Eric Ringle, National Renewable Energy Laboratory:
Well, hello, everyone and welcome to today's webinar, "Bioenergy: Growing America's Energy Future." I'm Eric Ringle from the National Renewable Energy Lab, but before we dive in I'd like to go over our agenda and introduce today's speakers. But first we'll talk about a few housekeeping items so you know how you can participate in today's events.
During the webinar you will be in listen-only mode. You can select audio connection options to listen through your computer audio or dial into your phone. For the best connection, we do recommend calling into your phone line. If you have technical difficulties today or you just need help during today's session, you can use the chat section to reach me. The chat section appears as a comment bubble in your control panel. We'd like to get your feedback, so we'll be conducting a few polls during today's webinar. You'll see the poll question appear on your screen with options to select an answer. We are also recording this webinar. It will be posted on the webinar section of the Bioenergy Technologies Office website at a later date. This webinar, including all audio and images of participants and presentation materials, may be recorded, saved, edited, distributed, used internally, posted on the U.S. Department of Energy's website, or otherwise made publicly available. If you continue to access this webinar and provide such audio or image content, you consent to such use by or on behalf of DOE and the government for government purposes and acknowledge that you will not expect or approve or be compensated for such use.
The webinar today will cover three main items. We will begin with an overview of the Bioenergy Technologies Office, or BETO. We will then learn about BETO leadership, and finally BETO leadership will discuss several high=priority bioenergy topics. So with that, I would like to kick things off by introducing our three speakers today.
Dr. Valerie Sarisky-Reed is the acting director of the Bioenergy Technologies Office in the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. In this role she manages efforts to improve performance, lower costs, and accelerate market entry of bioenergy technologies. She assists in overseeing strategic planning to meet aggressive goals covered by the BETO R&D budget of approximately 250 million dollars annually, working with Department of Energy national labs, academia, and industry. She has more than 28 years of experience in addressing energy and environmental issues faced by the United States and globally. In addition to her programmatic activities, she is a founding member of the Metabolic Engineering Working Group chartered by Biotechnology Research Subcommittee, an interagency coordinating committee under the Office of Science and Technology Policy. She spent two years serving in the Chief Sciences Office at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, hoping to build bridges between that department and the U.S. Department of Energy in support of the bioeconomy. Dr. Sarisky-Reed holds a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Georgetown and is a graduate of the Department of Commerce's Senior Executive Service Center Career Development Program.
Our second speaker is Dr. Jay Fitzgerald, who is the chief scientist for the Bioenergy Technologies Office. In that role he helps to guide scientific program and direction for overcoming challenges in the conversion of biomass and waste into low-carbon fuels, chemicals, and materials. He specifically focuses on synthetic biology, performance advanced bioproducts, and chemical and biological conversion of plastics. Dr. Fitzgerald was previously an American Association for the Advancement of Science Science and Technology Policy Fellow at the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. He completed his Ph.D. in organic chemistry at Stanford University with Professor Chaitan Khalsa, focusing on the biosynthesis of medicinally useful polyketides. He also holds a B.A. in biochemistry and a minor in economics from Middlebury College.
Lastly, Dr. Reyhaneh Shenassa joined the Bioenergy Technologies Office in March 2021 to serve as the chief engineer. In this role she is working on addressing key challenges to the integration and scale-up of bioenergy technologies. Specifically she is responsible for developing and leading the execution of the office's research and development strategy for identifying and reducing technology integration and scaleup barriers. For over 20 years Dr. Shenassa worked with Valmet, a global developer and supplier of process technologies, automation, and services for the pulp, paper, and energy industries. She served as the R&D manager in Valmet's North American office. She was also the R&D project manager for Valmet fortune's joint development project for production of transportation fuels from biomass. Dr. Shenassa obtained applied science [audio lost] University of Technology in Tehran, Iran, and her master of applied sciences and Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the University of Toronto, Canada. She has been an adjunct professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Chemistry at the University of Toronto since 2014. So without further ado, I will pass over to Dr. Sarisky-Reed to get things going.
