The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced last week it will invest $4.2 million in Ames-based Frontline BioEnergy LLC to support the development of advanced drop-in biofuels for military applications.
With the award, Frontline BioEnergy will scale-up its current lab-scale TarFreeGas ® reactor into a pilot-scale biorefinery by integrating its gasification technology with an existing Fischer-Tropsch (F-T) conversion unit provided by its business and technology partner, SGC Energia’s.
“SGC Energia’s work on the F-T technology demonstration has been completely separate from our work to-date, but we thought we could leverage all the work they have done and all the work we have done in one spot to create a new pilot demonstration plant,” said William Lee, chief executive officer and co-founder of Frontline BioEnergy.
The integrated bio-refinery pilot plant will convert a variety of woody biomass and municipal solid waste- derived feedstocks into samples of biofuels that meet military specifications.
“The DOE award will allow us to move forward and demonstrate this innovative new gasification technology on a pilot-scale level,” Mr. Lee said. “Working on a pilot-scale level with drop-in fuels is important for developing commercial biofuels production capacity because investors want to see the technology actually working outside a laboratory.”
For the past seven years, the Iowa Energy Center’s Biomass Energy Conversion (BECON) facility in Nevada, Iowa has been home to Frontline BioEnergy’s gasification technology research. Frontline BioEnergy plans to continue the pilot-scale gasification research at the BECON facility.
“Frontline BioEnergy’s work was the first thermal gas project at BECON, and we really hope it can continue onto the marketplace with the support of this award,” said Norman Olson, program manager at BECON.
Along with Frontline BioEnergy, three other pilot-scale refinery projects received funds from the DOE last Monday, a total investment of $18 million. The projects will demonstrate technologies that cost-effectively convert biomass into advanced drop-in biofuels. In addition to Frontline BioEnergy, a second Iowa-based company, BioProcess Algae in Shenandoah, was awarded $6.4 million to evaluate an algae growth platform to produce hydrocarbon fuels.