DOE opens FOA for algae-based biofuels, selects 6 projects

By Katie Fletcher | December 29, 2016

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Bioenergy Technologies Office announced a funding opportunity of up to $8 million, subject to appropriations, for innovative technologies and approaches to help advance bioenergy and bioproducts from algae. The funding opportunity announcement (FOA), entitled “Productivity Enhanced Algae and Tool-Kits (PEAK),” is now open for those who wish to learn more and apply on the EERE Exchange.

The FOA covers two topic areas. The first is algal strain improvements, which is for small teams to develop enhanced algal strains with increased areal productivity and biofuel yield, along with improved or novel algal toolkits and methods. Applicants must include a detailed discussion of the reasoning behind their proposal, strain choice and why the proposed strain improvement approach has the highest probability of success.

The second topic area is algal cultivation biology improvements, which is for small teams to develop increased areal productivity and biofuel yield through enhanced management of ecological or abiotic contributions to cultivation biology, along with improved or novel algal toolkits and methods. Like the first topic area, applicants must include a detailed discussion of the reasoning behind their proposal and why the proposed cultivation improvement approach has the highest probability of success.

According to the EERE, successful projects will advance to a cultivation readiness challenge by the end of their development efforts to demonstrate their peak productivity potential in an outdoor field trial. 

On Dec. 20, the DOE hosted a PEAK FOA informational webinar. The webinar slides and transcript have now been posted and can be accessed here. Concept paper submissions are due Jan. 13 and the full application submission deadline is Feb. 22.

Also, on Dec. 28, the DOE announced the selection of six projects for up to $12.9 million in federal funding entitled, “Project Definition for Pilot- and Demonstration-Scale Manufacturing of Biofuels, Bioproducts, and Biopower.” These projects, required to share the cost at a minimum of 50 percent, will develop and execute plans for the manufacturing of advanced or cellulosic biofuels, bioproducts, refinery-compatible intermediates, and biopower in a domestic pilot- or demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery.

Award recipients will be evaluated in two phases, designing and planning their facilities in phase one. DOE anticipates phase two awards to be made in 2018 to construct and operate the pilot- or demonstration-scale facility. According to the DOE, projects could receive additional federal funds of up to $15 million for pilot-scale facilities or $45 million for demonstration-scale facilities.

The six phase-one projects will utilize thermochemical, biochemical, algal and hybrid conversion technologies to generate the data required to enable future commercial-scale facilities, the DOE said.

The selected projects under demonstration-scale integrated biorefineries includes the AVAPCO LLC project, which will develop a demo-scale integrated biorefinery that combines the company’s biomass-to-ethanol process with project partner Byogy’s alcohol-to-jet process to create an integrated process that produces jet fuel from woody biomass. LanzaTech Inc. is the other demonstration-scale integrated biorefinery, which will use industrial waste gases to produce 3 million gallons per year of low-carbon jet and diesel fuels.

Of the six, the two selected pilot-scale integrated biorefineries include Global Algae Innovations pilot-scale algae biofuel facility that will seek to improve productivity of open pond cultivation and more energy-efficient algae harvest. Another pilot-scale integrated biorefinery will be put together by ThermoChem Recovery International Inc. to produce transportation fuels form woody waste and agricultural feedstocks.

The last two projects are also pilot-scale, but will be waste-to-energy (WTE) projects. Rialto Bioenergy LLC plans to design the Rialto Advanced Pyrolysis Integrated Biorefinery facility that will have the capacity to convert 300 tons per day of biomass, such as food extracted from municipal solid waste and wastewater treatment plant biosolids, into a high-nutrient fertilizer and up to 6.4 MW of renewable electricity. The other WTE project is by Water Environment & Reuse Foundation, which plants to utilize wastewater treatment plant sludge to convert it into biocrude oil, biogas and fertilizer.

In order to continue to phase two, projects will be evaluated on phase one progress, as well as the ability to secure the required 50-percent cost share funding for phase two.

More information on these projects can be found here.