Integrated Strategies to Enable Lower-Cost Biofuels
To support and advance the clean energy economy and diversify transportation fuel alternatives, the Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is working to develop cost-effective strategies for producing bio-derived fuels and products. BETO has near-term targets for biofuel pathways that can achieve a modeled $3/gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) based on projections from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook. Recent trajectories in the price of petroleum highlight the need for even lower-cost pathways.
This report summarizes the findings of a qualitative analysis to identify integrated strategies needed for more affordable biofuels. It outlines five key strategies needed to achieve lower fuel production costs in an integrated biorefinery (Figure ES-1) and provides high-level research needs across the biofuel supply chain, including biomass production and collection, preprocessing, conversion, and end use. For each strategy, the report highlights current research and outlines additional focus areas that can help reduce costs below their current projections.
The main areas for cost reduction discussed in detail in the report include the following:
Developing atom-efficient biorefineries
Utilizing all components of the feedstock entering a biorefinery and employing efficient conversion strategies can improve the economic viability of a wide range of fuel production strategies.
Intensifying process designs
Reducing capital costs and lowering facility operating costs through enhanced process integration or novel processing routes may provide opportunities to improve profitability.
Utilizing existing infrastructure
Co-location with other processing facilities and reuse of equipment and utilities can be beneficial for capital and operating cost reduction. In addition, there are opportunities to utilize equipment and processing infrastructure already available to the petroleum refining industry, with relatively low-expenditure adjustments to reactors, catalysts, and associated upgrading processes.
Reducing feedstock costs
Utilizing waste and low-quality feedstocks can result in substantially lower feedstock costs. Other strategies to reduce feedstock costs include diversifying feedstock production and utilization; using integrated landscape management strategies; reducing losses of convertible material during harvest, collection, and storage; and increasing supply system intensification.
Developing high-value products
Developing bio-derived fuels and chemicals with a clear value proposition can accelerate the transition from research and development to market. Strategies include researching fuels with targeted properties to improve efficiency and reduce overall fuel consumption costs, leveraging advantages of biomass such as inherent oxygen content for oxygenated fuels and products, developing products that work with current fuels and enhance petroleum blendstocks, and addressing fuel needs in the aviation and marine sectors.
Preliminary analyses suggest multiple targeted strategies will be necessary to move towards a $2/GGE target for biofuels.
U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy