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The US DOE is to invest US$ 24 million in biofuel research

Hydrocarbon Engineering,

The US Department of Energy has announced that it will invest up to US$ 24 million in three research groups to tackle key hurdles in the commercialisation of algae based biofuels. The selection will support the development of a clean, sustainable transportation sector, a goal of the Department’s continued effort to spur the creation of the domestic bio industry while creating jobs. Developing Cost effective renewable transportation fuels is a key component of the Administration’s strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions and move the Nation toward energy independence.

‘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. ‘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.’ Zoi made the announcement while speaking on 28th June 2010 at the Biotechnology Industry Orgnisation (BIO) 2010 World Congress on Industrial Biotechnology and Bioprocessing.

The consortia consist of partners from academia, national laboratories, and private industries that are based across the country, broadening the geographic range and technical expertise of DOE partners in the area of algal biofuels. Projects are expected to continue for a period of three years. Together, they represent a diversified portfolio that will help accelerate algal biofuels development with the objective of significantly increasing production of affordable, high quality algal biofuels that are environmentally and economically sustainable.

The three consortia

Sustainable Algal Biofuels Consortium (Mesa, AZ). Led by Arizona State University, this consortium will 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 analysing physical chemistry properties of algal fuels and fuel intermediates. (DOE share: up to US$ 6 million)

Consortium for Algal Biofuels Commercialisation (San Diego, CA). Led by the University of California, San Diego, this consortium will concentrate on developing algae as a robust biofuels feedstock. Tasks include investigating new approaches for algal crop protection, algal nutrient utilisation and recycling, and developing genetic tools. (DOE funding: up to US$ 9 million)

Cellana, LLC Consortium (Kailus-Kona, HI). Led by Cellana, LLC, this consortium will examine large scale production of fuels and feed from microalgae grown in sea water. Tasks include integrating new algal harvesting technologies with pilot scale cultivation test beds, and developing marine microalgae as animal feed for the aquaculture industry, (DOE funding: up to US$ 9 million)

National algal biofuels technology roadmap

Despite algae’s potential, many technical and economic challenges must be overcome for algal biofuels to be commercialised. To identify these hurdles and guide research and development activities, DOE convened the National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap Workshop, bringing together more than 200 experts and stakeholders from across the country. The Department synthesised workshop results and released a draft report for public comment in June 2009. The final National Algal Biofuels Technology Roadmap released on 28th June reflects the substantive comments received and is intended to guide future work and investments in algal biofuels. Under the Recovery Act, the Department awarded funding earlier this year to an algal research consortium to tackle a broad range of barriers identified in the roadmap report.

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