The DOE Funding Recipients

I am so far behind on the things that I have been intending to write. It is hard to believe that it has already been over a week since the most recent US DOE biorefinery grants were announced. I have been meaning to list them and comment, but I have finally decided just to list them without too much comment. Let’s just say that some of these names have been around for a while and have issued a lot of press releases, but they haven’t produced any biofuel.

The reason for keeping my comments to a minimum is that I have potential conflicts of one sort or another with several of these companies or projects. Sometimes it is just that I know some of the people involved; in other cases it is more complicated than that. But I don’t want to be accused of possible conflicts of interest by getting into some of the names/technologies that I am surprised to see listed. I know that there were also a number of high profile companies (i.e., they issue a lot of press releases) who did not make the cut.

It is probably worth a future post to check into the six prospective cellulosic ethanol plants funded by the DOE in February 2007 (see the list at the bottom of my post here). As far as I know only one – Broin/POET – has completed a project from those funds that is producing cellulosic ethanol.

Below is the list of recent award recipients, from A(lgenol) to Z(eachem), as compiled by Biofuels Digest (the list/description is verbatim from the DOE announcement, but the original DOE link is offline right now). I embedded links to all of the companies. There were nineteen projects awarded, for a grant total of up to $564 million.

And if you ever wondered how the DOE determines the winners and losers, the New York Times did an interesting story on that a few days ago:

How DOE Dealt With a ‘Tsunami’ of Clean-Tech Applicants

The outpouring of grants — and the preponderance of unsuccessful applicants — has stirred curiosity and some complaints over the DOE rating process.

The review involved a series of screening steps that included technology capability, job creation, likelihood of success, and ability to generate matching funds, DOE says.

Rogers was asked whether DOE would make public the winners’ applications and the review teams’ analysis, to shed more light on the decision-making.

“Our plan is not to make that public. First off, all of the [private-sector] reviewers are doing this as a matter of public service, and we don’t need to draw them into getting interviewed about every application.”

The Winners

Bluefire Ethanol
DOE Grant: $81,134,686
Non-fed funding: $223,227,314

Fulton, MS: This project will construct a facility that produces ethanol fuel from woody biomass, mill residue, and sorted municipal solid waste. The facility will have the capacity to produce 19 million gallons of ethanol per year.

Demonstration Scale

BioEnergy International
DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $89,589,188

Lake Providence, LA: This project will biologically produce succinic acid from sorghum. The process being developed displaces petroleum based feedstocks and uses less energy per ton of succinic acid produced than its petroleum counterpart.

DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $90,470,217

Pontotoc, MS: This project will be sited at an existing landfill and use feedstocks such as woody biomass and biomass removed from municipal solid waste to produce ethanol and other green chemicals through gasification and catalytic processes.

INEOS New Planet BioEnergy
DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $50,000,000

Vero Beach, FL: This project will produce ethanol and electricity from wood and vegetative residues and construction and demolition materials. The facility will combine biomass gasification and fermentation, and will have the capacity to produce 8 million gallons of ethanol and 2 megawatts of electricity per year by the end of 2011.

Sapphire Energy
DOE Grant: $50,000,000
Non-fed funding: $85,064,206

Columbus, NM: This project will cultivate algae in ponds that will ultimately be converted into green fuels, such as jet fuel and diesel, using the Dynamic Fuels refining process.

Pilot and Demonstration Scale FOA – Pilot Scale

Algenol Biofuels
DOE grant: $25,000,000
Other funding: $33,915,478

Freeport, TX: This project will make ethanol directly from carbon dioxide and seawater using algae. The facility will have the capacity to produce 100,000 gallons of fuel grade ethanol per year.

American Process
DOE grant: $17,944,902
Other funding: $10,148,508

Alpena, MI: This project will produce fuel and potassium acetate, a compound with many industrial applications, using processed wood generated by Decorative Panels International, an existing hardboard manufacturing facility in Alpena. The pilot plant will have the capacity to produce up to 890,000 gallons of ethanol and 690,000 gallons of potassium acetate per year starting in 2011.

Amyris Biotechnologies
DOE grant: $25,000,000
Other funding: $10,489,763

Emeryville, CA: This project will produce a diesel substitute through the fermentation of sweet sorghum. The pilot plant will also have the capacity to co-produce lubricants, polymers, and other petro-chemical substitutes.

