US Department of Energy awards grants to LanzaTech and Virent to help fund alternative jet fuel technologies
Thu 8 Sept 2011 – Advanced fuel technology companies LanzaTech and Virent Energy Systems have each been awarded grants of up to $4 million towards their development of conversion technologies to produce sustainable, drop-in alternative jet fuels. The grants from the US Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will help fund small-scale projects that employ innovative thermochemical processes to convert biomass, in a controlled industrial environment, into liquid and gaseous intermediates which can then be chemically converted into fuels and other products.
LanzaTech’s award will go towards the development of a cost-effective technology that converts biomass-derived ethanol into jet fuel using catalysts, as well as producing a valuable bio-product called butadiene that could be used to improve the overall economics of the fuel production process. The objective of the project is to integrate and optimise process steps to accelerate the conversion of ethanol to aviation fuels.
“We are very excited about this as it continues to extend our reach beyond ethanol,” said Dr Jennifer Holmgren, LanzaTech’s CEO. “Developing a value chain around our ability to co-produce chemicals will further enable us to reduce the price of our ethanol and achieve scale.”
The Virent grant will be used towards a three-year project to deconstruct and convert three types of cellulosic biomass – corn stover, wood and bagasse – into drop-in fuels, including jet fuel, and chemicals using the company’s proprietary thermochemical technology.
A third grant of $4 million has also been awarded to Research Triangle Institute (RTI), which is partnering with Denmark-headquartered Haldor Topsøe, a provider of catalyst and process technologies for the refining and chemical industries. The project will integrate RTI’s catalytic biomass pyrolysis technology, which converts biomass into a biocrude intermediate, with Haldor Topsøe’s hydroprocessing technology, to upgrade the intermediate into transportation fuels.
“Renewable drop-in fuels produced from pyrolysis of biomass followed by hydroprocessing is a very interesting technology that will be able to produce substantial amounts of fuel without impacting the food supply around the world,” said Henrik Rasmussen, Vice President, Catalyst and Technology, Haldor Topsøe.
Commenting on the awards, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said: “These investments aim to accelerate the discovery of innovative solutions that could drive down the cost of biofuels production and boost their availability in the marketplace.”
The RFI issued by the three departments seeks to obtain information about capabilities and market information related to advanced drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels production. Of particular interest are the technical, manufacturing and market barriers to establishing a viable business for advanced drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels. It also lays out the Administration’s goals, assumptions and tools, and requests from industry specific ideas for how to leverage private capital markets to establish a commercially viable industry.
According to the RFI, the principal objective of this government-industry partnership is the construction or retrofit of multiple domestic commercial or pre-commercial scale advanced drop-in biofuel plants and refineries with the following characteristics: a capability to produce ready drop-in replacement advanced biofuels meeting military specifications at a price competitive with petroleum; geographically diverse locations for ready market access; and no significant impact on the supply of agricultural commodities for the production of food.