Advanced Development and Optimization

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Aerial view of POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY biorefinery in Emmetsburg, Iowa

The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) Advanced Development and Optimization (ADO) subprogram is focused on lowering the risk of bioenergy production technologies through verified proof of performance at the pilot or lower scales, thereby facilitating further development and validation at demonstration and pioneer scales by private stakeholders.

Engineering-Scale System Testing for the ADO Portfolio

The ADO portfolio includes development of first-of-a-kind engineering-scale systems that will be tested in relevant environments. Funded projects will typically be integrated technology verifications, where a system or component is tested at the engineering scale for the first time in an experimental prototype. Realistically, it’s expected that after testing, additional applied research refinements will be needed. Those refinements will be fed back into BETO’s R&D following a successful development phase. Verifying these technologies at smaller, partially integrated scales is essential to reduce risk and technology uncertainty, and will enable applied R&D programs to reduce costs and improve performance in feedstock and conversion processes.

Support of the integrated testing and pilot-scale work will continue through the ADO subprogram. BETO plans to leverage previous investments in integrated process development, pilot-scale, and systems research capabilities at universities, as well as at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) national laboratories including the:

For more information on BETO’s past IBR projects, visit the Integrated Biorefineries Map.

ADO Workshop's Impact on the Bioeconomy

To inform the program’s future direction, BETO hosted the ADO Workshop on Dec. 12-13, 2017, in Golden, Colorado. BETO sought stakeholder assistance in identifying R&D opportunities to optimize the ADO Program’s impact on the evolving bioeconomy.

Workshop breakout sessions focused on identifying and prioritizing barriers related to advancing technologies from early-stage R&D (TRLs 1–3) through mid-stage R&D (TRLs 4–6). BETO was also interested in feedback related to how mid-stage R&D helps to identify research areas that need to be recycled back to earlier TRLs for further development. Workshop participants heard presentations covering the resources and facilities available at our national labs, and breakout groups further discussed potential opportunities to leverage these facilities and assets to advance technology development.

Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Co-Optimization of Fuels and Engines (Co-Optima) initiative accelerates the introduction of efficient, clean, affordable, and scalable high‐performance fuels and engines. This effort brings together national laboratories, universities, and industry stakeholders to simultaneously tackle fuel and engine R&D and maximize light‐, medium‐, and heavy‐duty vehicle fuel economy and performance while:

  • Mapping lower‐cost pathways to reduce emissions
  • Leveraging diverse domestic fuel resources
  • Boosting U.S. economic productivity
  • Enhancing national energy security

Biopower

Biopower technologies convert renewable biomass feedstocks into heat and electricity using processes similar to those used with fossil fuels. In partnership with the Alliance for Green Heat, BETO helped fund the fourth Wood Stove Design Challenge to encourage inventors, universities, and manufacturers to design an integrated thermoelectric generator and wood stove optimized for both home heat and electrical power output. The teams and exhibitors showcased their revolutionary wood stove technology on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 9–14, 2018. The event was free and open to the public and finalists engaged with policymakers, industry, and experts in the renewable energy community.

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Integrated Biorefineries

a screenshot of the BETO Integrated Biorefineries Map

The interactive map above highlights past biorefinery projects that BETO has funded at pilot, demonstration, and pioneer scales. BETO’s Advanced Development and Optimization subprogram will continue to manage these existing projects to completion.

A crucial step in developing the U.S. bioindustry is to establish first-of-a-kind integrated biorefineries that are capable of efficiently converting a broad range of biomass feedstocks into commercially viable biofuels, biopower, and other bioproducts. Similar to conventional refineries, integrated biorefineries produce a range of products to optimize the use of feedstocks and production economics. Iowa-based POET-DSM was a past recipient of DOE funding for its pioneer-scale IBR, which celebrated its grand opening in 2014. POET-DSM’s Project LIBERTY is located in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and once operational at full commercial scale, the facility will produce 25 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.

Co-products can include chemicals (or other materials), animal feed, and heat and power. The renewable feedstocks utilized in integrated biorefineries include the following:

  • Energy crops, such as switchgrass, miscanthus, willow, and poplar
  • Agricultural, forest, and industrial residues, such as bagasse, stover, straws, forest thinnings, sawdust, and paper mill waste
  • Algae and other microorganisms

Aviation Fuels

DOE recognizes that biofuels can play a critical role in the aviation industry. The commercial aviation industry and the military both have goals to increase domestic renewable jet fuel supply. To reach these targets, BETO works with related agencies, national laboratories, industry stakeholders, and airline partners to develop research opportunities for renewable aviation fuels. BETO, specifically, advances alternative jet biofuels through R&D in feedstocks and fuel conversion.

Aviation Fuels Partnerships

BETO routinely collaborates on strategic activities meant to advance renewable jet fuels and develop the aviation market. This includes the following:

  • The Defense Production Act Title III Advanced Drop-In Biofuels Production Program, in partnership with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
  • Farm to Fly 2.0, a partnership with USDA, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration, and major aviation industry partners, including the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative

ADO-Related Funding

Under the Defense Production Act, DOE is co-funding the construction of two integrated biorefineries that will have the capacity to produce hydrocarbon fuels that meet military specifications for JP-5 (jet fuel used primarily by the U.S. Navy), JP-8 (jet fuel used primarily by the U.S. Air Force), or F-76 (diesel). Over the past two years, BETO has contributed $90 million to this effort. The current commitment from this interagency collaboration is $140 million among the two biorefineries: Fulcrum Bioenergy, and Red Rock Biofuels. The two projects recently reached financial close and will move to the second phase, construction of the biorefinery facilities.

BETO has also helped fund a collaboration between Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and LanzaTech to advance a technology that converts ethanol from gas fermentation to drop-in jet fuel through established thermochemical conversion pathways. In September 2016, they announced a significant milestone—production of 1,500 gallons of renewable jet fuel from industrial waste gases.  On October 2, 2018, this team accomplished the world’s first commercial flight using their ground-breaking sustainable aviation fuel made from recycled waste carbon gases, produced at a LanzaTech facility in Georgia. The flight from Orlando, Florida to London, England was a key milestone on the trajectory to renewable jet fuel. 

ADO Workshops

In September 2016, BETO hosted the Alternative Aviation Fuel Workshop to advance the understanding of current opportunities to increase the competitiveness of renewable jet fuels. DOE also supported the Jet Fuels & Engine Co-Optimization Workshop held Sept. 21-22, 2017 in Cleveland, Ohio. The workshop was motivated by DOE’s interest in gathering insights and perspectives from a broad community regarding U.S. energy production and use. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration along with the Department of Defense helped facilitate this process. The JET workshop focused on four topic areas:

  • High Performance Fuel (HPF) Options
  • Engine and Combustor Options
  • Aircraft On-Board HPF Considerations
  • HPF Development to Deployment Considerations.

To view related meetings and workshops, visit the Meetings and Workshops web page.

Through these partnerships and activities, BETO is helping to make sustainable, cost-competitive biofuel a reality for the aviation industry.

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