The US Department of Energy (DOE) has announced more than US$64 million in funding for 22 projects focused on developing technologies and processes that produce low-cost, low-carbon biofuels. Biofuels are made up of renewable resources and can power heavy-duty vehicles that are difficult to electrify with current technologies—including airplanes and ships—to help accelerate America’s path to a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.
These selected projects will support the newly-announced Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge: an interagency collaboration between the US DOE, the US Department of Transportation, and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce the cost, enhance sustainability, and expand the production and use of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).
These agencies have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that lays out a commitment to achieve a minimum 50 percent reduction in life cycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions compared to conventional fuel, to meet a goal of supplying sufficient SAF to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand by 2050.
The MoU was presented at a Sustainable Aviation Roundtable hosted by the White House on September 9, 2021, as part of the effort to scale up SAF production to at least 3 billion (US) gallons (≈ 11.4 billion litres) per year by 2030.
The 22 projects fall into five topic areas for the “Bioenergy Technologies Office Scale-Up and Conversion” funding opportunity:
- Scale-Up of Biotechnologies
- Affordable, Clean Cellulosic Sugars for High Yield Conversion
- Separations to Enable Biomass Conversion
- Residential Wood Heaters
- Renewable Natural Gas
The topic areas include high-impact biotechnology research, development, and demonstration to bolster the body of scientific and engineering knowledge needed to produce low-carbon biofuels at a lower cost.
Decarbonizing transportation is an essential part of the path to a net-zero carbon future. While electrification of smaller vehicles is gaining momentum, larger vehicles like planes will still rely on liquid fuels for the near future. This investment will accelerate the deployment of bioenergy technologies and mobilize public clean energy investment in the biofuels, chemical, and agricultural industries, which can lead to new good-paying jobs across the bioenergy supply chain and increased investment in rural economies, said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.
These investments are administered by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), which is focused on developing technologies that convert domestic biomass and other waste resources into low-carbon biofuels and bioproducts. BETO is increasing its emphasis on partnering with industry to demonstrate technologies at a large scale to recognize the urgent need to reduce risks and scale up SAF production.