Archer Daniels Midland
DOE funding: $24,834,592
Other funding: $10,946,609

Decatur, IL: This project will use acid to break down biomass which can be converted to liquid fuels or energy. The ADM facility will produce ethanol and ethyl acrylate, a compound used to make a variety of materials, and will also recover minerals and salts from the biomass that can then be returned to the soil.

Clearfuels Technology
DOE funding: $23,000,000
Other funding: $13,433,926

Commerce City, CO: This project will produce renewable diesel and jet fuel from woody biomass by integrating ClearFuels’ and Rentech’s conversion technologies. The facility will also evaluate the conversion of bagasse and biomass mixtures to fuels.

Elevance Renewable Sciences
DOE funding: $2,500,000
Non-Fed funding: $625,000

Newton IA: This project was selected to complete preliminary engineering design for a future facility producing jet fuel, renewable diesel substitutes, and high value chemicals from plant oils and poultry fat.

Gas Technology Institute
DOE funding: $2,500,000
Non-Fed funding: $625,000

Des Plaines, IL. This project was selected to complete preliminary engineering design for a novel process to produce green gasoline and diesel from woody biomass, agricultural residues, and algae.

Haldor Topsoe
DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $9,701,468

Des Plaines, IL. This project will convert wood to green gasoline by fully integrating and optimizing a multi?step gasification process. The pilot plant will have the capacity to process 21 metric tons of feedstock per day.

DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $6,268,136

St. Joseph, MO. This project will modify an existing corn ethanol facility to produce cellulosic ethanol from switchgrass and energy sorghum using biochemical conversion processes.

Logos Technologies
DOE funding: $20,445,849
Non-Fed funding: $5,113,962

Visalia, CA. This project will convert switchgrass and woody biomass into ethanol using a biochemical conversion processes.

Renewable Energy Institute International
DOE funding: $19,980,930

Non-Fed funding: $5,116,072

Toledo, OH. This project will produce high quality green diesel from agriculture and forest residues using advanced pyrolysis and steam reforming. The pilot plant will have the capacity to process 25 dry tons of feedstock per day.

DOE funding: $21,765,738
Non-Fed funding: $3,857,111

Riverside PA. This project will validate the projected economics of a commercial scale biorefinery producing multiple advanced biofuels. This project will produce algae oil that can be converted to oil based fuels.

Honeywell’s UOP
DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $6,685,340

Kapolei, HI. This project will integrate existing technology from Ensyn and UOP to produce green gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel from agricultural residue, woody biomass, dedicated energy crops, and algae.

DOE funding: $25,000,000
Non-Fed funding: $625,000

Boardman, OR: This project will use purpose grown hybrid poplar trees to produce fuel-grade ethanol using hybrid technology. Additional feedstocks such as agricultural residues and energy crops will also be evaluated in the pilot plant.

31 thoughts on “The DOE Funding Recipients”

  1. We'll learn a lot if just a few of these projects pan out. Amyris just doled out $80 million for a 40% stake in a Brazillian ethanol plant. Converting it for their process will be quicker than building a commercial plant. Amyris and LS9 are both trying to go commercial by 2011. Chevron recently invested $25 million in LS9. These guys are making the fuel already. The only question is whether they can make it cheap enough at scale.

  2. In case you missed it RR, Rufus already linked this news and it has been disused. He, however, did not cut and paste the info into an essay.

    “As far as I know only one – Broin/POET – has completed a project from those funds that is producing cellulosic ethanol.”

    Nor would I expect these projects to be operating yet unless the projects were shovel ready with permits in hand. If you need a grant to proceed it is unlikely you have done the detailed design. We engineers like to get paid as we go.

    “And if you ever wondered how the DOE determines the winners and losers ..”

    When Clinton was president, it was more important to be politically correct. I worked on a grant for a small dairy community. The community was small but not the dairy farms, 90,000 dairy cows + about 100,000 feedlot cattle. I will admit that CAFOs is not a popular subject but reducing the environmental is a no brainer.

    The basic problem with DOE is that they are incapable of doing anything without spending more money studying it, than doing it.

  3. In case you missed it RR, Rufus already linked this news and it has been disused. He, however, did not cut and paste the info into an essay.

