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[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.]

DOE to award up to $8M to three algae-based biofuels projects

July 11, 2017

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected three projects to receive up to $8 million, aimed at reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts. These projects are to deliver high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures.

They will also deliver biology-focused breakthroughs while enabling accelerated future innovations through data sharing within the research and development community. The selected projects are:

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ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics double lipid production in algae species without inhibiting growth

June 20, 2017

ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics Inc. reported a breakthrough in their joint research (earlier post) into advanced biofuels involving the modification of an algae strain that more than doubled its oil content without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth.

Using advanced cell engineering technologies at Synthetic Genomics, the ExxonMobil-Synthetic Genomics research team modified an algae strain to enhance the algae’s oil content from 20% to more than 40%. Results of the research are published in the journal Nature Biotechnology by lead authors Imad Ajjawi and Eric Moellering of Synthetic Genomics.

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DISCOVR project seeking high productivity algae to reduce cost of biofuels

June 12, 2017

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, with colleagues from Los Alamos, Sandia and NREL, are working to lower the cost of producing biofuels from algae. The project, called the Development of Integrated Screening, Cultivar Optimization, and Validation Research (DISCOVR), is funded by the Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and has created an integrated screening platform for the rapid discovery of high-productivity strains for resilient, year-round outdoor cultivation via crop rotation.

The DISCOVR project, which started 1 October 2016, is currently in its first phase, and is utilizing PNNL’s Laboratory Environmental Algae Pond Simulator (LEAPS) mini-photobioreactors to cultivate algae indoors, in a controlled environment, while mimicking the frequently shifting water temperatures and lighting conditions that occur in outdoor ponds.

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Researchers uncover mechanism behind oil synthesis in algae

April 20, 2017

Researchers led by a team from Kobe University in Japan have revealed the mechanism behind oil synthesis within microalgae cells. Many species of algae are capable of producing large amounts of oil (lipids), but this is the first time that researchers have captured the metabolic changes occurring on a molecular level when lipids are produced in algae cells.

The discovery could contribute to the development of biofuels. The findings were published in an open access paper in the journal Scientific Reports.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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