The Bioenergy Technologies Office uses a wide range of analytical tools, data, and methodologies to support decision making, guide research, and demonstrate progress toward goals. The wide variety of available biomass feedstocks, conversion technologies, and integration strategies offer a broad range of feasible biofuels scenarios, so the Office focuses its analytical activities on the biofuels research and development (R&D) pathways that offer the best potential for commercialization.
Strategic analysis addresses cross-cutting issues to help frame overall Office direction and goals. The Office's strategic analysis activities have focused primarily on ethanol from lignocellulosic feedstocks. Examples include analyses of land-use change, the U.S. ethanol industry, and preparation of state-of-technology assessments. The Office has recently extended its strategic analyses to include a variety of advanced biofuels, which may be needed to meet legislated biofuels production targets. The Office uses detailed analysis of economic and environmental costs and benefits to make decisions regarding its future R&D activities.
Portfolio analysis ensures that Office activities and projects are aligned to meet the R&D targets necessary to accomplish Office goals. Each of the Office's technology platforms conduct R&D portfolio analyses in their areas of focus. Portfolio analysis guides development of a robust and balanced R&D portfolio that will enable the Office to cost-effectively achieve its targets by weighing benefits against costs and risks, taking into account the latest information on technical status, barriers, and markets, as well as external reviews of progress achieved by ongoing projects. The Program addresses pathway barriers by balancing the needs of the cellulosic biofuels industry and maintaining a connection among the various elements of the biomass-to-biofuels supply chain.
Available Reports and Data
Process Design Reports
- Production of Mixed Alcohols from Municipal Solid Waste via Gasification – The Bioenergy Technologies Office develops design cases to understand the current state of conversion technologies and to determine where improvements need to take place in the future. This design case establishes cost targets for converting MSW to ethanol and other mixed alcohols via gasification. Date Published: March 2010
- Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to Liquid Fuels Synthesis, Volume 1: Availability of Feedstock and Technology
- Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) to Liquid Fuels Synthesis, Volume 2: A Techno-economic Evaluation of the Production of Mixed Alcohols
- Production of Gasoline and Diesel from Biomass via Fast Pyrolysis, Hydrotreating, and Hydrocracking – This design case is the first to establish detailed cost targets for the production of diesel and gasoline blendstock from biomass via a fast pyrolysis process. Date Published: February 2010
- Thermochemical Ethanol via Indirect Gasification and Mixed Alcohol Synthesis of Lignocellulosic Biomass – This process design and technoeconomic evaluation addresses the conversion of biomass to ethanol via thermochemical pathways that are expected to be demonstrated at the pilot level by 2012. Date Published: April 2007
- Process Design Report for Stover Feedstock: Lignocellulosic Biomass to Ethanol Process Design and Economics Utilizing Co-Current Dilute Acid Prehydrolysis and Enzymatic Hydrolysis for Corn Stover – The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has modeled many potential process designs and estimated the economics of each process during the last 20 years. This report is an update of the ongoing process design and economic analyses at NREL. Date Published: June 2002
- Techno-Economic Analysis of Biofuels Production Based on Gasification – This study compares capital and production costs of two biomass-to-liquid production plants based on gasification. Date published: November 2010
- Current State of the U.S. Ethanol Industry – The objective of this study is to provide a comprehensive overview of the state of the U.S. ethanol industry and to outline the major forces that will affect the development of the industry over the next decade. Date Published: November 2010
- Techno-Economic Analysis of Biochemical Scenarios for Production of Cellulosic Ethanol – A techno-economic analysis on the production of cellulosic ethanol by fermentation was conducted to understand the viability of liquid biofuel production processes within the next 5-8 years. Date published: June 2010
- U.S. Biofuels Industry: Mind the Gap – This report was prepared is intended to provide an objective view of the evolving biofuels industry and many of its key participants. It is the second "Year in Review" report created for use by an intended audience of industry, investor, policy maker, and regulator stakeholders. This report covers the 2-year period of 2008-2009. Date Published: April 2010
