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Three CEBC Corporate Partners Selected to Receive Nearly $75 Million for Biorefinery Projects

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Of 19 companies chosen by the federal government to pilot next-generation biorefineries, three are corporate partners with the University of Kansas Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis, or CEBC.

The U.S. Department of Energy is funding the setup of the pilot testing facilities with $564 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Funds from non-federal sources of more than $700 million bring the total investment to $1.3 billion.

Today, around 150 oil refineries in the U.S. process crude oil into fuels and chemicals. Biorefineries are similar to oil refineries, but rather than use crude oil as their starting material, they use such plant materials as poplar trees, algae or agricultural leftovers. 

The biorefineries will be located in rural areas, near the source of the biomass. According to DOE Secretary Steven Chu, the investment is expected to spur rural economic growth and “[build] a cleaner, more sustainable transportation system in the U.S.”

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), UOP LLC, and Zeachem Inc. will receive nearly $75 million to build pilot-scale biorefineries.  As corporate members of CEBC, these companies provide guidance for the center’s research, including projects to convert biomass into sustainable chemicals and fuels. 

Todd Werpy, vice president, Biofuels and Biochemical Research, ADM, said that the company expects the DOE money to shorten the time required to commercialize biofuels “by about two years.”

ADM will use a portion of the DOE funds to support a proprietary research project at CEBC.  This strengthens an ongoing partnership between CEBC and ADM that started in 2005.  It also expands ADM-sponsored research at CEBC that started last May, which had matching funds from the Kansas Bioscience Authority for a total of $2.4 million. 

“The project supports the KBA’s vision of a thriving biorefining industry in Kansas,” said Bala Subramaniam, director of CEBC. “We are extremely pleased to be in partnership with a global leader like ADM in implementing the next-generation biorefineries.” 

CEBC was established at KU in 2004.  Its mission is to develop cleaner, more efficient industrial processes to make chemicals and fuels.

Description of CEBC corporate partners’ biorefinery projects:

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) will receive $24.8 million to build a pilot-scale facility in Decatur, IL. With a match of $10.9 million in non-federal funds, ADM will demonstrate an advanced process to break down biomass so that it can be converted into fuels or chemicals. It will sponsor research at CEBC as part of this effort. 

UOP LLC, formerly Universal Oil Products, will receive $25 million to build a pilot scale facility in Kapolei, HI. With a match of $6.7 million in non-federal funds, UOP will demonstrate a process to convert agricultural residue, woody biomass, dedicated energy crops and algae into green gasoline, diesel and jet fuel.

ZeaChem Inc. will receive $25 million to build a pilot-scale cellulosic biorefinery facility in Boardman, OR. With a match of $48.4 million in non-federal funds, ZeaChem will produce cellulosic ethanol from poplar trees using a hybrid technology.

--Story by Claudia Bode

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