Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to use US$3.1M DOE grant to research biomass conversion processes to produce biofuels that are interchangeable with petroleum-based gasoline, diesel or jet fuels

Rachel Carter

Rachel Carter

Sep 10, 2010 – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

RICHLAND, Washington , September 9, 2010 (press release) – The Department of Energy has given a Pacific Northwest National Laboratory team up to $3.1 million to research the development of biofuels that would power the sort of car you likely have parked in your driveway.

The competitive grant was part of $16.5 million awarded nationwide Wednesday to support the expansion of renewable transportation fuels production.

The research that will be done with the money at the Department of Energy lab in Richland is ground-breaking and has the potential to significantly improve the ability of homegrown biofuels to replace foreign oil, said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., in a statement.

"Developing cost-effective renewable transportation fuels is a key component of DOE's strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and move the nation toward energy independence," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a statement.

PNNL will use a thermochemical process known as pyrolysis, which breaks down biomass using heat in the absence of oxygen to produce an oiland charcoal. Researchers then will process the oil with catalysts to convert it into a fuel.

The goal is to produce fuels that are interchangeable with gasoline, diesel or jet fuels produced from petroleum to allow the fuel to be used in existing vehicles and pumped at existing places like commercial gas stations.

For the three-year project PNNL will work with Albemarle Corp. and UOP, a Honeywell company, to develop better processes to upgrade the oil to hydrocarbon fuels and make the conversion process commercially viable. PNNL's work is expected to cost about $1.7 million.

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