The Dept. of Energy Sinks $564M into Biorefineries

Includes: ADM, BFRE, HON, RTK
by: Greentech Media

By Jeff St. John

The Department of Energy said Friday it would give $564 million in stimulus funding to 19 projects aimed at turning biomass into fuels, chemicals and power.

The grants are hoped to help the federal government meet its aggressive deadline to get 36 billion gallons of biofuel production up and running by 2022 – a goal government and industry analysts have said will be hard to reach.

The 19 winning projects span 15 states, and include both giants like Archer Daniels Midland (NYSE:ADM) and Honeywell's (NYSE:HON) UOP and startups such as ZeaChem, Amyris, Solazyme and Algenol.

The projects are aimed at using non-food feedstocks such as wood chips, grasses, algae and municipal waste to make biofuel. A federal mandate calls for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol to be made by next year, but it appears increasingly likely that this target will not be met.

The grants aren't all for biofuel production – some are aimed at the production of biochemicals or generating power from biomass, though most of those are linked to biofuel production.

While most of the projects haven't received DOE funds yet, one has – BlueFire Ethanol (OTCPK:BFRE), which will get an additional $81.1 million to help along its plans to build a 19 million gallon-per-year plant making ethanol from biomass and waste in Fulton, Miss. BlueFire had received $40 million to build a plant in California, but moved the project to Mississippi in October.

Also on Friday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said it would give San Diego, Calif.-based algae biofuel startup Sapphire Energy a $54.5 million loan guarantee from the 2008 Farm Bill's Biorefinery Assistance Program to build a demonstration plant in New Mexico. Sapphire also received $50 million in DOE grants.

Some selected DOE grant winners include:

  • Algenol Biofuels will get $25 million to make ethanol from algae at a 100,000 gallon-per-year demonstration plant in Freeport, Texas.
  • American Process Inc., of Alpena, Mich., will get $17.9 million to build a plant to make 890,000 gallons of ethanol and 690,000 gallons of potassium acetate from processed wood.
  • Amyris Biotechnologies, of Emeryville, Calif. will get $25 million to help build a pilot plant to use its genetically altered yeast to turn sugar from fermented sweet sorghum into hydrocarbons closely resembling diesel fuel, as well as lubricants, polymers and other petrochemicals.
  • Archer Daniels Midland, of Decatur, Ill. will get $24.8 million for a facility to use acid to break down biomass to convert to ethanol or ethyl acrylate.
  • Clearfuels Technology, of Commerce City, Colo. will get $23 million for a plant to make woody biomass into diesel and jet fuel using processes from the company and partner Rentech (NYSEMKT:RTK).
  • Enerkem will get $50 million to build a plant in Pontotoc, Miss. to convert municipal wastes into syngas for conversion to biofuels.
  • Logos Technologies will get $20.4 million for a Visalia, Calif. plant to convert switchgrass and woody biomass into ethanol.
  • Solazyme will get $21.8 million for a Riverside, Penn. plant to produce algae oil to convert to oil-based fuel.
  • UOP, a Honeywell company, will get $25 million to develop a Kapolei, Hawaii plant in partnership with Ensyn to turn a variety of crops and feedstocks into fuels.
  • Zeachem will get $25 million to build a wood-to-ethanol plant in Boardman, Oregon.

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