Improving Biomass Yields

Ceres, Inc.
High Biomass, Low Input Dedicated Energy Crops to Enable a Full Scale Bioenergy Industry
Graphic of Ceres' technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$5,089,144
Location: 
Thousand Oaks, CA
Project Term: 
01/01/2010 to 12/31/2013
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
The U.S. relies almost exclusively on petroleum-based fuels to power its cars, trucks, and planes. Fossil fuels like petroleum are subject to price instabilities that impact consumers, and they produce harmful emissions. Domestically produced biofuels are a promising alternative. However, the U.S. requires new plant feedstocks that can sustainably produce large quantities of biofuel in order to meet its transportation needs.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Ceres is developing bigger and better grasses for use in biofuels. The bigger the grass yield, the more biomass, and more biomass means more biofuel per acre. Using biotechnology, Ceres is developing grasses that will grow bigger with less fertilizer than current grass varieties. Hardier, higher-yielding grass also requires less land to grow and can be planted in areas where other crops can't grow instead of in prime agricultural land. Ceres is conducting multi-year trials in Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, and Georgia which have already resulted in grass yields with as much as 50% more biomass than yields from current grass varieties.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Ceres would significantly decrease the production cost of domestic advanced biofuels. Ceres' work could also be applied to food crops--producing more food crops with fewer resources would lower the cost of food and increase our ability to feed the growing world population.
Security: 
Widespread use of advanced biofuels could displace up to 1.26 billion barrels of oil over 10 years.
Environment: 
Widespread use of advanced biofuels could help prevent up to 682 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere over 10 years. And, it could decrease nitrogen fertilizer use by 10%.
Economy: 
Advanced biofuels could follow a path similar to that of first-generation renewable fuels, which contributed more than $53 billion to the 2009 GDP.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Jonathan Burbaum
Project Contact: 
Mr. Gary Koppenjan