Department of Energy Invests $8 Million for Projects to Develop Algae-Based Technologies to Capture Carbon Dioxide for Use in Products

Using algae, the selected projects will develop conversion technologies to decrease emissions, helping to reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050

Today, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) announced $8 million in federal funding for four projects to develop and test technologies that capture and utilize carbon dioxide (CO2) from power systems or other industrial sources to create valuable products and services, biomass and bi-products. Using algae, the selected projects will develop conversion technologies to decrease emissions, helping to reach the Biden-Harris Administration’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

“Capturing and utilizing CO2 from sources across power and industrial sectors is critical to fighting climate change — and to creating new jobs and opportunities in hard hit communities across the country,” said Dr. Jennifer Wilcox, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. “These projects represent an important step in those efforts.”

“Researchers and companies in San Diego have shown algae has the potential to change the way we produce fuel, manufacture products, and more. This funding awarded to Global Algae Innovations will advance their crucial efforts to develop and deploy technology that enables economical, sustainable production of algae products,” said U.S. Representative Scott Peters. “We must continue to invest in these kinds of innovative projects so that we can take advantage of the many benefits algae has to offer, including to combat the climate crisis.”

“Congratulations to the University of Illinois on receiving this nearly $2 million federal investment through the Department of Energy,” said U.S. Representative Rodney Davis. “This grant will fund research to make algae-based carbon capture more cost effective.”

FECM and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) will manage the following four projects:

  • Carbon Capture and Utilization for Protein and Fatty Acids — Global Algae Innovations (San Diego, California) will develop a technology suite to lower production costs, making algae products competitive in commodity food, chemical, polymer and animal feed markets that are commensurate with utility- and industrial-scale application.
    DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $500,000; Total Value: $2,500,000
  • Engineering-Scale Validation of Novel Algae CO2 Capture and Bioproducts Technology — Helios-NRG, LLC (Amherst, New York) plans to develop a novel algae technology to capture CO2 from carbon-based power plants and convert it to valuable products that generate revenue.
    DOE Funding: $1,999,228; Non-DOE Funding: $499,802; Total Value: $2,499,030
  • Continuous Algae-based Carbon Capture and Utilization (CACCU) to Transform Economics and Environmental Impacts — Texas A&M AgriLife Research (College Station, Texas) aims to integrate cutting-edge sorbent-based CO2 capture and algae-based technologies to produce value-added products and algal biomass from flue gas at ultra-high yield and low costs. The project features (1) a synthetic biology design that triggers algal cells auto-sedimentation with high solid load, which allows continuous cultivation by periodic auto-cell removal/harvesting to maintain optimal growth rate and low energy cost; (2) a high-capacity, low-cost and energy-efficient sorbent that allows CO2 storage at night and controlled release during daytime cultures; and (3) hydrogel-based phosphate, ammonia and bicarbonate controlled delivery, which will greatly enhance algae productivity, reduce CO2 loss and media cost and mitigate the need for high alkaline-based CO2 storage, enabling the utilization of a rapidly growing strain. Moreover, Texas A&M AgriLife Research will use machine learning, process control and techno-economic analysis (TEA) and life cycle analysis (LCA) models to evaluate and optimize carbon capture and utilization efficiency, costs and scale-up feasibility for producing biomass and byproducts from flue gas.
    DOE Funding: $2,000,000; Non-DOE Funding: $507,202; Total Value: $2,507,202
  • Improving the Cost-Effectiveness of Algal CO2 Utilization by Synergistic Integration with Power Plant and Wastewater Treatment Operations — University of Illinois (Champaign, Illinois) plans to demonstrate an engineering-scale open raceway pond algae cultivation system, including the integration of technologies that utilize carbon-based power plant CO2 and wastewater nutrient inputs, as well as decrease CO2 emissions and cost.
    DOE Funding: $1,997,436; Non-DOE Funding: $501,660; Total Value: $2,499,096

These projects will support the goals of FECM’s Carbon Utilization Program to lower the near-term cost of carbon capture through the creation of value-added products from the conversion of carbon dioxide.

FECM funds research and development (R&D) projects to reduce the cost of and decarbonize power generation and industrial sources, and to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to further the sustainable use of the nation’s energy resources. To learn more, visit the FECM website, sign up for FECM news announcements, and visit the NETL website.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy, press release, 2021-06-23.