US DOE Funds Research into Biofuels for Shipping and Aviation

research into biofuel for shipping and aviation

Published Sep 10, 2021 2:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded $64.7 million in funding for a series of projects focused on producing cost-effective, low-carbon biofuels. These investments, part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to decarbonize by 2050, are designed to advance technologies to create replacements for petroleum fuels used in heavy-duty forms of transportation, including the maritime industry and aviation.

“Decarbonizing transportation – particularly planes and ships that are difficult to electrify – is an essential part of the path to a net-zero carbon future,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. She noted by the nature and size of the shipping and aviation industries that it is not possible to explore large-scale electrification. 

DOE believes that biofuels, which are produced by converting the renewable carbon from recently living organic materials like crop waste, food waste, and algae into liquid fuel, can serve as a low-carbon equivalent to fossil-based fuels such as gasoline, jet, and diesel fuel.

A total of 22 projects were selected all of which target high-impact bioenergy technology RD&D. The goal is to expand knowledge into biofuels and support scaling up systems to produce low-carbon biofuels at lower costs. Among the projects are efforts focusing on producing a highly fermentable sugar from corn stover, another which seeks to convert biomass crop using pyrolysis oil technology into oils for conversion to fuel, and a third that will use an anaerobic digestor to convert food waste into the precursors to fuel. 

Demonstration projects include a plant that converts waste landfill gas to sustainable aviation fuel or renewable diesel and a second project which demonstrate a production process for clean, affordable cellulosic sugars, which are derived from agricultural or woody waste residues

These investments are administered by DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, 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 in recognition of the urgent need to reduce risks and scale-up sustainable fuel production.

The DOE is also working with the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Department of Agriculture to collaborate on the needed research, development, and demonstration to reach the goals of supplying at least three billion gallons of aviation fuel per year by 2030 and sufficient sustainable fuel to meet 100 percent of aviation fuel demand – currently 35 billion gallons per year – by 2050.