USDA accepting applications for $181M in advanced biofuel funding

By Ron Kotrba | October 21, 2013

“Despite a time of significant budget uncertainty,” USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced availability of $181 million to develop commercial-scale biorefineries, or to retrofit existing facilities with the 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 nonfood sources,” Vilsack said.

USDA used Sapphire Energy’s Green Crude Farm in Columbus, N.M., as an example of how this program supports development of advanced biofuels. In 2011, USDA provided Sapphire Energy a $54.5 million loan guarantee to build a refined alga 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. The company expects to produce 100 barrels of refined algal oil per day by 2015, and to 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.

Applications for biorefinery assistance are due by Jan. 30. More information about how to apply is available in the Oct. 2 Federal Register announcement.  

“USDA's Biorefinery Assistance Program is yet another way USDA is helping to carry out the Obama Administration's ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to develop every possible source of American-made energy,” Vilsack said. “But the benefits go beyond reducing our dependence on foreign oil. These biorefineries are also creating lasting job opportunities in rural America and are boosting the rural economy as well.”


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