Valerie Sarisky-Reed, Bioenergy Technologies Office:
Thank-you very much, Eric. Our economy is built on carbon. It surrounds us in all manner of products that we use to improve our everyday lives. A low-carbon economy doesn't mean we have to give all of that up. These products such as plastics and liquid transportation fuels make our lives better, and if we consider how we use carbon and what the source of that carbon is, we can continue to create a better way of using and reusing that carbon so that we can meet our needs more sustainably and support both our economy and our environment. This is what we call the emerging bioeconomy. Just like this barrel of oil here, it enables many different products from the single feed stock source. Additional sources of carbon such as biomass or waste can provide for an array of products efficiently and effectively, from the ethanol that we're using today to drive our cars to performance enhanced polymers. That is, these polymers that make up fibers and plastics today but are enhanced because we're using biomass instead. Next slide, please.
So a carbon-based economy is really an opportunity. Rather than continuing to use fossil fuels and fossil carbon -- these are released after millions and millions of years into our atmosphere -- we can choose to use carbon that is renewable or grown right now, used and recycled back into the growing cycle. Engineering systems to use this renewable carbon consistently and efficiently is what will enable our economy to function as a tool to manage carbon on an industrial scale. BETO funds research development and demonstration activities that are working to reduce the cost of producing biofuels and bioproducts from renewable carbon, whether the source of the carbon is a purpose-grown biomass or a waste that we need to get rid of. The vision of the bioeconomy supports American jobs, particularly in rural economies, and encourages the best investment across the nation. The U.S. has the potential to become a world leader here as we transition to a bioeconomy, and it will advance our U.S. competitiveness in global energy and bioproduct manufacturing. Ultimately this will improve the quality of lives for Americans. Next slide, please.
The Bioenergy Technologies Office is the largest government-funded program focused on the production of renewable fuels and chemicals from biomass and waste. We work closely with other programs such as our own DOE Office of Science, but also through the Biomass R&D Board, which is an interagency collaboration of agencies focused on bringing about the bioeconomy. We meet regularly with NSF, USDA, the Department of Defense and Transportation, EPA, and others. This ensures that our work is collaborative and integrated. Next slide, please.
Here you can see BETO's vision and mission statement. Overall BETO focuses on reducing risk through the development of a broad array of technologies that enable industrial investment in scaling up and commercializing integrated biorefineries. We work closely with our national labs as well as forming public-private partnerships with key stakeholders in industry and academia. This enables our research and development technologies to be top-notch and enable us to meet our goals. Our work begins with fundamental discovery in the science and engineering disciplines and develops technologies through applied research. We then work with our partners to scale up these technologies, validating and demonstrating industrial readiness so that they can be commercialized. Next slide, please.
The DOE national laboratories are core within the bioenergy technologies research and development program. BETO and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy have a commitment to long-term stewardship of laboratory core capabilities that are enabling meaningful collaborations and accomplishments to tie into our mission. On an annual basis BETO provides about half of our funds for research going on in the national labs, and these projects have led to key findings and technology breakthroughs that are driving further investment towards the bioeconomy. BETO regularly funds Argonne National Lab, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. To achieve more significant industrial impact BETO emphasizes bringing technologies to market through targeted activities. We use funding opportunities to attract industry as well as brought the brightest researchers out there to direct us as we advance our mission. Next slide, please.
Of course we do need to measure our progress and ensure we're working toward a commercial reality. BETO focuses on technologies that demonstrate and deploy high-performing drop-in biofuels and renewable chemicals. Our current near-term target cost is three dollars per gallon gasoline equivalent, with an ultimate target of two dollars a gallon in order to ensure that we're as cost-effective as we can be. Our product suite must meet greenhouse gas reductions of 50 percent or more in the near term, and our long-term goal is 70 to 80 percent. Our portfolio addresses technology uncertainty at each stage of the supply chain, that is the biomass feedstock, supply pre-treatment conversion, and final product recovery. Each of those steps involve a number of barriers that we must overcome. A few of the most significant challenges include number one, the cost that I already mentioned, but also the variability of the feedstock supply. This makes handling of feedstocks, biomass feeding, sizing, and moisture content critical parameters. We need multiple pre-treatment methods and catalysts that we can use for a conversion of a variety of substances. This is by no means the entire scope of the barriers we face. The feedstock supply effort focuses on RD&D to develop cost-effective, integrated logistics systems. So this includes the growing, harvesting, collecting, storing, pre-process, handling, and transport of quality feedstocks to the biorefinery. Our conversion R&D focuses on biochemical conversion, as well as thermochemical conversion processes. We work with sugars, lipids, and gaseous intermediates, and then we follow that up by upgrading these to final fuels and chemicals. The systems demonstration and integration program is focused on demonstrating and validating these technologies through a successful construction and operation of cost-shared pilot and demonstration scale by refineries. Very important to our overall work is sustainability, and this is where we work proactively to address sustainability issues as we advance bioenergy. It enables us to ensure we have benefits, public acceptance, and long-term viability. Next slide, please.
