To achieve the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO’s) vision of a sustainable, domestic bioenergy industry, the Office’s efforts stretch beyond research and development projects to demonstration and deployment activities. The ultimate goal is commercialization and widespread adoption of advanced technologies that will help move our nation to a more secure and economically sound future. The primary purpose of BETO’s Demonstration and Deployment (D&D) team is to help new technologies transition from the laboratory to the field. Often, these technologies are so innovative that they have a difficult time securing funding because investors are reluctant to take on the risk, even though these innovations can offer a huge benefit to society. In the case of bioenergy, the D&D team’s main focus is supporting the production of advanced biofuels, which can be produced from cellulosic biomass and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 60% compared to traditional fossil fuels. BETO’s D&D team helps projects succeed at staged scales, leading to the commercialization and replication of new technologies. The three scales used to quantify the success of a project are pilot, demonstration, and pioneer. The graphic below lists the objectives of operation at each scale. This approach to commercialization helps technology development companies resolve problems at successive stages before advancing to a larger scale, and is a proven way to enable technical success.

diagram of the scales used for IBRs

The diagram above outlines the three operational scales used by BETO's D&D team to test the success of a new technology. (Image courtesy of BCS Incorporated)

In recent years, BETO’s D&D team has successfully supported several technology projects at each of these scales:

  • INEOS BIO recently produced its first shipment of cellulosic ethanol at its large demonstration-scale plant, which is expected to produce 8 million gallons per year.
  • Myriant began operations at the first bio-succinic acid production plant in the United States.
  • Abengoa Bioenergy and POET-DSM, are each expected to complete construction of their large pioneer plants in 2014 and begin production of 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol annually.
  • Logos Technologies, Inc., has successfully piloted the conversion of corn stover to cellulosic ethanol using its novel proprietary pretreatment process (pilot-scale plant funded through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act).

These accomplishments have helped form the foundation of the cellulosic ethanol and bio-based chemical intermediates supply in the United States and will assist in reducing our transportation sector’s emissions.

Moving forward, BETO is looking into the advancement of drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels—including this year’s awards to four pilot-scale projects to produce military-specification diesel and jet fuel. In order to determine where government assistance is most needed, BETO has released a D&D Request For Information (RFI) to gather feedback from industry stakeholders, academia, and other biorefinery experts  who know the ‘trouble spots’ in the production of hydrocarbon fuels from biomass. BETO is broadly seeking information on algae and terrestrial feedstock logistics, conversion technologies, sustainability considerations, and enabling technology from a commercialization standpoint. The RFI’s closing date is December 6, 2013. 

The D&D RFI will be instrumental in identifying the technical and non-technical hurdles to making cellulosic biofuels competitive with petroleum-based fuels in an effort to create a market that’s conducive to maximizing the production and use of biofuels in the near future.