques to guide the bioengineering process and speed up bioproduct development.
 
The webinar will feature the following speakers:

  • Nathan Hillson, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the principal investigator of the ABF. Dr. Hillson leads the consortium’s Integrated Design-Build-Test-Learn task;
  • Taraka Dale, scientist and principal investigator at Los Alamos National Laboratory and co-lead of ABF’s Host Onboarding and Development task;
  • Hector Garcia Martin, staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and co-lead of ABF’s Learn subtask, and
  • Philip Laible, biophysicist at Argonne National Laboratory and co-lead of ABF’s Learn subtask.

Registration for the webinar is open. 


 

 By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
 
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on August 11, 2022, that a research team from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory investigated how potassium in biomass feedstocks poisons a catalyst. The researchers focused their study on potassium, a common alkali metal found in biomass feedstocks, since previous analysis of deactivated catalysts after catalytic fast pyrolysis (CFP) of woody biomass feedstock revealed potassium accumulation on the catalysts’ surface.
 
The research team simulated catalyst poisoning at different potassium levels to trigger deactivation during industrial operations. They then analyzed the catalysts and conducted kinetic measurements to determine how the catalysts’ ability to catalyze chemical reaction changed with the introduction of potassium. According to BETO, the team found potassium poisoning could be substantially mitigated with a developed regeneration method -- a water washing process -- that can successfully remove most of the loaded potassium, restoring more than 90 percent of the catalytic activities.
 
BETO states that the results of these studies provide new insights for the bioenergy industry that will foster improved catalyst design and regeneration for longer lasting catalysts. The studies also created “a solid knowledge base for developers of biomass conversion technologies to continue to build upon, making new and innovative conversion technologies less risky to research and develop.” According to BETO, the work “also supports accelerated process development that can help industry convert biomass feedstocks commercially, leading to more effective and inexpensive production of biofuels.”


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) announced on July 26, 2022, that it “has achieved a significant milestone in decreasing the minimum fuel selling price (MFSP) of drop-in biofuels, which are fuels made from biomass and other waste carbon sources, and that are compatible with existing petroleum fuel infrastructure and conventional vehicles.” BETO partnered with T2C-Energy, LLC (T2C) to validate pilot-scale production of drop-in biofuels with a price of $3 per gallon of gas equivalent (GGE) and at least 60 percent lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than petroleum, using T2C’s TRIFTS® process.
 
According to BETO, the TRIFTS process converts anaerobic digestor produced biogas (or landfill gas) to liquid transportation fuels. TRIFTS has allowed drop-in renewable diesel fuel to reach an MFSP of $2.91/GGE without the use of credits from the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), California Low Carbon Fuels Standard, or other carbon credits while reducing GHG emissions by 130 percent when compared to traditional petroleum diesel fuel.

Tags: DOE, BETO, Biofuel

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson 

On February 1, 2022, DOE EERE BETO issued two new requests for information (RFI) on biomass conversion R&D and community organic waste programs. The RFI titled “Biomass Conversion Research, Development, and Analysis Programs” focuses on biomass conversion R&D and seeks to address improved robustness of microbial cells, catalytic processes, and state-of-technology analyses in the BETO research portfolio. Through this program, BETO is interested in receiving feedback on barriers, capabilities, tools, and other general information needed to prioritize future R&D programs in the areas of organism and catalyst development. BETO also seeks input on which analyses are most useful to the broader bioenergy research and industrial community. Responses to this RFI must be submitted by March 11, 2022, and are required to be provided as an attachment via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

DOE EERE BETO’s RFI titled “Community-scale Resource and Energy Recovery from Waste Solutions” requests feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to community programs for organic waste. DOE EERE wishes to understand better which wastes related to economic, environmental, and social impacts are of highest priority to communities and how DOE can make its Conversion R&D program more effective in addressing these types of challenges. BETO is particularly interested in input on five different waste streams: dairy manure, swine manure, food waste, municipal wastewater residuals, and fats/oils/greases. Responses to this RFI must also be submitted by March 11, 2022, and provided as an attachment via e-mail to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). In lieu of providing written responses to this RFI, BETO is also accepting requests for a 30-minute individual discussion via e-mail. Additional information on both RFIs is available here.


 

By Lynn L. Bergeson and Ligia Duarte Botelho, M.A.

On January 13, 2022, DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), in collaboration with the Algae Foundation and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, opened the AlgaePrize competition for high school through graduate students in the United States. This new prize focuses on the development, design, and invention of algal technologies to help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions through algae commercialization. During the competition, teams will participate in an 18-month process of pursuing the technologies for algae production, downstream processing, and/or identification of novel products or tools. The AlgaePrize grand champion winner will receive a total of $20,000 cash prize.

The competition is open to teams of two or more students who are currently enrolled in an education program based in the United States. Students interested in participating in the competition must register by March 2, 2022. Additional information is available here.


 
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