DOE Secretary Steven Chu is keeping the jobs/energy ball rolling with an announcement today that the agency has allocated $786.5 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to accelerate advanced biofuels R&D and commercial-scale biorefinery demonstration projects. There are many materials research and engineering angles to this, but the $110 million for “fundamental research” certainly stands out.

As with other recent energy related announcements from DOE, this biofuels program is based on leveraging national laboratories, universities and the private sector to help improve biofuels.

In a DOE press release, Chu says, “Developing the next generation of biofuels is key to our effort to end our dependence on foreign oil and address the climate crisis – while creating millions of new jobs that can’t be outsourced. With American investment and ingenuity – and resources grown right here at home – we can lead the way toward a new green energy economy.”

The $786.5 million will be allocated across four main areas:

Amount Purpose Goal
$480 million Integrated pilot- and demonstration-scale biorefineries 10 to 20 awards for refineries at various scales and designs, all to be operational in the next three years, with a funding ceiling of $25 million for pilot-scale projects and $50 million for demonstration scale projects.
$176.5 million Commercial-scale biorefinery projects To increase the federal funding ceiling on two or more demonstration- or commercial-scale biorefinery projects that were selected and awarded within the last two years; reduce business risk of development and deployment; expedite the construction phase of these projects and accelerate timeline.
$110 million Fundamental research Expand the resources available for sustainability research through the Office of Science Bioenergy Research Centers, and establish a user-facility/small-scale integrated pilot plant ($25 million).
Create an advanced research consortium to develop technologies and facilitate subsequent demonstration of infrastructure-compatible biofuels through a competitive solicitation ($35 million).
Create an algal biofuels consortium to accelerate demonstration of algal biofuels through a competitive solicitation ($50 million).
$20 million Ethanol research Optimize flex-fuel vehicles operating on high octane E85 fuel.
Evaluate the impact of higher ethanol blends in conventional vehicles
Upgrade refueling infrastructure to be compatible with fuels up to E85