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DOE Offers $7 Million for Biomass Pyrolysis Research

April 17, 2008

DOE released a solicitation on April 17 that offers up to $7 million over the next two years to support research into improved methods of biomass pyrolysis -- a process that uses heat to chemically decompose biomass materials, such as wood chips, into an oily liquid. This "bio-oil" is a complex mixture of oxygenated hydrocarbons that can be upgraded to fuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel using conventional oil refinery processes. However, bio-oil can be corrosive to storage tanks, and when stored for a period of time, it typically becomes more viscous or can even turn into a solid. In addition, bio-oil often contains small particles of charred biomass residue, and minerals in the char can catalyze reactions that degrade the quality of the bio-oil.

The new DOE solicitation will support the development of enhanced pyrolysis methods or inexpensive post-pyrolysis processing techniques that will result in a less corrosive bio-oil with greater stability. Such an improved bio-oil would be more practical to store, transport, and upgrade into motor fuels. DOE anticipates that five to seven applicants will be selected, and with a minimum 20% cost share from the applicants, roughly $8.75 million will be invested in these projects. Applications are due on May 29. See the DOE press release and the Funding Opportunity Announcement at Grants.gov.