MEGA-BIO and the Three Amigos: DOE Hands Out $11.3M — Who for, and Whyfor?
by Jim Lane (Biofuels Digest) In Washington, the US Department of Energy announced up to $11.3 million for three projects that support the development of biomass-to-hydrocarbon biofuels conversion pathways that, as the DOE remarked, “can produce variable amounts of fuels and/or products based on external factors, such as market demand.”
That’s DOE code for — “it’s OK to produce chemicals and other bioproducts now, while you’re small, we get it. But let’s get back to drop-in fuels when market conditions improve.”
The project is called MEGA-BIO, which sounds suspiciously like a vitamin supplement sold on late night television, and as it happens MEGA-BIO may prove to be a much-needed vitality boost for the technologies selected and for the pathway to large-scale drop-in biofuels. By producing at almost any scale but large-scale, and producing any molecule expect a fuel molecule.
You can guess the DOE’s ultimate target from it’s name, the Department of, er, Energy. But they might find themselves depending on some renewable chemicals and bioproducts as the kind of quick-win apps that drive profits, build platforms, and finance the commercialization of technologies that, at scale, will ultimately produce affordable drop-in fuels.
Not a bad way to weather the low oil price storm, as it happens. Project finance for large-scale drop-in fuels is scarce at the moment. Meanwhile, chemicals lack the protection of something like a Renewable Chemicals Standard and could use a lift.
Partnership #1. Lanzatech has a well-established process for making alcohols from syngas. Here’s the emphasis is on fatty alcohols. Something that was identified as an early quick-win for REG Life Sciences some time back.
Partnership #2. Amyris has a well-established process for making farnesene from cane sugar. Here, the emphasis is on making the same chemical, only from woody biomass using cellulosic sugars provided by Renmatix. Much cheaper source of feedstock — that’ll be needed to bring Amyris diesel and jet fuel down to affordable costs.
Partnership #3. Biocrude has been made by a number of companies including KiOR and . Here, the partnership has identified a series of high-value chemicals that can be produced from this blendstock. Worth noting that Ensyn has been making smokehouse flavoring for years using its RTP process. READ MORE and MORE (Department of Energy) and MORE (Amyris)