Distribution Infrastructure and End Use

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In addition to the significant risks involved with scale-up of new biorefinery technology, other market barriers related to infrastructure and end use also limit the amount of advanced biofuel distributed. 

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE's) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) closely collaborates with DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration, the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuel Initiative, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other agencies. Together they work to: identify the opportunities and challenges associated with the development of new fuel specifications; assist stakeholders in the development and demonstration of optimized vehicle systems, new fuel compositions, and compatible infrastructure; and evaluate performance and material compatibility, as well as the environmental, health, and safety impacts of advanced biofuels and biofuel blends. These efforts also include co-development of engines and fuels to optimize vehicle performance, which is needed to achieve increased use of advanced biofuels in the U.S. transportation system.

The infrastructure is currently not adequate for distribution and dispensing of large volumes of new renewable fuels, commonly produced from biomass. This puts biofuels at a disadvantage compared to conventional liquid transportation fuels that have mature infrastructure. In the United States, for example, ethanol is currently transported predominantly by rail and truck. These transportation modes will need to be substantially enhanced with concomitant capital investments to avoid congestion issues over the coming decades, especially in the Midwest. 

Activities

Fuel development and blend testing: BETO is currently engaging with VTO, nine national laboratories, and industry on a first-of-its-kind research and development (R&D) effort to combine biofuels and combustion R&D, building on decades of advances in both fuels and engines. The Co-Optimization of Fuels & Engines (Co-Optima) initiative aims to simultaneously transform both transportation fuels and vehicles in order to maximize performance and energy efficiency, minimize environmental impact, and accelerate widespread adoption of innovative combustion strategies.

BETO also works closely with EPA, DOE national laboratories, and the Coordinating Research Council on fuel blend testing and research. More information on EPA's E15 waiver decision can be found on EPA's website

The BioEnergy Atlas: The BioEnergy Atlas is an interactive map used to compare existing and potential biomass feedstock locations with potential biorefinery locations and major product demand centers.

Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework (KDF): The Bioenergy KDF offers an integrated geographic information system (GIS) database of feedstocks, biorefinery locations, and infrastructure options. The Bioenergy KDF can help decision makers in industry and government make cost-effective infrastructure investments, identify optimal routing options, and create innovative infrastructure solutions.

For more information on Bioenergy Technologies Office infrastructure activities, please visit the BETO's Peer Review site.

Partnerships

BETO coordinates with federal agency stakeholders and state, industry, and academic experts to develop a safe, reliable, and cost-effective infrastructure for renewable fuels. BETO also works with the Clean Cities Program, uniting private and public sector stakeholders through outreach focused on the deployment of alternative fuels and infrastructure.