So this was my overview of our program for today. I want to again welcome everyone to our Earth Day webinar. It is our desire to help the audience here become familiar with the work that we do and join us in helping make the bioeconomy a reality. As I mentioned or as was mentioned in my bio, I am the acting director for the Bioenergy Technologies Office. I started my career at DOE 28 years ago looking at biomass as a possible resource to displace petroleum. Not much was going on back then, but we've really come a long way. Biomass is used in 10 percent of our current gasoline supply, and there are many more routes under development to create diesel fuels from this resource. Like any good director I surround myself with really smart people, and two of them are here with us today. Let me first introduce our chief scientist, Dr. Jay Fitzgerald. Jay?
Jay Fitzgerald, Bioenergy Technologies Office:
Hey, thank you so much, Valerie. I'm really excited to be here today to talk with you all about bioenergy and my new role as chief scientist for the office. As Eric said, I have a background in organic chemistry and engineering microbes to produce valuable fuels and products, and I bring that desire to change the way that we do manufacturing to my role in the Bioenergy Office. I've been here about seven years. I'm mostly working in the conversion program and recently transitioned into the chief scientist role and the program manager for our data modeling and analysis program. My primary role as the chief scientist is to help guide our office's R&D to focus on the most impactful issues in producing biofuels and bioproducts in a sustainable way. To do that involves discussions with a lot of you all out there in academia, in industry, and international laboratories to understand what the cutting edge of biotechnology research is and how we can really achieve the best results with our funding. Growing the bioeconomy to change the way that we make these fuels and products is to be more sustainable, and to lower our overall greenhouse gas impact takes a variety of approaches and new ideas. And I'm excited to talk about a few of those with you all today. I'd now like to turn it over to our chief engineer, Dr. Reyhaneh Shenassa, to introduce herself. Reyhaneh?
Reyhaneh Shenassa, Bioenergy Technologies Office:
Thank you, Jay. Hello, everyone. My name is Reyhaneh Shenassa, and I'm the chief engineer at BETO. I have a Ph.D. in chemical engineering and 20 years of experience in the bioenergy industry, and I am so excited to bring all my might and all my experience to help commercializing the bioenergy technology. As the chief engineer, my main focus is on addressing key challenges to the integration and scale-up of this bioenergy technologies. Especially I need to develop and lead the execution of our office's R&D strategy to identify and then reduce any barriers towards integration and scale-up. In addition I plan to manage at what scale we need to do our learning, how bench-scale and pilot-scale research can accelerate scale-up, and reduce any uncertainty that might hinder the private-sector investment. In short, I am very excited for this position I just started in March, and I hope that together we can make this happen. Back to you, Jay.
Great. Thank you, Reyhaneh. And great. So our sort of schedule for today is to talk through some of the priority topics for the Bioenergy Technologies Office, and we're going to do this through a series of targeted questions to both Valerie to Reyhaneh and myself, to talk about some of the work that we're doing in aviation and marine biofuels, some of the work in plastics recycling initiatives, engaging farmers as clean energy partners, our waste-to-energy efforts, and some of our work in CO2 utilization. In addition to some targeted questions around these, we wanted to make this an interactive webinar. And so you'll see some poll questions that are going to pop up on your screen. We'd ask you to go ahead and answer those poll questions. And we'll discuss the impacts of those poll or that those questions have in terms of the way that we focus our research. Next slide. I'll hand it over to Reyhaneh.