    I did not miss it Kit. Let me clue you in on two things. First, that list appears lots of places. The wording is exactly the same, because that’s the wording of the DOE. For some reason the DOE announcement link is broken, so I just picked a place and gave credit to the link. There is nothing proprietary about the list. Now if I cut and pasted someone's analysis of the list, that is a different matter. But this is not original Biofuels Digest content. This is the DOE list formatted so that it is easier to work with.

    Second, I have had 3 separate companies on the list e-mail and ask me to do a story on them. (Not everyone who drops by reads the comments). I don't have time to write a lot of stories about the companies at the moment, but the funding was a pretty big deal and so I needed to at least list the award winners.

    Now, once again I find myself spending time responding to one of your complaints. I spend more time responding to complaints, insults, or just general bad behavior from you that everyone else put together. So I will again encourage you to move along if you don't like the way things are around here. It has been a long time – and probably several hundred comments from you ago – that you felt the need to tell everyone that you don't get anything out of this site. Yet still you are here, wasting my time.


  4. Now I will respond separately to a comment you made:

    Nor would I expect these projects to be operating yet unless the projects were shovel ready with permits in hand.

    You misunderstand. Most of these companies did not continue; they dropped out of the program.

    If you need a grant to proceed it is unlikely you have done the detailed design.

    And neither did they do it after they got the grant. But you must not know how these grants generally go. You need to be pretty far along in a project to qualify for most of these. Some of the names on this new list don't fall into that category, but it was announced that the earlier list was picked because the companies that were well down the project path.


  5. This is pretty hard stuff, that these companies are trying to do.

    If one could hit a "home run," though it would probably be well worth it.

    I'll try to look it up, later; but I believe that Enerkem might be producing ethanol, now. I know they're producing "synthesis gases" at one of their Canada locations. I think the ethanol conversion part was to start up by the end of the year (or, maybe the 1st quarter of '10.

  6. comprantI find myself uncomfortable with this federal backing of what appear to be venture capital projects.
    Maybe one will hit big, and that will be a boon to us.
    This whole question of government support for industry is a puzzle. There is an interesting article in the The New Yorker this week about the very extensive federal support for our nation's agriculture sector.
    Now, US farmers routinely brag they are the best in the world. Yet, it is undeniable the model includes gobs of taxpayer support and even guidance.
    Will this model work for alternative energy?
    I don't know.
    My inclination is to let the private market do it.

  7. This whole question of government support for industry is a puzzle.

    I found parts of this list quite ironic. As I said, I am not going to comment on much of it, but recall the Congress killed funding for the green diesel project of Tyson/ConocoPhillips. The reason is that they said they would not subsidize an oil company for producing biofuel. Yet Big Ag – ADM – is on this list. Go figure.


  8. Meanwhile, "peak demand" may be a reality for the USA.

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. energy consumption is expected to increase 14 percent by 2035, but the nation will rely less on oil and other fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, the Energy Information Administration said on Monday in its long-term forecast.

    The fossil fuel share of U.S. energy demand over the next quarter century is expected to fall from the current 84 percent to 78 percent, the EIA said.

    Oil use is forecast to remain "near" its current level, while ethanol is expected to account for 17 percent of gasoline consumption by 2035, the agency said."

    So, are we pushing up alternative fuels, when demand for crude oil is falling anyway?

    And could we push oil demand down much further with taxes–much greater than any increase in biofuels we gain by subsidizing biofeuls?

    Yes, Congress is a political body, so biofuel subsidies will be politically controlled. Patronage, in other words.

    As always. I suggest the outlook does not have a reasonable "doom" scenario. We are using less oil every year, not more, and so is the rest of the developed world.

    Maybe biofuels will come on big. I doubt it.

    We have lots of natural gas for CNG, and we can make methanol from natural gas. It appears to be cheaper to run a CNG car than a gasoline vehicle.

  9. And here comes another PHEV, from Toyota, a very well-run company, with terrific engineering.
    I think the Oil-Era is over…and is ending with a whimper.

    "Toyota to start selling plug-in hybrids in 2011
    The Associated Press

    TOKYO – Toyota showed its new plug-in hybrid Monday, available for leasing this month in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, and promised the green vehicle for sale to regular consumers in 2011 at an "affordable" price.

