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 May 09, 2007
US seeks small scale cellulose biorefineries

 Washington,DC, USA (GLOBE-Net) - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has announced that it will provide up to $200 million over the next five years to support the development of small-scale cellulosic biorefineries in the United States.

The agency has issued a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) seeking projects to develop biorefineries at ten percent of commercial scale that produce liquid transportation fuels such as ethanol, as well as bio-based chemicals and bio-products used in industrial applications.

According to the DOE, the small-scale projects will use novel approaches and a variety of cellulosic feedstocks to test new refining processes. The projects require a minimum of 50 percent cost share from applicants.

Earlier this year, the DOE announced $385 million over four years for the development of six full-scale biorefineries. Among the successful applicants was Ottawa-based Iogen Corporation, which has developed a proprietary enzyme technology used to convert wheat straw into ethanol at its demonstration facility. However, financing is still a major problem for the capital-intensive step of building the commercial facility, and the company has yet to declare whether it will build in the United States, Canada, or Germany.

The full-scale biorefineries focus on near-term commercial processes, while the small-scale facilities will experiment with new feedstocks and processing technologies.

The funding will support demonstration projects that test key refining processes and provide operational data needed to lower the technical hurdles sometimes associated with financing a full-size commercial plant. These projects are expected to be operational within three to four years and will speed the adoption of new technologies to produce ethanol and other biofuels from cellulosic feedstocks. Commercial-scale demonstrations would follow thereafter.

The DOE is now requesting applicants to design, construct and operate an integrated biorefinery demonstration facility, employing lignocellulosic feedstocks for the production of some combination of liquid transportation fuel(s), biobased chemicals, and substitutes for petroleum-based feedstocks and products. The projects should be able to rapidly move to commercial-scale, and should be supported by a sound business strategy. The DOE encourages applications that demonstrate breakthrough technologies and collaboration between industry, universities, and DOE's national laboratories.

Up to $15 million is expected to be available in fiscal year 2007, with the remaining $185 million expected to be available in 2008-11, subject to appropriation from Congress. The DOE anticipates selecting 5-10 awards under this announcement. Applications for this FOA are due August 14, 2007. Any U.S. domestic entity is eligible to apply for this funding opportunity. Click here for details.