[Due to the increasing size of the archives, each topic page now contains only the prior 365 days of content. Access to older stories is now solely through the Monthly Archive pages or the site search function.]
Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil renew algae biofuels research agreement
January 19, 2017
Synthetic Genomics and ExxonMobil have extended their agreement to conduct joint research into advanced algae biofuels after making significant progress in understanding algae genetics, growth characteristics and increasing oil production.
ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics have been jointly researching and developing oil from algae for use as a renewable, lower-emission alternative to traditional transportation fuels since launching the program in 2009. (Earlier post.) Work continues toward developing strains of algae that demonstrate significantly improved photosynthetic efficiency and oil production through selection and genetic engineering of higher-performance algae strains. The agreement continues to focus on Synthetic Genomics’ core strengths in synthetic biology and builds on recent discoveries of biological pathways regulating lipid production and growth in advanced algal strains.
DOE BETO releases new strategic plan; biofuels to constitute 25% of US transportation fuels by 2040
December 31, 2016
The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) released its new strategic plan, titled Strategic Plan for a Thriving and Sustainable Bioeconomy. The strategic plan—with a vision for 2040—lays out BETO’s mission to accomplish its vision in a dynamic setting that realizes changes in the energy landscape, advances in technology, growing environmental awareness, and public expectations.
The strategic plan sets the foundation for the development of BETO’s multi-year program plans, annual operating plans, and technology program areas. It also takes a crosscutting approach to identify opportunities to adapt and align BETO activities and project portfolios with those in both the public and private sectors. The plan centers around four key opportunities: enhancing the bioenergy value proposition; mobilizing US biomass resources; cultivating end-use markets and customers; and expanding stakeholder engagement and collaboration.
ARPA-E to award $25M for macroalgae projects; seaweed biomass to be cost-competitive with terrestrial biomass at energy-relevant scales
December 16, 2016
ARPA-E announced up to $25 million in funding for the MacroAlgae Research Inspiring Novel Energy Resources (MARINER) program (DE-FOA-0001726). The program will focus on developing advanced cultivation technologies that enable the cost and energy efficient production of macroalgal biomass in the ocean at a scale suitable as feedstock for the production of fuels and chemicals. The deadline to submit a Concept Paper for MARINER is 5 pm ET, 14 February 2017.
The US has the world’s largest marine Exclusive Economic Zone—an area of ocean along the nation’s coast lines which is equivalent to the total land area of all 50 states. The US has the potential to utilize this resource to build and grow a thriving marine biomass industry for the production of fuels, chemicals, feed, and food. Growing macroalgal biomass in the oceans offers a unique opportunity to sidestep many of the challenges associated with terrestrial biomass production systems, particularly the growing competition for land and freshwater resources, which are likely to result from the 50 to 100% increase in demand for food expected for 2050.
DOE to award up to $8M to develop algae-based biofuels
The US Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE's) Bioenergy Technologies Office announced a funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0001628) of up to $8 million, subject to appropriations, for innovative technologies and approaches to help advance bioenergy and bioproducts from algae. This FOA, entitled “Productivity Enhanced Algae and Tool-Kits,” has two topic areas: (1) algal strain improvements and (2) algal cultivation biology improvements.
Selected projects and approaches will seek to overcome species-specific, ecological, and practical challenges to improved algal productivity and biomass composition—two key metrics in achieving high fuel yields. The FOA objectives are tightly focused on developing strain and cultivation improvements that increase algal areal productivity, in grams of ash-free dry weight of algae produced per square meter per day (g/m2/d), and fuel yield, as understood by proximate analysis of biomass composition and paper-based calculation of gasoline-gallon equivalency (GGE) using literature-based conversion factors.
Consortium proposes large-scale industrial cultivation of marine microalgae (ICCM) as solution to global energy, food, and climate issues
December 05, 2016
Members of the Marine Algae Industrialization Consortium (MAGIC), led by Duke University in North Carolina, have published an open-access paper in the journal Oceanography presenting the large-scale industrial cultivation of marine microalgae (ICMM) as an answer to pressing global energy, food and climate security issues.
