New Mexico State University (NMSU) has been awarded a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to improve algae-based fuel that is compatible with existing refineries. The principal investigator of the project, entitled REAP: Realization of Algae Potential, will be Peter Lammers, director of the NMSU Algal Bioenergy team.
Lammers will coordinate efforts at partner institutions that include Los Alamos, Argonne and Pacific Northwest national laboratories; Washington State and Michigan State universities and four companies, Phycal, Algenol Biofuels, Pan Pacific Technologies and UOP-Honeywell.
Key goals of the 2.5-year project are to improve the yields and stability of algal biomass and cultivation systems while also improving oil content at harvest. Each of the necessary process elements, or unit operations, required to produce drop-in fuels from algal biomass are targets for improvements by various team members.
NMSU’s key role will be to integrate all of the unit operations at a single location to demonstrate start-to-finish process compatibility. For example:
- strain improvement work will be conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Michigan State University and Phycal;
- cultivation simulation and validation work will be conducted at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and NMSU respectively;
- bio-crude extraction methods will continue to be developed at Washington State University;
- quantitative modeling of the unit operations and integrated processes will occur at Pan Pacific Technologies, Algenol Biofuels and Argonne National Laboratory; and
- Algenol Biofuels also will provide closed cultivation systems that dramatically reduce water losses to evaporation and enhance the stability of algae cultures.
The REAP award follows two other federal awards for the NMSU Algal Bioenergy team – Department of Energy funding through the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts consortium amounting to $700,000 over two years for NMSU to support the algal cultivation testbed located at the Fabian Garcia Science Center, and a National Science Foundation EPSCoR award for which NMSU will get $1.5 million over five years for the algal effort.