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DOE to award up to $19M to advance waste carbon utilization for algal biofuels and bioproducts

The US Department of Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) in the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management’s (FECM’s) Carbon Utilization Program (CUP) announced up to $19 million in federal funding for the advancement of technologies that utilize waste carbon to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and produce reliable feedstocks for biotechnologies.

The funding opportunity announcement (DE-FOA-0002654) specifically aims to increase the capability of algal systems to capture CO2 and put it to productive use. Capturing this waste carbon then allows for algae to be cultivated into a variety of biofuels and bioproducts.

The deployment of algal technologies in these projects will help lower algal system cost, while decreasing GHG emissions. Additionally, this FOA will contribute to BETO’s goal of producing at least 3 billion gallons of sustainable aviation fuels by 2030.

The FOA has two topic areas:

  • Topic Area 1, funded by BETO, is to support the development of algal biofuels through the utilization of carbon dioxide generated via fermentation (e.g., ethanol production), biogas purification (e.g., CO2 removed from anaerobic digestion or landfill gas collection), or sourced from the ambient air either via Direct Air Capture (DAC) systems and delivered to algae media or via accelerated diffusion of CO2 from the atmosphere into algae systems.

    The impact of the Topic Area 1 outcome will be to lower the cost of fuels and products made from algal feedstocks while increasing the positive GHG impacts that can be achieved through deployment of algae-based technologies.

    The objective of Topic Area 1 is to develop technologies that increase carbon utilization efficiency (CUE) in algal systems by minimizing the loss of captured carbon dioxide supplied to the system. Strategies could include altering the water chemistry of algae growth media to increase CO2 retention, isolating novel strains or improving existing algae strains to tolerate the altered media, developing novel CO2 delivery systems, and modifying algae growth operational strategies to maximize carbon retention.

  • Topic Area 2, funded by CUP, is to support the development of technologies for maximizing CO2 utilization by creating algal bioproducts, where biofuels are not the primary product, and by focusing on industrial and utility point sources of CO2 (e.g., power, cement, or other industrial sources).

    Potential streams to be considered may include emissions from cement manufacturing, natural gas facilities, iron and steel production, and solid fuel (coal-fired or biomass) power plants.

For both topic areas, the required beginning Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is 3 and the target state is 4 by the end of the project.

This FOA follows the recent announcement of the new AlgaePrize competition from BETO, a competition that encourages students to pursue innovative ideas for the development, design, and invention of technologies within the commercial algae value chain.


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