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US sets up $41m of R&D projects to advance biofuels

US Agriculture and Energy Departments announce investment in 13 projects to drive innovations in biofuel production

The 13 US R&D projects aims to drive innovations in biofuel production

USD 41m of R&D projects have been set up to develop biofuel production in the US. As part of the Obama Administration, the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Energy has announced the investment into 13 projects to drive more efficient biofuels production and feedstock improvements.

Through the joint Biomass Research and Development Initiative (BRDI), USDA and the Energy Department are working to develop economically and environmentally sustainable sources of renewable biomass and increase the availability of renewable fuels and biobased products.

The five projects will help to diversify the nation's energy portfolio and replace the need for gasoline and diesel in vehicles.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu, said: "As part of President Obama's all-of-the-above strategy to deploy every available source of American energy, we continue to strive for more efficient, cost-competitive technologies to produce US energy. The investments announced are helping to accelerate innovation across America's growing biofuels industry, which will help to reduce our dependence on imported oil and support job creation across rural America."

The projects include a USD 4.25m project at the Quad County Corn Cooperative in Galva, Iowa, which will involve retrofitting an existing corn starch ethanol plant to add value to its byproducts; a USD 7m project at the Agricultural Research Service's National Centre for Agricultural Utilisation Research, in Peoria, Illinois to optimise rapeseed and oilseed crops for oil quality and yield using recombinant inbred lines; and a USD 7m project at the University of Wisconsin, in Madison to utilise manure as a source of fibre to convert into ethanol and biodiesel used in farm equipment. Finally, in a USD 6m project in Manoa, the University of Hawaii will optimise the production of grasses for compatibility with the biochemical conversion to jet fuel and diesel.

The Energy Department and USDA have also announced USD 10m for eight research projects aimed at applying biomass genomics to improve promising biofuel feedstocks and drive more efficient, cost-effective energy production.

The projects will use genetic mapping to advance sustainable biofuels production by analysing and seeking to maximise genetic traits like feedstock durability, how tolerant feedstocks are to various environmental stresses, and the potential for feedstocks to be used in energy production.