Thank you, Jay. The first poll question we have for you our audience is, what percentage of the total fuel in the United States is used for aviation? We have five choices: six percent, nine percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, or none of the above. What do you think?
Thank you. It seems that we have the responses. The numbers are -- people have collected different numbers. We don't have a specific answer but the correct answer is nine percent. Nine percent of the fuel is aviation fuel. Now I would like to evaluate if I may -- I would like to ask you two questions. Why is BETO specifically targeting aviation on marine fuels? And what makes this aviation fuel different from the other fuels that we are more familiar with such as gasoline and diesel?
OK, well, thank-you for asking me those questions. I'm looking at that poll and I'm seeing how really divided people are on the answer, and I know it is a tough one. One thing I will tell you is, well, what's only nine percent for aviation fuel today, that is going to be the fastest-growing sector projected out 70 percent growth in the next 20 years. So we have a lot of work to do when it comes to decarbonizing aviation fuels. The transportation sector is the largest source of CO2 emissions today, with about 1.6 billion metric tons per year. If we're to achieve a net-zero emission by 2050, this requires dramatic improvements across all modes of transportation. Light-duty vehicles, which make up the cars and SUVs, they make up the largest share of transportation modes with 57 percent. And while biofuels is an option there, they can also be electrified by leveraging cheap and abundant clean electricity. Heavy-duty, long-haul marine, rail, and aviation make up the other 43 percent, and where light-duty vehicle usage is decreasing. These modes are expected to grow rapidly, as these are essential to move goods and people across a global world. Hydrogen and biofuels will be critical in these areas. Unlike light-duty vehicles, the low energy density of even the best batteries really limits the opportunity for electrification. While many are working on electrification options, most of this is for the smaller aircraft that fly shorter distances. And airlines really have no other alternative than to use sustainable aviation fuel so that they can reduce their greenhouse gas footprint. Sustainable aviation fuel is defined as an alternative aviation fuel that is low carbon emitting on a life cycle basis, respects sustainability criteria including land use, water quality, biodiversity, and also avoids competition with food. Reyhaneh, you also asked me what the difference was between the fuels. Gasoline is easier to combust in an internal combustion engine. These use spark plug emissions to ignite and therefore there's a higher oxygen content in the fuel. Diesel, on the other hand, in the U.S. is used more for transporting goods and people long distances, so a slow burn is more desirable. Diesel fuels tend to be more viscous with less oxygen and longer varied carbon chains so that they can burn more steadily. These are generally ignited through compression engines. Jet engines are designed to burn fuel steadily, as well, and require a fuel with a higher flash point that doesn't vaporize easily, therefore their fuel is more similar to diesel. Both on-road diesel and jet fuel diesel contain a variety of different length carbon chains that we call alkanes, but the jet fuel is stricter in its requirements, including cleaner-burning blends of isoalkanes with low freeze points, since some diesel fuels have been known to get waxy in colder conditions. And if you add aromatics and cycloalkanes, you can provide improved density requirements. All of this is key because jet fuels need to be reliable and safe. OK. Next slide, please.
So we are going to shift gears slightly here and talk a bit about plastic. We have a poll question: What percentage of plastics get recycled in the United States? Five percent, nine percent, 15 percent, 25 percent, or none of the above. Now it's your turn to answer that question.
OK, the poll is over, and I see that we have again a wide array of answers. The correct answer here is somewhere between five and nine percent. We had marked it as nine percent as the correct answer. Plastics are indeed a really big problem. And that's because of this very low recycling rate. This is really obvious when you think about single-use plastics. Think about straws, food wrappers, packaging materials, and the world uses a lot of these. They're very hard to recycle because it's not cost-effective. They're hard to collect because they're very light. And they're hard to purify for recycling because they're used with food products and other things. So that is the core of the issue here. And Jay is the lead of our DOE Plastics Innovation Challenge, which is an initiative that's led by BETO and our Advanced Manufacturing Office. Can you share some answers and a little more insight into this, Jay? Let me ask you a few questions. What is plastic waste made from? Why is it like biomass and other carbon-based wastes? And since we know that BETO is researching the redesign of plastics for superior end-of-life properties, what does that mean? And how will it help address the problem of plastic waste?
