The Biobased and Renewable Products Advocacy Group (BRAG) helps members develop and bring to market their innovative biobased and renewable chemical products through insightful policy and regulatory advocacy. BRAG is managed by B&C® Consortia Management, L.L.C., an affiliate of Bergeson & Campbell, P.C.

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On July 11, 2017, DOE announced the selection of three projects focused on reducing the costs of producing algal biofuels and bioproducts that will receive up to $8 million in funding.    The projects aim to generate high-impact tools and techniques for increasing the productivity of algae organisms and cultures and biology-focused breakthroughs.  The project winners include:

  • Lumen Bioscience, which will work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on the agricultural production of algae on otherwise non-productive land in rural eastern Washington State by rapidly engineering strains that grow robustly in seawater, resist contamination and predation, and accumulate substantial amounts of energy-rich components;
  • Global Algae Innovations, which will work in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories, University of California at San Diego – Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and the J. Craig Venter Institute to deliver a tool for low cost, rapid analysis of pond microbiota, gather data on the impacts of pond ecology, and develop new cultivation methods that utilize this information to achieve greater algal productivity; and
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory, which will work with Sapphire Energy to help the algal research and development community better understand these metrics at commercial scales by evaluating rationally designed pond cultures containing multiple species of algae, as well as beneficial bacteria, to achieve consistent biomass composition and high productivity.

 

By Lauren M. Graham, Ph.D.

On June 19, 2017, Synthetic Genomics Inc. announced a breakthrough in its collaboration with ExxonMobil involving the modification of an algae strain that more than doubled its oil content to 40 percent without significantly inhibiting the strain’s growth.  Synthetic Genomics researchers identified a genetic switch that could be fine-tuned to regulate the conversion of carbon to oil in the algae species, Nannochloropsis gaditana, and established a proof-of-concept approach for the new process.  The achievement is a key milestone in the partnership that aims to demonstrate that algae can be incredibly productive as a renewable energy source with a corresponding positive contribution to our environment.  Additional research, testing, and analysis is required to ensure the process is commercially viable. 


 

 

By Lynn L. Bergeson

Researchers at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) and Sapphire Energy completed the first EPA-sanctioned outdoor field trial for GE algae, which was focused on understanding how GE algae perform in outdoor cultivation.  The 50-day experiment studied algae (Acutodesmus dimorphus) that was GE with genes for enhanced fatty acid biosynthesis and recombinant green fluorescence protein (GFP) expression under real world conditions in parallel with non-GE algae strains.  The results demonstrate that GE algae can be cultivated outdoors while maintaining the GE traits, and that the specific GE algae investigated does not adversely impact native algae populations.  According to the researchers, the study provides a framework to evaluate GE algae risks associated with outdoor GE algae production, which offers the promise of producing sustainable food, fuel, and other valuable products.

Tags: UCSD, GE, Algae

 

 

 

By Kathleen M. Roberts

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is hosting an Algae Cultivation for Carbon Capture and Utilization Workshop on May 23-24, 2017, in Orlando, Florida.  The event will feature facilitated discussions focused on gathering stakeholder input on innovative technologies and business strategies for growing algae on waste carbon dioxide (CO2) resources.  Stakeholders will be encouraged to consider challenges and opportunities related to:

                               
■  Sourcing CO2, including quality, quantity, siting, and transport considerations; 
 
■  Cultivating algae, including biomass productivity, efficiency in CO2 utilization, and carbon balances in end products; and
 
■  Finding sustainable “win-win” solutions to reducing CO2 emissions while finding cost savings.


Workshop discussion will help inform DOE strategies to realize affordable, scalable, and sustainable production biofuels and bioproducts made from algae.  Registration is available online.


 
■  International Renewable Energy Agency, “Eliminating Energy-Related Carbon Emissions Possible, New IRENA Study Finds
 
■   Biofuels Association of Australia, “BAA Rejects Productivity Commission Claims
 
■  South China Morning Post, “Woks Away: China’s Plan to Make Jet Fuel from Restaurant Leftovers
 
■  Cornell Chronicle, “Microalgae Could Play Key Role in Relieving Climate Warming” 

 
■  Fuels America, “America’s Biofuel Advocates Reject Effort to Derail Renewable Fuel Standard
 
■   The Hill, “House GOP to Prioritize Ethanol, Pipeline Legislation
 
Premier Jay Wetherill, “State Government to Support Legalisation of Industrial Hemp
 
Oil Price, Biofuels May be the Future of the Aviation Industry
 
Princeton University, Schmidt Fund Awards Go to Projects with Transformative Potential
 
Phys.org, “Biofuel Produced by Microalgae
 
■  VietNamNet, “Challenges in Switch to E5 Biofuel

 

On February 22, 2017, the DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy announced seven recipients of $5.9 million in funding to develop novel ways to use carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from coal-fired power plants.  The projects will focus on converting captured CO2 to useable products.  Recipients of the funding include:
 

■  The University of Kentucky Research Foundation will receive nearly $1 million to convert CO2 to bioplastics using microalgae.  In addition to developing a strategy to maximize value from the algae biomass, researchers will aim to decrease the cost of algae cultivation;
 
■  Researchers at the University of Delaware will receive $800,000 to develop a two-stage electrolyzer process for the conversion of CO2 to alcohols, such as ethanol and propanol;
 
■  The Gas Technology Institute will receive nearly $799,997 to develop a Direct E-Beam Synthesis process to produce chemicals, such as acetic acid, methanol, and CO, from CO2, and an additional $799,807 to develop a novel catalytic reactor process to convert CO2 into methane for syngas production;
 
■  TDA Research, Inc. will receive nearly $799,985 to develop a sorbent-based, thermo-catalytic process to convert CO2 into syngas; and
 
■  Southern Research will receive $799,442 to develop a process to produce light olefins, such as ethylene and propylene, from coal-fired flue gas using novel nano-engineered catalysts.

 
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