    The plug-in Prius is the first from Toyota Motor Corp. packed with a more powerful battery called lithium-ion that's different from the batteries used in Prius hybrids on roads today. A plug-in is even friendlier to the environment than the regular Prius because it travels longer as an electric vehicle."

    These PHEVs deliver hundreds of effective mpg's. OPEC better think about maintaiing plentiful and cheap oil, or disappearing into the backwaters.

  10. "… the nation will rely less on oil and other fossil fuels to meet its energy needs, the Energy Information Administration said …"

    That would be the same EIA that used to project future Saudi oil production by subtracting forecasted non-Saudi production from forecasted demand?

  11. None of the original 6 DoE winners from Feb2007 has completed their work. POET has gotten their pilot scale project going, but they are just going to begin construction on the original DoE-funded 20 MMGY corn cob plant sometime next year. Clearly Range is head and shoulders above the rest, and indicate they'll come on line by next summer with 10 MMGY mixed alcohols. Abengoa still stuck in neutral, Bluefire still can't find private funding so now gets even more fed support, and Iogen + Alico dropped out.

    DoE also funded nine 10% scale projects in the 1st half of 2008 – how many of them made any progress in 2009? Maybe one, Verenium. This is all moving a lot slower than predicted, a whole lot slower. Based on past performance, it's hard to expect much from this list anytime soon. One of these new winners, ICM, says it's 5 years to commercial scale for their grant-winning proposal looking at sorghum – .

  12. I did not see EERC Jp-8 project in this list. That must be a seperate goverment fund. Are any companies licensing that technology?

    There is a long history of areas where direct government investment in research has been helpful and perhap crutial: Internet, Seismology (sp?), GPS, Space Travel and associated electronic/computer improvements, GPS.

    An interesting book: The Department of Mad Scientist by Belifore about DARPA.

  13. The link didn't work Oxymaven. The story expired or something. There're a zillion ideas floating around for making biofuel. There's no way of knowing if they'll work without at least a pilot plant. I'd like to see as many avenues explored as possible. These grants total less than we'll spend on imported oil today.

  14. One difference is that you'll get 10 million barrels for the money you're spending on imported oil today Maury. I find that Bluefire money incredible … if my quick mental arithmetic is right, that project amounts to 1000 boe/day. Things'll need to get a whole lot more productive and a whole lot cheaper real quick!

  15. Columbus, NM: This project will cultivate algae in ponds that will ultimately be converted into green fuels, such as jet fuel and diesel…

    This one strikes me a bit strange. Algae ponds in New Mexico on the Mexican border in the Upper Chihuahuan Desert? Isn't a good supply of water a requisite for algae ponds, and how are they going to stop the high evaporation rate of ponded open water in a desert?

    What am I missing? Or did the DOE miss something?

  16. Or did the DOE miss something?

    My impression on some of these is that they were throwing a "Hail Mary." Some seem to have qualified just because they were different. But different in some of these cases doesn't mean any closer to commercial success.

    Of course since the DOE won't release their grades/comments, we are left to wonder.


  17. We can overcome peak oil if we have enough oars in the water Pete. I'm not wedded to ethanol. But,I don't want to toss it overboard until something better comes along. We know from Poet's announcement that cellulosic can be done for $2.35 a gallon. That's just one process done with one feedstock though. We need to find the best way to process all our biomass. And we also need those EV's and PHEV's coming down the pike. I'd love to see the DOE help fund a nuclear plant dedicated to converting CO2 to biofuel. We need to explore every possibility.

  18. Kinu-
    Oil demand is fading in all developed nations, and has been for decades.
    Now, the PHEV is on the near horizon, and CNG is viable for fleets–today.
    The EIA may, in fact, be overstating future oil demand.
    Peak Oil strikes me as the phoney story of the decade.

  19. Maury-

    Yes, crude oil production may peak somewhere in the next 100 years.

    I just say it doesn't matter much, and that is why it is phoney "story." To me, Peak Oil is a "who cares"?

    Why? 1) We are already seeing Peak Demand all over the developed world, and 2) We have gobs of alternatives to crude oil.

    Ergo, no real "story."

  20. I just say it doesn't matter much, and that is why it is phoney "story." To me, Peak Oil is a "who cares?"


    There are now about 800 million cars in the world for close to 6.9 billion people.

    Are you saying that differential of 6.1 billion don't want to someday own their own cars, or that if they do, they will all be PHEVs?