Thanks very much for the questions, Valerie. I really appreciate the opportunity to talk about our work in plastics here. So I think a lot of people on the poll question picked five percent, which is actually -- you know, the EPA estimate is near nine percent, but a really small portion of the plastics that actually do get recycled in the United States are actually same cycle. They're recycled into the same quality materials. So only around two percent of plastic packaging is actually recycled into another type of plastic packaging or a plastic bottle. So it really depends kind of how you see that end of life for plastics in terms of the percentage that's actually getting recycled. To answer your questions a little bit more directly, plastic waste is basically made from plastics, but also everything else that comes along to the ride. So plastics are primarily petroleum-based and they contain mostly carbon and oxygen. That actually makes them fairly similar to biomass, which is a substrate that we in the Bioenergy Technologies Office have a lot of experience with. So it's a complex polymer but it's mostly made of carbon carbon linkages with some things like carbon oxygen and carbon nitrogen linkages. We've established many types of techniques to break down biomass. And those types of techniques can be applied to things like plastic. So technologies like biological deconstruction of sugars can work in a similar manner on some types of plastic waste, to be able to break those back down into their monomers and be able to rebuild them up back up into more complex molecules. Things like chemical catalysis and pyrolysis also have roles to play in energy-efficient recycling of different types of plastic waste. And just like for different types of biomass, we need a variety of different approaches to tackle different sorts of plastic waste depending on what the contaminants there are and what types of plastics are actually involved. So to answer your second question, BETO's researching the redesign of plastics, as well, for superior end-of-life properties. Plastics are made from petroleum building blocks like I sort of alluded to before, and they're made not with design for end-of-life recycling in mind. They were really made out of "can we get the properties that we want out of a certain material." So if we can take a step back from that and look at how we would redesign plastic, if we could start from a variety of different molecules, especially biomass produced starting materials like biomass-based monomers, we might have the opportunity to redesign plastics in such a way that they could be broken down more easily through advanced things like chemical or biological recycling. We could also design them to be able to be biodegradable if they were in an environment in which they were intrinsically linked to something like food waste and really couldn't be separated very easily. So that we could compost that instead of sending it to the landfill for end of life. So you can use a variety of these different redesign type technologies to help us understand how we can design for superior end-of-life properties for different applications. We're really utilizing DOE's R&D funding to realize these technology efforts, but technology efforts aren't sufficient alone to solve this problem. And so we're also coordinating with partners at the rest of the Department of Energy, at NSF, at EPA, and at NIF to ensure that the solutions that our researchers are coming up with can have a real impact on the problem and to make sure that they're part of an integrated solution. Next slide, please.
Great. So I want to shift gears again here and talk about another area of real interest for bioenergy technologies. And so this is moving on to a discussion in terms of how we can engage farmers as our clean energy partners. So to start off, I want to open up a poll here. How many tons of sustainable biomass is the United States capable of producing on a yearly basis according to DOE estimates? So the answers are 1 million, 100 million, 500 million, or a billion tons of biomass, or none of the above.
All right, great. It looks like the poll has closed, and it turns out that most people have either maybe read our Billion Ton Bioeconomy study or have at least heard of it, because a lot of people answered correctly, that one billion tons is the estimate from DOE, in terms of what we could sustainably produce for biomass. And so that's a lot of biomass, and it can be transformed into a lot of different fuels and products. And it gives us a lot of opportunity to explore those and to explore how we can engage farmers as our clean energy partners. So a question for you, Valerie: How can farmers grow crops to help combat climate change by fixing carbon into the soil, and are some crops better than others at fixing carbon and why?
OK, wow, I'm really glad people got that answer right. I feel like that's one of the premier products that has come out of the Bioenergy Technologies Office, along with our colleagues at USDA. So yay. So to answer your questions, tackling climate change involves ensuring that the planet is not putting out more greenhouse gases, putting them into the air, then we are fixing them in the ground. Farmers and agriculture have a huge role to play in tackling climate change, because plants are really a good source of carbon dioxide removal from the air. They are able to fix it into a usable form, which we call biomass. In addition to making biomass, plants and the microbes associated with them are helping to fix carbon directly in the soil. Doing so helps us not only to rehabilitate soil when done correctly so that the next generation of plants can grow better, but actually takes carbon out of the air, which helps to combat climate change. Sustainable farming practices, such as the use of cover crops and growing energy crops like switchgrass with its deep roots, can help to increase soil stability, assist in cycling nutrients through the soil, and provide habitat and erosion control. This can make the land more productive, help with nutrient runoff into water supplies, a lot which will allow for cleaner water, and allow farmers to access less productive land that is not suitable for food but could be excellent for growing energy crops.
