Harnessing Biology for Industrial Decarbonization

L.M. Guay
U.S. Department of Energy,
United States

Keywords: bioenergy, biomanufacturing, bioeconomy, biochemicals, biotechnology, industrial decarbonization


The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) at the U.S. Department of Energy supports research, development, and demonstration projects to decarbonize transportation, industry, and communities using biomass and biotechnology. BETO has historically focused on bioenergy, but our strategy has recently expanded to also include biochemicals and biological decarbonization pathways. This presentation will focus on new initiatives in industrial decarbonization and biomanufacturing.DOE recently introduced eight Energy Earthshots, which target the major remaining technical breakthroughs that must be achieved in the next decade to reach economy-wide net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. BETO co-leads the Clean Fuels and Products Shot(TM), launched in May 2023, that aims to produce fuels and industrial chemicals with 85% lower life-cycle GHG emissions by 2035. The Shot targets hard-to-decarbonize transportation sectors, including aviation, maritime, rail, and off-road, as well as carbon-based commodity chemicals. BETO also supports the Industrial Heat Shot(TM), launched in September 2022, with a focus on avoiding high-heat processes using biocatalysis and energy-efficient separations. More broadly, there has been significant collaboration across DOE offices on chemical decarbonization strategy in the last few years.The Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy was signed in September 2022. It has galvanized the biotechnology community and opened opportunities for interagency collaboration to tackle common challenges. A few of the reports and initiatives have already been released, and additional work is ongoing. For example, for the March 2023 Bold Goals for U.S. Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing report that outlines key research areas to address societal challenges, BETO helped lead the “Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing R&D to Further Climate Change Solutions” chapter. BETO was also a key contributor to the December 2023 Vision, Needs, and Proposed Actions for Data in the Bioeconomy Initiative report.