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US government to grant more bioenergy and biofuels funding

The US government says it is to give $35 million (€27 million) towards the research and development of advanced biofuels, bioenergy and bio-based products.

Through the Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), a joint programme established by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Energy Department, the project hopes to create more sources of renewable fuels that can replace petrol and diesel, diversifying the US’ energy portfolio.

‘USDA's partnership with the Department of Energy aims to improve our country's energy security and provide sustainable jobs in communities across the country,’ says agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack. ‘This funding represents the kind of innovation we need to build American made, homegrown biofuels and bio-based products that will help to break our dependence on foreign oil and move our nation toward a clean energy economy.’

Companies that want a part of the funding will need to suggest projects that combine science and engineering research with three of the following technical areas: feedstock development; biofuels and bio-based products development; and biofuels development analysis.

Funding under the feedstock development section will cover improving biomass feedstocks and their supply, including the harvest, transport, preprocessing and storage necessary to produce biofuels and bio-based products.

For biofuels and bio-based products development, companies will need to prove they plan to invest the money into technologies that will use cellulosic biomass for biofuels production. These methods will need to be cost-effective.

Biofuels development analysis covers evaluating ways in which to expand biofuel production, assessing the potential for using federal land resources to increase feedstock production.

Yesterday Vilsack also announced that the USDA has approved a $5 million payment to Western Plains Energy which will be put towards the construction of a new biogas anaerobic digester in Oakley, Kansas.

The digester will run on animal waste produced from a local cattle feedlot, cutting nearly 90% of the fossil fuels currently created by Western Plains. Grain dust and industrial food and municipal waste will also be collected from nearby sites.

The development of the project will create 15 full time jobs and about 100 construction positions.

Western Plains says it will finish the construction of the development in August, with the plant coming online in 2013.

The digester is anticipated to produce more than 100Btu of renewable energy an hour each day.

The Western Plains facility processes heat at its Oakley ethanol plant, which produces 50 million gallons of ethanol a year, and this new digester will make the operations more environmentally friendly.