To your second question, some crops are better at fixing carbon in the soil than others. The exact mechanism is complex, but it does involve robust plant root systems, much like what we spoke about with switchgrass, as well as microbes in the soil. We know that crops, particularly energy crops, are very good at doing this, though this has helped with a lot of topsoil. So topsoil needs to be about 10 feet deep, and in much of our Midwest over thousands of years this has developed. If we can utilize more crops like switchgrass or enable other crops to fix carbon in the soil through engineering and farming practices, we will be able to use agriculture to help stabilize at least some of the CO2 emissions coming from our economy. All right. I think Jay, you're next.
Yeah, thank-you so much, Valerie, for that answer. I think it's great to be able to talk about how we can use efforts in agriculture to help our Bioenergy Technologies Office efforts. We wanted to move to another discussion point and this is really around our waste-to-energy effort. So in addition to using things like biomass, purpose-growing crops, or agricultural waste, we also look at other types of wastes like wet waste and solid waste. And so to start us off here, I wanted to ask a poll question. So for the poll question: Which waste feedstocks can be transformed into fuels and chemicals using bioenergy technologies? And the possible answers are municipal solid waste; manures; fats, oils and greases; steel mill off gas; or all of the above.
All right, great. Looks like almost everyone got this answer correct, and maybe I tipped you off with my intro or what's written on the slide here. But the answer here is all of the above. All these can be transformed into useful biofuels and bioproducts using different types of technologies. And so to hear a little bit more about that, I wanted to ask Reyhaneh a question: So what do wet waste, solid waste, and gaseous waste streams have in common that make them useful feedstocks for bioenergy?
Thank you, Jay, for asking this. Solid waste, wet waste, and gaseous are all either organic or have some organics in them or are produced from biogenic sources or contain carbon and hydrogen. And they all have the potential to be converted into biopower and bioproduct. Solid waste examples can be sludge, biosolids, animal manure, food waste, greases, and they are about -- it makes about 77 million tons per year. And out of that 77, about 50 million is available for being converted into these biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. If you want to look at less waste, examples can be again food waste, contaminated food containers and packaging, used paper towels. And if we look at gaseous waste, they also can contribute to production of these efforts. An example of them is industrial waste gas or boiled gas from landfill. And gaseous streams contain methane. Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas, which in 2014 this statistic constituted about 12 percent of the net U.S. emissions. So there is significant potential to valorize these energy streams, energy density streams, by simultaneously reducing harmful emissions. So the point is that we can kill two birds with one stone. We decrease their harmful emissions when we don't play a [inaudible], then we use a sludge from wastewater treatment and makes power or biofuel or bioenergy from it. Not only we don't emit greenhouse gases, but also we are making these products that if we don't have to be made from fossil fuels. So it's like two birds with one stone, which is quite efficient. Back to you, Jay.
Thank you so much, Reyhaneh. It's great that we can do this and serve multiple purposes with our conversion, not only making a product but taking care of a waste stream. So next slide. All right, and we also wanted to bring up the topic of CO2 utilization as our last priority discussion topic here. And so to start off this discussion topic, we wanted to open a poll, as well. So what is the concentration of CO2 in fermentation off gas from an ethanol biorefinery? Your possible choices here are 410 parts per million, 10 percent, 33 percent, 99 percent, or none of the above.
