DOE funds 2 algae biomass projects under Carbon Capture Program

By Erin Voegele | August 19, 2015

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory recently announced it has selected 16 projects to receive funding through its Carbon Capture Program, including two focused on algae.

According to the DOE, the program funds development and testing of transformational carbon dioxide capture systems for new and existing coal-based power plants. Research funded by the program is expected to help overcome limitations on singular, standard gas treatment systems, such as those based on solvents, sorbents, or membranes alone. Projects selected for funding fall under one of five subtopic areas. The algae projects fall under the subtopic area of biological carbon dioxide use and/or conversion. The other four topic areas include lab-scale, post-combustion capture; lab-scale, pre-combustion capture; bench-scale, post-combustion capture; and bench-scale, pre-combustion capture.

One algae project selected for funding is led by the research team at University of Kentucky Research Foundation, along with the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment and Algix LLC. The team will study microalgae-based carbon dioxide capture with conversion of the resulting biomass to fuels and bioplastics. According to the DOE, Scenedesmus acutus algae will be cultured in an innovative cyclic-flow photobioreactor. The algae will then be harvested and dewatered using a University of Kentucky technology based on flocculation. The project is expected to yield a conceptual design for an algae-based carbon dioxide capture system suitable for integration with a coal-fired power plant. The DOE is contributing $990,480 to the $1.26 million project.

The second algae project is led by San Luis Obispo, California-based MicroBio Engineering Inc. The company will integrate microalgal production systems into the Orlando Utilities Commission Stanton Energy Center coal-fired power plant in Florida and study their ability to use and mitigate carbon dioxide emissions from flue gas. According to the DOE, experimental work at the plant and the University of Florida, Gainesville will test the growth of native microalgae under local conditions with actual flue gas and pure carbon dioxide. Other partners on the project include Arizona State University, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Life Cycle Associates LLC, and SFA Pacific Inc. The DOE is contributing $863,327 to the $1.15 project.