US names 3 new research teams for cellulosic goal

26 June 2007 19:06  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--US energy officials set aside $375m (€277m) on Tuesday to fund three new bio-energy research centres in hopes of finding breakthrough technologies toward cost-competitive production of cellulosic ethanol by 2012.


The Department of Energy said the new research centres will be located at the department’s Oak Ridge, Tennessee national laboratory, at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Wisconsin, and at the department’s national laboratory at Berkeley, California.


Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman said the three new research programmes “will provide the transformational science needed for bio-energy breakthroughs to advance President Bush’s goal of making cellulosic ethanol cost-competitive with gasoline by 2012”.


Bush has set a goal of replacing 20% of US gasoline consumption with biobased fuels by 2017.  That objective would require some 35bn gal/year of ethanol output.  Current US ethanol production is wholly corn-based and is expected to peak at some 15bn gal/year.


It is generally accepted that the US cannot reach higher ethanol output levels without technology and process breakthroughs in the use of non-food cellulosic feedstocks such as grasses, wood chips and agricultural wastes such as corn stover and wheat chaff.  Current cellulosic production is chiefly at laboratory level and cost levels five times more than corn ethanol.


The three research centres will use existing facilities at each location but will bring together teams of researchers from 18 leading US universities, seven of the department’s national laboratories, non-profit groups and private companies.


Their research will focus on how to re-engineer biological processes for more efficient methods of converting cellulose in plant material into ethanol, the department said.


Bodman said the new centres will begin work next year and will be fully operational by 2009.  With a goal of cost-competitive cellulosic ethanol by 2012, the new research teams will have little more than three years to uncover needed breakthroughs in order to meet that deadline.


($1.00 = €0.74)

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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