Bioenergy Research Centers Announced | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: June 28, 2007

Bioenergy Research Centers Announced

DOE program would provide $375 million for three labs
Department: Government & Policy | Collection: Sustainability

Three laboratories were selected on June 26 by the Department of Energy to find natural enzymes and other biological means and processes to efficiently and inexpensively break down cellulose to make ethanol and other biofuels. Each lab will receive $125 million each over the next five years for this bioenergy research.

The bioenergy research centers are located at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, Calif.; and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The research focus is to move beyond reliance on corn as a biofuel feedstock in the U.S. and replace it with other cellulosic raw materials. Development of "transformational technologies" is the research goal, said both Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman and Energy Undersecretary for Science Raymond L. Orbach, when making the announcement.

Comparing the U.S. biofuels energy research agenda to World War II's Manhattan Project and the space race, Orbach said the research expected to take place at the new centers could lead to fundamental cellular-based discoveries that go beyond applications to ethanol and other biofuels. Some 18 different universities, seven DOE laboratories, at least one nonprofit organization, and many companies will take part in science at the three centers, according to Orbach.

The centers are part of the President's plan to make cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012 and to reduce U.S. gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years, Bodman said. The project fits with another program announced earlier this year that will provide $375 million in funding for six new biorefineries that are expected eventually to produce more than 130 million gal of cellulose-derived ethanol a year, Bodman said.

Funding for both the R&D centers and refineries will depend on congressional appropriations for 2008.

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