Underpinned by numerous prior research papers through MAGIC’s predecessor, the Cornell Marine Algae Biofuels Consortium, the ICMM approach delivers a series of co-products: liquid hydrocarbon fuels to power heavy-vehicles, ships and aircraft; proteins and other essential nutrients to feed the planet’s population; and biopetroleum products to store carbon for the long-term.
DOE BETO to issue $8M funding opportunity for algae-based biofuels
December 02, 2016
The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) plans (DE-FOA-0001708) to issue a funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001628) for up to $8 million, subject to appropriations, for the development of algae-based biofuels.
The FOA, entitled Productivity Enhanced Algae and Tool-Kits (PEAK), will support innovative technologies and approaches to help advance bioenergy and bioproducts from algae. These projects will support the development of cost-competitive biofuels from algal biomass by focusing on breakthroughs in advanced biology, as well as biology-based tools to improve algae cultivation productivity. Selected projects will also accelerate future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community.
Argonne LCA finds renewable diesel from algae fractionation has 63-68% lower GHG than petroleum diesel
October 22, 2016
A new analysis from Argonne National Laboratory, funded by the US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO), shows the potential of an algae fractionation process to produce renewable diesel fuel with 63%–68% lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than conventional diesel. The study is published in the journal Algal Research.
In some algal biofuel production methods, lipids are extracted from algae and converted to renewable diesel, while the non-lipid components of the algae are converted to biogas. The biogas is used for renewable heat and electricity to power the conversion process of the lipids to renewable diesel.
ARPA-E to issue funding opportunity for advanced technologies for seaweed cultivation for fuels and chemicals
September 09, 2016
The Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA–E) intends to issue a new Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA ) in November, 2016, for the development of advanced cultivation technologies that enable profitable and energy efficient production of macroalgal-biomass (seaweeds) in the ocean. ARPA–E held a workshop on this topic in February 2016.
These technologies are expected to be deployed and support cultivation of macroalgal-biomass feedstocks at a scale relevant for the production of commodity fuels and chemicals. The primary challenge is to reduce capital and operating cost of macroalgae cultivation dramatically, while significantly increasing the range of deployment by expanding into more exposed, off-shore environments.
DOE to award up to $6.7M to projects to convert captured CO2 to useful products, including fuels
August 26, 2016
The US Department of Energy (DOE) will award approximately $6.7 million in federal funding for cost-shared projects that will develop technologies that utilize CO2 from coal-fired power plants to produce useful products. DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy is seeking these projects as part of the Department’s Carbon Storage program, which has the goal of developing and advancing technologies to improve the effectiveness of carbon storage, reduce the cost of implementation, and be ready for widespread commercial deployment in the 2025–2035 timeframe.
After carbon dioxide is captured from large point sources, such as coal-fired power plants, it can be injected into underground geological formations from which it cannot escape (geologic sequestration). Another option is to use the CO2 as a reagent to create useful products, such as cement, plastics, or liquid fuels. The new DOE funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0001622) focuses on the second of these pathways which is focused on securing applications for projects that will develop CO2-utilization technologies that produce useful products at lower cost than currently available technologies, without generating additional greenhouse gas emissions.
DOE awarding $15M to 3 algae-based biofuel and bioproducts projects
July 14, 2016
The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding up to $15 million for three projects aimed at reducing the production costs of algae-based biofuels and bioproducts through improvements in algal biomass yields.
These projects will develop highly productive algal cultivation systems and couple those systems with effective, energy-efficient, and low-cost harvest and processing technologies. This funding will advance the research and development of advanced biofuel technologies to speed the commercialization of renewable, domestically produced, and affordable fossil-fuel replacements.
