US seeks industry input on $1bn biofuels project for military

31 August 2011 21:16  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS)--Federal officials on Wednesday formally requested industry input on the feasibility and costs for what is expected to be a $1bn (€690m) programme to build several commercial cellulosic biofuels refineries to support US military operations.

The US Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Department of the Navy (DON) issued a joint request for information (RFI) asking industry for “specific ideas on how to leverage private capital markets to establish a commercially viable drop-in biofuels industry”.

A drop-in biofuel is one that could be introduced into conventional US Air Force and Navy fuels for aircraft or ships without requiring any changes in fuelling systems and infrastructure, handling or engines.

“Of particular interest,” said the nine-page request document, “are the technical, manufacturing and market barriers to establishing a viable business for advanced drop-in hydrocarbon biofuels” that use non-food cellulosic feedstocks.

However, the invitation for industry ideas does allow the use of food-based crops as feedstocks, but only on a transitional basis as “a pathway to sustainability” and only if there is no impact on the availability and supply of food.

The proposal, whose general outlines were first announced earlier this month, envisions a 50% federal participation in the eventual construction of an unspecified number of biofuels refineries, with the government’s contribution limited to $510m.

The proposal anticipates several “integrated biorefineries” or IBRs, each of which would have annual productive capacity of 20m gallons and meet three characteristics.

Those criteria include a capability to produce ready drop-in replacement advanced biofuels meeting military specifications at a price competitive with petroleum, geographically diverse locations and no significant impact on the supply of agricultural commodities for production of food.

Among geographic locations, the request specifies that the island state of Hawaii, where the US has long maintained a major naval base and other military assets, should house one of the sites.

Interested companies must within two weeks notify a designated Air Force base of their intent to participate, and completed responses to the RFI are due by 30 September.

($1 = €0.69)

By: Joe Kamalick
+1 713 525 2653

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