September 28, 2011 / 4:50 PM / 8 years ago

U.S. gives $136 million for advanced biofuels research

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. university researchers will get $136 million to develop advanced biofuels, including to develop jet fuel, by using tall grasses, woody plants and energy cane, the U.S. government said on Wednesday.

Nearly two-thirds of the money will go toward aviation biofuels projects in the Pacific Northwest, including efforts to develop a regional source of bio-jet fuel for Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who announced the awards in Seattle, said the project will help promote growth in rural America.

Five universities won funds from the National Institute for Food and Agriculture. The projects would:

— focus on using woody crops to produce bio-gasoline and renewable aviation fuel, including construction of biorefineries, as well as developing a trained workforce. The University of Washington received $40 million for the project.

— convert idle sawmills into bioenergy development centers and develop new feedstocks and techniques for sustainable forest production to create a regional source of renewable aviation fuel. Washington State University received $40 million for the project.

— develop a regional biomass production system for advanced motor fuels using native perennial grasses, such as switchgrass, big bluestem and Indian grass. Iowa State University received $25 million for the work.

Its researchers also will study planting of legumes with the grasses as a way to add nutrients to marginal land and evaluate a co-product, bio-char, as a soil amendment to increase carbon sequestration.

— seek economically viable conversion of biomass in existing refineries using energy cane — a relative of sugarcane that’s lower in sugar and higher in fiber — and sorghum as a boost to sugar and chemical industries. Louisiana State University received $17.2 million for the project.

— use switchgrass and woody biomass to produce low-cost sugars for conversion to butanol as well as use forest and mill residues and dedicated energy crops to produce biodiesel fuel, heat and power. The University of Tennessee received $15 million for the research.

Last month, the government announced a $150 million project to produce advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels for the military and for commercial transport.

Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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