- Biochemical Production of Ethanol from Corn Stover: 2007 State of Technology Model – Since 2001, NREL has kept track of technical research progress in the biochemical process through what are known as "State of Technology" (SOT) assessments. The purpose of this report is to update the FY 2005 SOT model with the latest research results from the past two years. Date Published: May 2008
- Analysis of the Efficiency of the U.S. Ethanol Industry 2007 – In 2007, the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) conducted a survey of US ethanol production plants to provide an assessment of the current US ethanol industry. The survey covers plant operations in both corn dry mills and wet mills. In particular, it includes plant type, ownership structure, capacity, feedstocks, production volumes, coproducts, process fuel and electricity usage, water consumption, and products transportation and distribution. This report includes a summary and analysis of these results. Date Published: March 2008
- Update of Distillers Grains Displacement Ratios for Corn Ethanol Life Cycle Analysis – This report focuses on updating displacement ratios of dry milling corn-ethanol coproducts used in the animal feed industry. Date published: September 2008
- Quantifying Cradle-to-Farm Gate Life-Cycle Impacts Associated with Fertilizer Used for Corn, Soybean, and Stover Production – Fertilizer use can cause environmental problems, particularly eutrophication of water bodies from excess nitrogen or phosphorus. Increased fertilizer runoff is a concern for harvesting corn stover for ethanol production. Date Published: October 2007
- Well-to-Wheels Analysis of Advanced Fuel/Vehicle Systems: A North American Study of Energy Use, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and Criteria Pollutant Emissions – An accurate assessment of future fuel/propulsion system options requires a complete vehicle fuel-cycle analysis, commonly called a well-to-wheels (WTW) analysis. This WTW study analyzes energy use and emissions associated with fuel production (or well-to-tank [WTT]) activities and energy use and emissions associated with vehicle operation (or tank-to-wheels [TTW]) activities. Date Published: May 2005
- Historical Perspective on How and Why Switchgrass was Selected as a "Model" High-Potential Energy Crop – This paper describes the conditions under which switchgrass species were screened, summarizes results from those trials, discusses the various factors which influenced the selection of switchgrass, and provides a brief evaluation of switchgrass with respect to criteria that should be considered when selecting and developing a crop for biofuels and bioproducts. Date Published: July 2007
- Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply – The purpose of this report is to determine whether the land resources of the United States are capable of producing a sustainable supply of biomass sufficient to displace 30 percent or more of the country's present petroleum consumption – the goal set by the Biomass R&D Technical Advisory Committee in their vision for biomass technologies. Accomplishing this goal would require approximately 1 billion dry tons of biomass feedstock per year. Date Published: April 2005
- Roadmap for Agriculture Biomass Feedstock Supply in the United States – The Biomass Research and Development Technical Advisory Committee set forth a goal that biomass will supply 5% of the nation's power, 20% of transportation fuels, and 25% of chemicals by 2030. Date Published: November 2003
- Fuel Economy and Emissions of the Ethanol-Optimized Saab 9-5 Biopower – Owing to renewed and growing interest in increased ethanol utilization in the U.S., a European-specification 2007 Saab 9-5 Biopower 2.0t was acquired by the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for benchmark evaluations. This report details the results of these evaluations. Date Published: January 2007
- Infrastructure Requirements for an Expanded Fuel Ethanol Industry – This report provides technical information specifically related to ethanol transportation, distribution, and marketing issues. This report required analysis of the infrastructure requirements for an expanded ethanol industry. Date Published: January 2002
- Bioenergy Knowledge Discovery Framework – An online collaboration and geospatial analysis tool that allows researchers, policymakers, and investors to explore and engage the latest bioenergy research. The Bioenergy KDF harnesses Web 2.0 and social networking technologies to build a collective knowledge system that facilitates collaborative production, integration, and analysis of bioenergy-related information.
- Biomass Energy Data Book – The purpose of this data book is to assemble biomass data from diverse sources to produce a comprehensive document that supports anyone with an interest or stake in the biomass industry. Last Updated: November 2009