RIT and Synergy Biogas partner on algae for wastewater cleanup and biofuel production
June 03, 2016
Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) and Synergy Biogas are exploring the environmental benefits of microalgae to clean agricultural wastewater and make biofuels. Jeff Lodge, associate professor in RIT’s Thomas Gosnell School of Life Sciences, is running a three-month pilot program at Synergy Biogas, a high-tech anaerobic digester located on Synergy Farms in Covington, N.Y, to grow microalgae on digested biomass. Microalgae will consume contaminants in wastewater and produce an algal biomass that Lodge will use as a feedstock for renewable energy.
Lodge will grow the microalgae in a 1,000-gallon tank at Synergy in a process that can be scaled up to treat 52,000 gallons, or 200,000 liters, of wastewater a day. The trial project will demonstrate the organisms’ ability to consume ammonia, phosphorous and nitrogen from digested biomass and reduce contaminants below state-mandated levels. Lodge’s laboratory experiments with microalgae have reduced phosphorous in wastewater by greater than 90% to levels of 0.1 parts per million, exceeding the required 1 parts per million in New York.
DOE awards up to $10M to 6 projects for non-food biomass and algal biofuels and biochemicals
May 16, 2016
The US Department of Energy is awarding up to $10 million in funding for six projects that will support the Bioenergy Technologies Office’s (BETO) work to develop renewable and cost-competitive biofuels and biochemicals from non-food biomass feedstocks by reducing the technical risk associated with potentially breakthrough approaches and technologies for investors.
The projects selected include the following:
Consortium for Algal Biofuel Commercialization releases final report on 6-year project
May 11, 2016
The Consortium for Algal Biofuel Commercialization (CAB-Comm), led by the University of California, San Diego, has released its final report, detailing the accomplishments and contributions achieved in its six years of operation.
CAB-Comm was established in 2010 through a competitive award from the Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) to conduct research to enable commercial viability of algae-based biofuels. (Earlier post.) CAB-Comm focused on three key aspects of algal biofuels production: development of genetic tools, crop protection, and nutrient utilization and recycling.
Texas A&M-led team identifies synthetic hydrocarbon pathway in green alga B. braunii
April 07, 2016
The green microalga Botryococcus braunii is considered a promising biofuel feedstock producer due to its prodigious accumulation of hydrocarbon oils that can be converted into fuels. Now, a team led by researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife Research has identified the first committed step in the biosynthesis of hydrocarbon oil in B. braunii and has described a new enzyme which carries out this reaction.
The study, published as an open-access paper in the current issue of the journal Nature Communications, could enable scientists to use the enzyme in a plant to make large amounts of fuel-grade oil, according to Dr. Tim Devarenne, AgriLife Research biochemist in College Station and lead scientist on the team.
China team identifies new thermophilic bacterium for direct production of ethanol from brown algae
April 04, 2016
Researchers from the Shandong Provincial Key Laboratory of Synthetic Biology, Qingdao Institute of Bioenergy and Bioprocess Technology, Chinese Academy of Sciences have identified and characterized the first thermophilic bacterium capable (Defluviitalea phaphyphila) of direct conversion of brown algae to ethanol.
D. phaphyphila Alg1 can simultaneously utilize mannitol, glucose, and alginate to produce ethanol. In an open access paper on their work published in the journal Biotechnology for Biofuels, they report high ethanol yields of 0.47 g/g-mannitol, 0.44 g/g-glucose, and 0.3 g/g-alginate.
NREL process boosts production of ethanol from algae
February 10, 2016
A new biorefinery process developed by scientists at the Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has proven to be significantly more effective at producing ethanol from algae than previous research.
The process, dubbed Combined Algal Processing (CAP), is detailed in an open-access paper in the journal Algal Research. The research follows work previously done at NREL and published in 2014 in The Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Green Chemistry. In that work, scientists examined two promising algal strains, Chlorella and Scenedesmus, to determine their applicability as biofuel and bioproduct producers. They concluded Scenedesmus performed better in this process with impressive demonstrated total fuel yields of 97 gallons gasoline equivalents (GGE) per ton of biomass.