Media Releases

$1.6 million in Biofuels Center grants to accelerate commercialization of renewable fuels

OXFORD - The Biofuels Center of North Carolina has awarded $1.6 million for 15 projects statewide to accelerate the commercialization of renewable liquid fuels. Awards are made through the 2011 Statewide Biofuels Development Grants Program.

Biofuels Center president and CEO Steven Burke affirmed the value of both the large number of proposals and those awarded. "The juncture of new energy and new agriculture requires smart ideas and practical commercial outcomes. The 15 awarded projects-encompassing rural communities and woody biomass, technology and municipal solid waste-verify the competence, scope, and remarkably rapid development of this new sector statewide," he said.

Strengthening and funding capabilities statewide for biofuels commercialization is a prime task within the Center's legislative and policy mandate, and key to development of sector leadership, economic return, and meeting the state's goal: by 2017, 10% of North Carolina's liquid transportation fuels will come from biofuels grown and produced within the state.

The Center received 58 pre-proposals totaling more than $5.2 million from 23 institutions following its December 2010 request for proposals. Emphasizing commercialization, the program sought projects targeting three areas:

  • County or regional analyses of assets available for site location of biofuels companies
  • Needs analyses and plans for the conversion of municipal waste into biofuels
  • The growing of energy grasses in the North Carolina Piedmont region

The awarded projects will impact 60 counties and will in various ways address biofuels ranging in variety from biogasoline and bioethanol to FT diesel and biomass-derived jet fuel. Expert panels comprised of industry, non-profits, and state agency representatives reviewed the applications in a competitive process and made funding recommendations for approval by the Biofuels Center Board of Directors.

The complete list of grant awards follows:

Regional woody biomass analyses:

  •  $50,000  ~  Assess Potential of Woody Biomass for Advanced Biofuels Production  ~  North Carolina's Eastern Region  ~  Kinston
  •  $50,000  ~  Regional Site Assessment of Woody Biomass Resources for N.C.’s Northeast Region  ~  North Carolina’s NE Economic Development Commission  ~  Edenton
  •  $50,000  ~  Regional Analysis of Assets for Biofuels Firm  ~  Charlotte Regional Partnership  ~  Charlotte
  •  $50,000  ~  Extraction and Refinement of Oils from Biodiesel Feedstocks  ~ North Carolina's Southeast Region  ~  Elizabethtown

 These four regions will work with forestry consultants to assess the availability of woody biomass in their respective regions. The strategy is a three-phase approach that will provide a regional assessment suggesting the optimum two sites per region, the validated infrastructure required for a biofuels production facility, and a detailed woody biomass assessment for the selected sites.

Municipal solid waste projects:

  •  $145,988  ~  Assessment of Municipal Solid Wastes into Biofuels via Pyrolysis  ~  N.C. A&T State University  ~  Greensboro

This project will assess the conversion of municipal solid waste into bio-oil using pyrolysis, analyzing the technical and economic feasibilities.

  •  $93,119  ~  Utilizing Municipal Solid Waste as a Biofuels Feedstock  ~  Environmental Research and Education Foundation  ~  Raleigh

This project will explore the use of gasification that can be used on about 60 percent of solid municipal waste (MSW). It will also study the process of MSW into liquid fuels compared to other forms of energy from MSW.

Energy grasses projects:

  • $133,776  ~  Native and Non-Native Mouse Interactions in Switchgrass - Pine Systems  ~  UNC-Greensboro  ~  Greensboro

This project will assess if there are sustainability issues with intercropping. Certain mouse species function as “canaries in the coal mine,” giving warning if there are sustainability issues.

  • $85,542  ~  Suitability of N.C. Piedmont Soils for Bioenergy Crop Production  ~  N.C. State University's Soil Science Department  ~  Mills River

This project will study the effects of perennial bioenergy grasses on soil chemistry and physical properties.

  •  $150,000  ~  Expanding Piedmont Perennial Grass Production Through Grower Engagement  ~  N.C. State University's Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department  ~  Jackson Springs, Salisbury, and Reidsville.

This project will provide equipment assistance to growers; build a collaboration between growers, seed and tissue providers, and biomass consumers; and develop a comprehensive marketing plan to help link producers and potential consumers.

Production innovations:

  •  $149,488  ~  Sorghum Biofuels: A Route to Commercialization in North Carolina  ~  N.C. State University's Biological and Agricultural Engineering Department  ~  Roper

This project will analyze sorghum as a source of biomass. Sorghums contain high levels of fermentable sugars and significant cellulose materials while requiring relatively low agronomic input. The grant will also study the impact of second harvests in industrial-scale production.

  • $97,088  ~  Environmental Protection and Biofuels Production on Waste Application Fields  ~  N.C. State University's Forestry and Environmental Resources Department  ~  Gibson and Jacksonville

This project will analyze the state’s potential acreage for waste application. It also will demonstrate using the fields for biocrop production and pollutant mitigation, and evaluate economic value of the strategies.

  • $144,082  ~  Pilot Scale Continuous Flow Microwave Pretreatment of Grasses  ~  N.C. State University's Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Sciences Department  ~  Raleigh

Microwave heating technologies have been shown to be effective as a pre-treatment of feedstocks such as grasses to enhance hydrolysis and remove lignin. This project will study how continuous flow microwave using a patented technology may increase commercialization.  It will include validation of the process.

  • $148,419  ~  Loblolly Pine Biomass Cropping Study  ~  N.C. State University's Forestry and Environmental Resources Department  ~  Butner

This project will test Loblolly pine varieties for the potential use as feedstock in the Piedmont region.

  • $119,675  ~  Cooking Oil Recycling Program  ~  Metropolitan Sewerage District of Buncombe County  ~  Asheville

This project will analyze increasing access to a low-cost feedstock by providing public collection sites. The grant will also study the impact of public education programs in multiple communities.

  • $145,665  ~  Efficient Biodiesel Production from Inexpensive Feedstocks  ~  Wake Forest University  ~  Winston-Salem

This project will study a newly developed enzyme and technology to replace acid pre-treatment.

For information, contact:
Norman Smit
Director, Communications and Education
Biofuels Center of North Carolina


2 May 2011