California Energy Commission to award up to $3M to support development of bio-oil as intermediate for renewable jet fuel

California Energy Commission to award up to $3M to support development of bio-oil as intermediate for renewable jet fuel

12 August 2017

The California Energy Commission is issuing a solicitation (GFO-17-901) to provide up to $3 million in funding for innovative, pre-commercial low-carbon fuel production processes that result in the development of bio-oil as an intermediate fuel with wide-scale adoption potential used for renewable jet fuel production.

For the purpose of the solicitation, bio-oil is defined as a synthetic or organic equivalent to crude oil such as bio-crude. Funding will support pilot-scale demonstrations of a thermochemical platform using advanced thermochemical conversion methods successfully proven at the lab or bench scale to efficiently produce bio-based intermediate fuel and potential co-products. Applicants must site a demo facility in California that will produce a minimum of 50,000 gallons of bio-oil intermediate fuel over the term of the project.

Applicants must further:

  • Demonstrate how their process will produce an intermediate fuel that is compatible with existing petroleum refineries or biorefineries for converting or upgrading to advanced fungible renewable jet fuel.

  • Deploy a pilot-scale manufacturing high-selectivity/high yield process to produce an intermediate fuel (bio-oil) by advancing one of the already existing biomass to bio-oil conversion processes.

  • Carry out chemical and physical characterization of bio-oil to ensure that it meets requirements for upgrading in existing refineries (including biorefineries).

  • Meet biorefinery specifications in order to produce fungible low-carbon, drop-in biofuels compatible with pipeline and fuel dispensing infrastructure and vehicle technologies.

  • Determine the most cost-intensive parts of the developed projects and make projections on how these costs will change based on a transition from pilot-scale project to a commercial scale project (> 500,000 gallons of intermediate fuel per year). Suggest solutions on how to minimize the costs.

Background. In California, petroleum-based fuels contribute to the largest source of carbon emissions; state policy is driving R&D to reduce petroleum use by seeking economic and technically viable low-carbon fuel alternatives derived from locally sourced California feedstocks from various waste streams. Renewable biofuels can be produced from biomass sources including—but not limited to—urban woody biomass, agricultural and forest residues, and have the potential to be fully compatible with existing petroleum distribution system and vehicle technologies.

In addition to biofuels compatibility, advancement of production processes will further reduce the overall adoption costs of biofuels, thereby improving the near-term viability of biofuels.

Through the development of bio-based intermediate fuels such as bio-oil, adoption of low-carbon bio-fuels in the transportation market can be accelerated, particularly in some heavy-duty transportation sectors that rely on fuels which cannot be easily substituted with alternative fuels, including jet fuel.

While renewable jet fuel production has made progress, commercial production cannot be realized without additional research that focuses on scaling up advanced production processes.

This solicitation, developed under the Low-Carbon Fuels Research and Development Program, targets research gaps that are currently not addressed through the Alternative and Renewable Fuels and Vehicle Technology Program (ARFVTP). The ARFVTP has focused fuel production efforts on the upgrading of intermediates for low-carbon fuel production (i.e., bio-oil to the finished fuel product), whereas this solicitation is focused on the conversion of biomass to the bio-oil intermediate, which could then be upgraded or refined to renewable fuel.

Focusing on market barriers that prevent wide-scale adoption of advanced and innovative methods for the production of bio-oil will accelerate low-carbon fuel commercialization in additional transportation sectors currently unable to utilize alternative fuels. This program aims to drive innovation that will enable programs to support fuel production projects at commercial scale and further reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.

The deadline to submit applications is 13 October 2017. The CEC will hold a pre-application workshop on 25 August.


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