A large-scale algae farm for biofuels. (Photo: Courtesy UC San Diego)
USD 24 mln invested in algal biofuels research
Wednesday, June 30, 2010, 00:10 (GMT + 9)
The US Department of Energy (DOE) announced on Monday the investment of up to USD 24 million for three research groups to undertake key obstacles in the commercialisation of algae-based biofuels.
The selections will aid the progress of a clean and sustainable transportation sector in the department's ongoing move to spur the creation of the domestic bio-industry while creating jobs. Developing cost-effective renewable transportation fuels is key in the administration's strategy to slash greenhouse gas emissions and develop energy independence for the US.
"Partnerships such as these focus the creative powers of the public, private and academic sectors on key challenges facing the development of renewable energy for transportation," said Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Cathy Zoi while speaking at the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (BIO) 2010 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing.
"The US must find effective ways to hasten the development of technologies for advanced biofuels made from algae and other renewable resources to reduce our need for foreign sources of oil," she added.
The consortia consist of academia, national laboratories and private industries partners across the country. Projects are expected to run for three years.
This diversified portfolio will help advance algal biofuels development aimed at significantly upping production of affordable, high-quality, environmentally and economically sustainable algal biofuels.
The three consortia selected for funding are:
- Sustainable Algal Biofuels Consortium (Mesa, Arizona) - Led by Arizona State University, this consortium will use up to USD 6 million to focus on testing the acceptability of algal biofuels as replacements for petroleum-based fuels. Tasks include investigating biochemical conversion of algae to fuels and products, and analyzing physical chemistry properties of algal fuels and fuel intermediates.
- Consortium for Algal Biofuels Commercialization (San Diego, California) - Led by the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), this consortium will use up to USD 9 million to develop algae as a vigorous biofuels feedstock. Tasks include researching new approaches for algal crop protection, algal nutrient use and recycling and developing genetic tools.
- Cellana, LLC Consortium (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii) - Led by Cellana, LLC, this consortium will use up to USD 9 million to analyse large-scale production of fuels and feed from microalgae grown in seawater. Tasks include integrating new algal harvesting technologies with pilot-scale cultivation test beds and developing marine microalgae as animal feed for aquaculture.
Numerous technical and economic hurdles must be overcome for algal biofuels to be commercialized despite their potential. DOE convened the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap Workshop, combining the efforts of over 200 US experts and stakeholders to identify said hurdles and direct research and development activities.
DOE synthesized workshop results and released a draft report for public comment in June of last year. The final roadmap released on Monday incorporates the comments received and is meant to guide future work and investments in algal biofuels.
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By Natalia Real