OK. All right, great. The poll responses have come in here. We got a variety of responses for this question. So this is kind of a complicated question. I think the answer to it really informs our strategy. So the correct answer here is that a fermentation off gas stream is about 99 percent concentrated CO2. And so it's very very pure CO2 stream that has the most potential to be upgraded. some of the other answers here like 10 percent are what you typically find in the off gas from something like a coal-powered power plant. So although that's a significant concentration it's a lot harder to capture than a 99 percent pure stream. And 410 parts per million here is the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere. So when you hear about direct air capture you're having to capture it at only about 400 parts per million out of the atmosphere. So to follow up on that discussion, I'd like to ask you a couple of questions, Valerie. So why is BETO interested in CO2 conversion into biofuels and bioproducts? And what are the advantages and disadvantages of using CO2 as a feedstock versus something like biomass or waste?
Thanks for that, Jay, and the poll sort of steals a little bit of my thunder here, but I think it is all worth repeating, of course. So BETO is interested in converting carbon dioxide into biofuels and bioproducts for several reasons. Waste CO2, which is typically emitted from -- we think of it as typically being emitted from power and industrial processes. Its concentration of CO2 that we're able to work with is really only about 12 percent, as Jay pointed out. In a net-zero carbon emission world, there is a necessity that we really capture way more of that CO2 and either sequester it or utilize it in the form of products that will not allow it to be emitted into the atmosphere. Ethanol fermentation facilities, on the other hand, they also are a source of CO2. And as the poll noted, they're a very pure source of CO2, with about 99 percent being able to be captured. There is also CO2 in the air, but only at about 400 parts per million. Direct air capture technologies, though, are under development to get to even that small amount of CO2. We want to focus on the lowest-hanging fruit and capture the CO2 from point sources like ethanol fermentation first. Number one, it is coming from renewable carbon. But number two is we think we can utilize it more effectively and economically in the near term to produce fuels and products. If we go after the industrial sources in the longer term, we can make a real dent, if you will, on CO2 coming from industry and in the atmosphere. To your second question, what are the advantages of using CO2, well, they're very clear. It's a waste product much like the waste we heard about in the last question. It's also a greenhouse gas and it can be a source of carbon that can be very low cost once we're able to capture it. The disadvantages, on the other hand, are that it is a really low energy compound compared to something like biomass. This means that you have to put a lot of energy in, and this energy comes in the form of renewable electricity. This is used then to convert the molecule CO2 into a longer chain carbon for fuels and products. In fact, to make CO2 like methane gas it takes eight electrons per carbon atom, which is twice as much energy as if you start it from a sugar feedstock, where the plant and energy from the sun have already done much of the work. So with all of that, it's easy to see that we have a long way to go in learning how to utilize CO2, as well as learning how to sequester it. Our Office of Fossil Energy within the Department of Energy is really focused on the sequestration of CO2, and the Bioenergy Technologies Office focuses mostly on utilization as well as direct air capture using algae. OK, with that I'll turn it back over to Jay.
Great. I hope you all enjoyed the discussion on some of the priority topics that BETO is looking at today. And please feel free to reach out to us later with questions. But I did want to mention that we have a funding opportunity that is on the street right now, about 61 million dollars in funding to -- or estimated 61 million in funding appropriations depending -- to do research on on biofuels and reduce transportation emissions. So the topics for this call are scaling up bioenergy technologies at pre-pilot, pilot, and demonstration, as well as affordable clean sugars or clean cellulosic sugars separations to enable biomass conversion, a topic on wood heaters, and a topic on on renewable natural gas production. So if you're interested in any of those topics, please do check out this funding opportunity. Concept papers are due April 30, and full applications are due June 21. You can find more information at EERE Exchange. And I'll turn it back over to Valerie to close this out.
Well, we have come to the end of our time together. I hope you found this useful. I know I enjoyed sharing this information with you, getting to introduce our key scientist and chief engineer, and it was just really fun to have an opportunity to talk about this in this venue. I want to thank everybody who was involved in making this happen. Our communications team is outstanding and they worked really hard to put this together for you, so thank you to all of them. This slide gives you some more information. If you would like, you can go to our website, which is the link here. You can find out about all the topics we talked about today. You can also see upcoming events and other opportunities to interact. We often hold workshops and webinars to continue to connect with our stakeholder audience. And as was mentioned earlier on, this webinar was recorded, so please feel free to check back to this link, where you'll be able to access the recording if there's anything that you missed, or if you'd like to share it with anyone. So with that, I'll say thank you to you all for your time and your attention, and I hope you have a great afternoon.