    My own view is that something will have to give as that lower 6.1 billion strives to reach the lifestyle of the upper 15%.

  21. If demand had peaked before the economy came off the rails,I might agree with you Benny. But,we've got a chicken or egg thing going on. Can economic recovery happen without increases in demand? Do we have the spare capacity to handle that demand? Sure,we can switch over to natural gas. And in 20 years,that's gone too. If we're gonna keep this big boat moving,we need more oars in the water.

  22. O/T, except it's maybe another "oar in the water"…

    On our national nightly news just now, there was a segment on fuel cell vehicles wedged in between segments on Copenhagen and protests about our decision to build a municipal incinerator.

    Our nation's best known reporter (who is held in saint-like regard and therefore can pontificate on almost any subject without fear of contradiction) was reporting from California, driving a fuel cell car. In spite of an interview during the segment in which even an industry commentator opined that "we don't see these as mainstream before 2030", the report ended with our reporter staring gravely into the camera from the car window, declaring "it may be a few years before hydrogen fuel cell vehicles become generally available, but when they do the fuel supply will be practically limitless".

    You gotta love the MSM.


  23. China, alone, has increased its consumption 1.7 million bpd in the last 17 months.

    Add in the rest of the non-OECD countries and it's hard not to see at least 1.5 mbpd annual increases even if OECD remains flat.

  24. Mauary-

    Global demand for oil was flatlining even before the financial bust. Higher prices were bringing abut conservation.

    Check out global oil demand after the 1979 price spike. It took a decade to recover–and only when oil prices were low again.

    If oil goes permanently north of $100 a barrel, yes, we will see a global migration to PHEVs and CNG cars.

    But jeez, north of $100 a barrel, demand collapses, and production starts ramping up. That makes oil cheap again.

    Now, I have confused myself, so I leave it to you to tell me what is going to happen.

  25. PARIS — Fatih Birol, the chief economist of the International Energy Agency, believes that if no big new discoveries are made, "the output of conventional oil will peak in 2020 if oil demand grows on a business-as-usual basis."

    The reasons are not hard to find. After analyzing the historical production trends of 800 individual oil fields in 2008, the IEA came to the conclusion that the decline in annual output from fields that are past their prime could average 8.6 per cent in 2030. "Even if oil demand were to remain flat, the world would need to find more than 40 million barrels per day of gross new capacity — equal to four new Saudi Arabias — just to offset this decline," says Birol.

  26. Global demand for oil was flatlining even before the financial bust.
    Sorry, that is UTTER BS, Benny.

    You have trouble looking at the data in an objective way, don't you?

  27. There are some downsides to the increasing government presence in venture capital.

    U.S. government becoming clean energy venture capitalist

    “The existence of an 800-pound gorilla putting massive capital behind select start-ups is sucking the air away from the rest of the venture-capital ecosystem,”

    “Being anointed by DOE has become everything for companies looking to move ahead.”

    The result is that developments in applied clean energy research become focused around the ideas of a handful of people involved in the US DOE’s “deal teams.”


  28. "If oil goes permanently north of $100 a barrel, yes, we will see a global migration to PHEVs and CNG cars."

    Benny, Benny, Benny! How often do we have to go over this? Eurotrash have been paying the equivalent of two to three times $100 per barrel for years. No shift from gasoline & diesel. Denmark has missed its Kyoto target by a mile because of increased vehicle use — even thought they have a tax rate on new cars that runs something like 200%.

    Basically, I am on your side on this one. Human ingenuity can certainly give 6.5 billion (or 9.5 billion) people a lifestyle equal to or better than what those of us in the West enjoy today. At least, we can once we get those who are blocking progress out the way.

    But we have to start with the facts. And the facts tell us that your >$100 refrain is not supported.

    It would be more useful to focus on trying to understand why that is.

  29. I realize that it must be a difficult process to decide which projects are most worthy of funding. Kit P brings up an interesting point which i agree with, assuming it's accurate. Companies should not be eligible to receive funding unless it is 95% certain that they will have a building permit. But then again, its possible that these companies do not have the resources to reach this point in the project phase (permitting). It would be unfair to favor those businesses that had the assets to develop more. Ethanol plant design construction services are also now available for businesses to contract for these projects. Some even conduct the permitting and zoning requirements as well, along with the design and build of the facility.

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