Quadrennial Energy Review Contains Clues on Federal Biofuels, Biomass Priorities

Source: By Jessie Stolark, EESI • Posted: Monday, May 11, 2015

In January of 2014, President Obama directed the Department of Energy (DOE) to conduct the first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), as part of the President’s Climate Action Plan.  Published in April, the first installment focuses on the U.S. aging energy infrastructure network, including the electric grid.  The same day, the President announced a proposal to update and harden the electric grid to cyber-security and climate change impacts, at an estimated cost of up to $18.85 billion.  In the weeks since the announcement, Congress has held a host of hearings on the QER.  And while not a major focus of the report, the QER contains language pertaining to biofuels and bioenergy which give some hints as to the top-level goals for DOE for biofuels and biomass power.

Biofuels – Invest in Aviation, Heavy Vehicles, Help States Achieve Higher Blends

The QER notes that “biofuels production in the United States has increased rapidly over the last decade, enhancing energy security and reducing emissions of GHGs from transportation.”   While the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) is recognized as the major driver of investment in and increased production of renewable fuels, there must be continued investment ‘in research, development, demonstration, and deployment” for advanced fuels, such as cellulosic and “drop-in” fuels.

The report directs federal investments, particularly from the DOE and Department of Defense (DOD) towards biofuels deployment and compatibility with existing petroleum infrastructure, particularly for the aviation and large vehicle sectors.  It gives one example of the many areas DOD is working towards greater use of alternative fuels in fleets, the “Great Green Fleet,” which DOD plans to run on 100 percent renewable fuel by 2016.

Drop-in fuels, or renewable fuels that are compatible with petroleum infrastructure, are given particular emphasis in the QER, as are other molecules that can replace octane (in addition to ethanol).  Renewable fuels and oxygenates derived from biomass pyrolysis, biomass gasifiers, algae, biobutanol and renewable diesel are prioritized as “drop-in biofuels … can use existing oil and gas infrastructure and be ‘dropped in’ at points along the supply chain without infrastructure modification … [thus] supporting energy security through fuel diversity.”

It also directs DOE to “provide technical support to states, communities, or private entities wishing to invest in infrastructure to dispense higher-level ethanol blends.”


Biomass and CCS Technology May Demand Additional Transmission, Storage & Distribution

Since the QER is focused on transmission and distribution, and not power generation,   biomass power receives scant attention in the report.  It is, however, briefly discussed in its relation to the grid.

THE QER notes that, “the expanded implementation of no- and low CO2 energy technologies being undertaken to reduce the energy system’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions overall will place additional demands on transmission, Storage and Distribution (TS&D) in some cases, e.g. … to move captured CO2 from fossil-fueled and possibly biomass-fueled power plants through pipeline networks to sites for productive use or geologic storage.”

For more information see:

DOE Publishes Quadrennial Energy Review, Ethanol Producer

Quadrennial Energy Review: Energy Transmission, Storage, and Distribution Infrastructure, The Department of Energy