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US DOE opens US$18.8M MACRO FOA for algae R&D

US DOE opens US$18.8M MACRO FOA for algae R&D
Seaweeds, aka macroalgae, are an emerging biomass resource with unique benefits compared to land-based biomass systems (images from

In the United States (US), the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) and Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) announced the MACRO: Mixed Algae Conversion Research Opportunity funding opportunity announcement (FOA). The FOA will award up to US$18.8 million to address research and development (R&D) challenges in converting algae, such as seaweeds and other wet waste feedstocks, to biofuels and bioproducts that can decarbonize domestic transportation, industry, and communities.

Seaweeds, aka macroalgae, are an emerging biomass resource with unique benefits compared to land-based biomass systems. However, they are underutilized and are difficult to convert due to their variability, unique chemical makeup, and storage instability.

Overcoming these conversion challenges will help build algae biomass supply chains, accelerate their demand, and ultimately, drive the domestic bioeconomy by enabling greater volumes of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and carbon dioxide (CO2) conversion to algae.

To meet our nation’s sustainable fuel needs, we need to tap into the wide variety of biomass resources that are unique to different regions of the country. Learning how to better convert and utilize feedstocks like seaweed allows us to expand the bioeconomy and cut greenhouse gas emissions in the process, said Jeff Marootian, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE).

A wide range of biomass resources, such as readily available seaweeds and wet waste feedstocks, will be critical to reach the Biden-Harris administration’s decarbonization goal of an equitable, clean energy future of net-zero emissions, economy-wide by no later than 2050.

The MACRO FOA will also support the government-wide targets of the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge, the Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy, and the “Clean Fuels & Products Shot“.

Experts across DOE are working together to develop economically viable conversion technologies using biomass feedstocks like algae that consume carbon dioxide that would otherwise be emitted to the atmosphere. Research and development through the funding announced today will advance the commercial adoption and integration of these technologies with carbon capture from industrial and power facilities to help fight climate change, while also creating new jobs and opportunities in communities across the country, said Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management.

Aligning with BETO and FECM’s strategic program goals, the MACRO FOA will fund selected projects in two focus areas:

  • Topic Area 1 (funded by BETO) – Conversion of Seaweeds to Low Carbon Fuels and Bioproducts will focus on laboratory-scale R&D on the conversion of seaweeds and seaweed blends with other wet wastes to renewable fuels and bioproducts to enable these readily available feedstocks to access new markets.
  • Topic Area 2 (funded by FECM) – Conversion of Algal Biomass for Low Carbon Agricultural Bioproducts will focus on near or completely integrated technologies that utilize CO2 emissions streams from industrial sources or utilities to grow algae for source material and create value-added bioproducts. Of particular interest is the conversion and processing of bioproducts for use in agriculture and animal feed.

Both topic areas contribute to BETO’s strategic goals for SAFs and other low-carbon bioproducts, as well as FECM’s aims to use CO2 emissions to grow algae and convert these feedstocks into low-carbon agricultural bioproducts.

BETO anticipates making approximately five to six financial assistance awards lasting from 24 to 36 months under this FOA.

FECM intends to award three to four financial assistance awards that will run up to 24 months in length.

The FOA concept paper deadline is May 10, 2024, and full applications are due by June 27, 2024.

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