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U.S. invests $22 million in algae biofuels


August 2, 2013
By U.S. Department of Energy
Photo courtesy of Sandia National Laboratories.

Aug. 1, 2013 – At the U.S. Department of Energy’s Biomass 2013 annual conference, Secretary Ernest Moniz announced over $22 million in new investments to help develop cost-competitive algae fuels and streamline the biomass feedstock supply chain for advanced biofuels. “By partnering with industry and universities, we can help make clean, renewable biofuels cost-competitive with gasoline, give drivers more options at the pump and cut harmful carbon pollution,” he said.

In the United States, the transportation sector accounts for two-thirds of total U.S. oil consumption and one-third of our nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Cellulosic and hydrocarbon-based biofuels made from non-food feedstocks, waste materials and algae can directly replace gasoline and other fuels in our gas tanks and refineries. The research are helping build towards the goal of producing cost-competitive drop-in biofuels by 2017 and algae biofuels by 2022.

Algae Biofuels Research and Development

Nearly $16.5 million will go to four projects in California, Hawaii and New Mexico aimed at breaking down technical barriers and accelerating the development of sustainable, affordable algae biofuels. The projects will help boost the productivity of sustainable algae, while cutting capital and operating costs of commercial-scale production.

The projects include:

  • Hawaii Bioenergy ($5 million): 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): 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): 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): 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.

Streamlining the Feedstock Supply Chain

At the Biomass 2013 conference, Secretary Moniz also announced a new project led by Columbus, Ohio-based FDC Enterprises to reduce harvesting, handling and preprocessing costs across the entire biomass feedstock supply chain, which will receive a nearly $6 million Energy Department investment.


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