US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced more than $22 million in new investments to help develop cost-competitive algae fuels and streamline the biomass feedstock supply chain for advanced biofuels. Moniz was speaking at the US Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Biomass 2013 conference.
Nearly $16.5 million goes to four projects intended to boost the productivity of sustainable algae, while cutting capital and operating costs of commercial-scale production. The projects include:
Hawaii Bioenergy ($5 million DOE investment). Based in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii Bioenergy will develop a cost-effective photosynthetic open pond system to produce algal oil. The project will also demonstrate preprocessing technologies that reduce energy use and the overall cost of extracting lipids and producing fuel intermediates.
Sapphire Energy ($5 million DOE investment): Headquartered in San Diego, California, Sapphire Energy will develop a new process to produce algae-based fuel that is compatible with existing refineries. The project will also work on improving algae strains and increasing yield through cultivation improvements.
New Mexico State University ($5 million DOE investment): For its project, New Mexico State University will increase the yield of a microalgae, while developing harvesting and cultivation processes that lower costs and support year-round production.
California Polytechnic State University ($1.5 million DOE investment): California Polytechnic State University will conduct research and development work to increase the productivity of algae strains and compare two separate processing technologies. The project will be based at a municipal wastewater treatment plant in Delhi, California that has six acres of algae ponds.
On the supply chain side, FDC Enterprises will received a nearly $6-million investment from DOE to reduce harvesting, handling and preprocessing costs across the entire biomass feedstock supply chain.
One of the largest costs for the advanced biofuels industry comes from harvesting its raw material or feedstock and delivering it from the field or forest to a biorefinery. Over the past three years, the Energy Department has supported industry partnerships to test prototypes for commercial harvesting equipment that balance the needs of land owners, feedstock suppliers, equipment manufacturers and biorefineries while reducing costs and achieving greater process efficiencies.
The FDC Enterprises project will work with independent growers and biofuels companies in Iowa, Kansas, Virginia and Tennessee—including POET, ADM, Clariant International and Pellet Technology USA—to develop new field equipment, biorefinery conveyor designs and improved preprocessing technologies. The project will also develop and deploy feedstock quality-monitoring tools to reduce sampling and analysis costs, and conduct real-time analysis of feedstock characteristics such as moisture content and particle size.