The US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) announced it would designate 39 contiguous counties in Missouri and Kansas – 50,000 acres – for the production of dedicated biofuels crops, native grasses and herbaceous plants.
This is the first Biomass Crop Assistance Program Project Area in the US – its purpose is to promote production of dedicated feedstocks for electricity, heat generation and transportation fuels.
Farmers will plant mixes of perennial native plants, such as switchgrass, for the manufacture of biomass pellet fuels. and other biomass products to be used for power and heat generation. The proposed crops also will provide long term resource conserving vegetative cover.
In his announcement, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the project will help spur the development of next-generation biofuels, which is part of Obama Administration efforts to protect Americans from rising gas prices by breaking the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.
"Reducing our dependence on foreign oil and getting a handle on out of control gas prices will require investments in projects like we are announcing today," said Vilsack. "By encouraging production of feedstocks that can be converted into next-generation biofuels we are boosting the rural economy, creating jobs, contributing to America’s energy security and protecting our planet. Investments like this spark creation of new industries and is a key part of our effort to keep America competitive and win the future."
Teams of crop producers and bioenergy facilities will submit proposals to the USDA to be selected as a BCAP project area. If selected, crop producers will be eligible for reimbursements of up to 75% of the cost of establishing a bioenergy perennial crop, and can receive up to five years of annual payments for grassy crops (annual or perennial), and up to 15 years of annual payments for woody crops (annual or perennial).
The project is a joint effort between the agriculture producers of Show Me Energy Cooperative of Centerview, Mo., and USDA to spur the expansion of domestically produced biomass feedstocks in rural America for renewable energy.
BCAP, created in the 2008 Farm Bill, is a primary component of the strategy to reduce U.S. reliance on foreign oil, improve domestic energy security, reduce pollution, and spur rural economic development and job creation. BCAP provides incentives to interested farmers, ranchers and forest landowners for the establishment and cultivation of biomass for heat, power, bio-based products and biofuels.
Producers interested in participating in the project area should visit their local Farm Service Agency (FSA) county office for information and application. Facts about BCAP. The signup period begins on May 9, 2011.
$47 Million for Biofuels R&D
The USDA and DOE also announced $47 million in awards for eight research and development projects to support production of biofuels, bioenergy and high-value biobased products from a variety of biomass sources.
The advanced biofuels produced through these projects are also expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% compared to fossil fuels.
The projects are funded through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative. Grant recipients are required to contribute a minimum of 20% of matching funds for R&D projects and 50% for demonstration projects.
"The projects selected today will help produce affordable, renewable biofuels right here in the U.S. to power our cars and trucks," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "President Obama set a bold national goal to reduce America’s oil imports by one-third in a little more than a decade."
Here are the projects:
- Cellana LLC, Kailua Kona, Hawaii, $5,521,173. Cellana will work to develop a protein supplement from algae as a byproduct of algal biofuels production, by demonstrating its nutritional and economic value in livestock feeds. The project will characterize types of algae, assess the nutritional values of algal proteins, assess the potential for algal proteins to replace soybean meal, and develop algal protein supplements.
- Domtar Paper Company, LLC, Fort Mill, SC, $7,000,000. This three-year project will work to build a demonstration plant using two technologies to convert low-value byproducts and wastes from paper mills into higher-value sugar, oil, and lignin products.
- Exelus, Inc., Livingston, N.J., $5,185,004. Exelus will work to develop energy crops with improved tolerance to drought and salt stress to enhance yields on marginal lands. The project will also redesign a process to make hydrocarbon fuels using new catalysts and chemistry that avoids the high temperatures and large energy inputs required by current processes.
- Metabolix, Inc., Cambridge, Mass., $6,000,001. Metabolix will enhance the yield of bio-based products, biopower, or fuels made from switchgrass. The project will use high temperature conversion to produce denser biomass and other products that can be further processed to make fuels such as butanol, chemicals such as propylene and other materials to improve the economic competitiveness of future biorefineries.
- University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., $5,430,439. The purpose of this project is to improve the production and sustainability of sweet sorghum as an energy crop. The University will identify genetic traits in sorghum associated with drought tolerance through genetic mapping and will select strains that produce high biomass yields and can be easily converted to fermentable sugars.
- University of Kansas Center for Research, Lawrence, Kan., $5,635,858. The purpose of this project is to demonstrate a novel, sustainable technology at a pilot scale that produces diverse products, including advanced fuels, industrial chemicals and chemical intermediates.
- University of Kentucky, Lexington, Ky., $6,932,786. The purpose of this project is to improve the economics for biorefineries by using on-farm processing to convert biomass to a mixture of butanol, ethanol, acetone and organic acids. The product can then be easily transported to a biorefinery for further processing. The project will integrate input from experts in a variety of disciplines, including plant and soil scientists, horticulturists, chemical engineers, and economists.
- U.S. Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Missoula, Mont., $5,309,320. This project will develop an integrated approach to investigate biomass feedstock production, logistics, conversion, distribution and end use centered on using advanced conversion technologies at existing forest industry facilities.