California awards $23 million to alternative fuels projects

By California Energy Commission | June 13, 2012

The California Energy Commission today approved funding of $23,110,015 for projects that will advance the development of green fuels and the installation of fueling stations. These investments help California to fulfill its pioneering climate change policies, reduce dependence on foreign oil, and improve the environment.

“These awards support innovative projects that provide a crucial boost to emerging fuels and vehicle technologies,” Energy Commissioner Carla Peterman said. “They support a range of efforts, from cutting-edge scientific research to the development of alternative fueling stations. They also benefit all Californians by creating jobs and improving air quality while helping to develop a diverse range of transportation options the state can rely on in the future.”

The awards are provided through the Energy Commission’s Alternative and Renewable Fuel and Vehicle Technology Program, created by Assembly Bill 118. The program provides approximately $100 million annually to encourage the development and use of alternative and renewable fuels and new vehicle technologies. By leveraging outside funding, many of these projects also attract additional investment in clean energy technology.

The award recipients are:    

* Clean World Partners, LLC, will receive $6 million to increase the Sacramento BioRefinery’s capacity from 25 tons to 100 tons a day. This will divert 100 tons per day of food waste from landfills and use that to produce enough renewable natural gas to replace 566,000 gallons of diesel fuel and generate 3.17 million kWh of electricity every year – enough to power nearly 400 average California homes for a year.

* EdeniQ Inc., will receive $3.9 million to modify an existing biorefinery to test and optimize the use of non-food woody plant materials to produce low-carbon ethanol, called cellulosic ethanol. The project will evaluate the potential of several plant materials, and production processes, including installation and testing of equipment. The project includes the demonstration of a 2-ton per day ethanol biorefinery, producing at least 70 gallons of ethanol per ton of biomass. EdeniQ is based in Visalia, Tulare County.

* The University of California, Davis, will receive $2,770,072 to research the comparative value, benefits and drawbacks of all types of alternative fuels in California. The multidisciplinary research will be based at the university’s Institute of Transportation Studies. Findings will be used to inform the Energy Commission’s investment plans for AB 118 funds.   

* tmdgroup, Inc., will receive $2,210,000 for an outreach and marketing campaign to accelerate California market acceptance and use of alternative fuels and new efficient low-carbon vehicle technologies that reduce petroleum dependence and greenhouse gas emissions. Outreach will focus on commercial and public fleet owners and managers. tmdgroup is based in Sacramento.

* The U.S. DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory will receive $2,152,273 to assess the effectiveness of the Energy Commission’s AB 118 investments in alternative and renewable fuels and vehicle technology. Among the questions to be considered: How much investment is needed to bring the alternative fuel vehicle market to maturity, and when can that be expected? A summary of the most promising emerging technologies and the best strategies for attracting private investment will also be provided. This project will help the Energy Commission track its progress in reaching energy security and petroleum reduction goals as well as improve the future AB118 investment portfolio.

* Aemetis Inc., will receive $1,875,528 as a cost-share for the development of a facility in Keyes, in the Modesto area, that will demonstrate and analyze the production of ethanol using various crop refuse, including wheat straw, cotton gin waste, sugar cane and corn waste. The ethanol will be mixed with conventional gasoline for a lower-carbon, less-polluting fuel. Aemetis is based in Cupertino, in Santa Clara County.

* Kent BioEnergy Corp. will receive $1,496,426 for research to develop processes with commercial potential for producing fermentable sugars from algal biomass that has been grown on land that is not suitable for agriculture, in brackish water, and fed nutrients from waste. Sugars produced in this way can be used to create sustainable and renewable ethanol. The project will include cutting-edge bioengineering research of strains of algae adaptable to large-scale cultivation in outdoor ponds.  Kent BioEnergy of San Diego and major subcontractors Protabit, LLC, and Professor Stephen Mayo's group at the California Institute of Technology, both in Pasadena, will provide equal matching funds. About half the award funding will support biotech jobs.

* Sysco Food Services of Los Angeles, Inc., will receive $600,000 to develop a 24-hour publicly accessible liquefied natural gas station in Riverside. This station along the I-215 corridor in the Inland Empire will serve vehicles moving goods at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and will complement clean truck programs at the ports. The station, which will make liquid natural gas trucks more attractive to hauling operators, is expected to displace more than 812,500 gallons of diesel fuel per year, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2,400 metric tons per year. Sysco Food Services of Los Angeles, Inc., is based in Walnut, in eastern Los Angeles County.

* North Star Biofuels LLC, will receive $500,000 to develop a commercial-scale biodiesel blending facility at a biodiesel production facility in Watsonville, in Santa Cruz County. The biodiesel, to be blended with conventional diesel, is derived from waste oils, including used cooking oil. The blending technology will create a fuel of more consistent quality than was produced using older processes. The blended fuel at this facility will have a carbon intensity that is 75 percent to 85 percent less than that of conventional diesel. North Star Biofuels is based in Emeryville, in Alameda County.

* The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station will receive $361,716 as additional funding to an existing $1.5 million project to examine the sustainability of using forest biomass in the production of biofuels, with particular attention to the risks and effects of wildfire on overall forest health. Researchers based at the Davis and Berkeley campuses of the University of California are participating in this project.

* Atlas Disposal Industries will receive $300,000 to construct a new natural gas fueling station, using pipeline and renewable natural gas, at the Sacramento South Area Transfer Station on Fruitridge Road. Atlas is a waste and recycling hauler in the Sacramento region with a fleet of more than 60 trucks, 14 of which use compressed natural gas. The station will be open to private, public and school fleet operators, and is expected to serve about 155 vehicles a day, including 20 trucks.

* Bear Valley Unified School District will receive $300,000 to install a new compressed natural gas fueling station to service the district’s existing natural-gas fueled school buses and to allow the district to acquire more natural-gas fueled buses. Bear Valley Unified School District is in Big Bear Lake, in San Bernardino County.

* The Institute for Transportation Studies at the University of California, Davis, will receive $227,000 to address facility siting and life-cycle issues of using forest biomass to produce alternative fuels in California. This project will be carried out in conjunction with an ongoing project of the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station that is supported by the Energy Commission.

* The South Coast Air Quality Management District will receive $217,000 to establish a compressed natural gas fueling station in the city of Murrieta in the Riverside area, near Interstate 15 and Interstate 215, along which many goods are hauled. This area has limited natural gas fueling options, creating a barrier for increased use of natural gas-fueled vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks. It is projected that this single station will displace 184,569 gallons of imported diesel fuel per year and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 24/7 publicly accessible station will be installed at a Southern California Gas Company facility.

* The City of Riverside will receive $200,000 to construct a compressed natural gas station at the city’s water quality control plant. The station will be used for city fleet vehicles and also be accessible to the public 24/7. Currently, the city has just one publicly accessible station for natural gas fueling. It is frequently so busy that school buses line up in the street waiting to fuel. The quantity of fuel dispensed at the station has increased 19-fold since it opened in 2004.