The U.S. Department of Agriculture today said it will make available $181 million to develop commercial-scale biofuel refineries or retrofit existing facilities with appropriate technology to develop advanced biofuels.
"This financing will expand the number of commercial biorefineries in operation in the U.S. that are producing advanced biofuels from non-food sources," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement.
USDA’s Biorefinery Assistance Program was created by the 2008 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA Rural Development. It provides loan guarantees to viable commercial-scale facilities to develop new and emerging technologies for advanced biofuels. Eligible entities include Indian tribes, state or local governments, corporations, farmer co-ops, agricultural producer associations, higher education institutions, rural electric co-ops, public power entities or consortiums of any of the above.
The department highlighted Sapphire Energy's "Green Crude Farm" in Columbus, N.M., as an example of how this program supports the development of advanced biofuels. In 2011, USDA provided Sapphire Energy with a $54.5 million loan guarantee to build a refined algae oil commercial facility. In continuous operation since May 2012, the plant is producing renewable algal oil that can be further refined to replace petroleum-derived diesel and jet fuel. According to the company, more than 600 jobs were created throughout the first phase of construction at the facility, and 30 full-time employees currently operate the plant.
Sapphire Energy expects to produce 100 barrels of refined algal oil per day by 2015 and be at commercial-scale production by 2018. “After receiving additional equity from private investors, Sapphire was able to repay the remaining balance on its USDA-backed loan earlier this year,” USDA said.
In 2011, USDA issued a $12.8 million loan guarantee to Fremont Community Digester to build an anaerobic digester in Fremont, Mich. The digester, which began commercial operations late last year, is the largest commercial-scale anaerobic digester in the United States. It has the capacity to process more than 100,000 tons of food waste annually to produce biogas and electricity. Biogas from the digester runs generators that total 2.85 megawatts in capacity. The electricity produced is sold to a local utility and is providing power for about 1,500 local homes, USDA noted.
Since the start of the Obama Administration, the USDA Biorefinery Assistance Program has provided approximately $684 million in assistance to support biofuels projects in eight states.
Applications for this latest round of biorefinery assistance are due by Jan. 30. More information about how to apply is available in the Oct. 2 Federal Register announcement
or by contacting the USDA Rural Development National Office