The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $25.5 million in funding to enable the sustainable use of domestic biomass and waste resources, such as agricultural residues and algae, to produce low-carbon biofuels and bioproducts. This funding is designed to advance the Administration’s goals of delivering an equitable, clean energy future, and put the United States on a path to achieve net-zero emissions, economy-wide, by 2050.
The “Reducing Agricultural Carbon Intensity and Protecting Algal Crops” funding opportunity will improve the production of environmentally sustainable feedstocks for bioenergy through two topic areas:
- Climate-Smart Agricultural Practices for Low-Carbon Intensity Feedstocks,
- and Algae Crop Protection
This opportunity builds upon previous DOE-funded R&D to reduce the cost of biomass feedstock production and supply. According to DOE, recognizing that decarbonizing transportation and agriculture are inherently linked when it comes to the thoughtful production and deployment of biofuels, this opportunity focuses on improving climate-smart agricultural practices that reduce the carbon intensity of biomass feedstocks used for biofuel production.
The funding will also support projects that cultivate and protect algae crops, an abundant and renewable biofuel source vulnerable to loss from predation, organic competition, and pest infestation. Both topic areas support DOE’s Sustainable Aviation Fuel Grand Challenge goal of increasing the current production of 35 billion gallons annually to reach 100% of U.S. aviation fuel demand by 2050.
Exxon Exits Algae Biofuel Development
Bloomberg’s Ben Elgin and Kevin Crowley are reporting that Exxon Mobil Corp. is now “quietly walking away” from its development of algae biofuels.
The company has slashed its support for Viridos Inc., a biotech company based in La Jolla, California, that operated as the oil giant’s key technical partner since it began its algae push in 2009. With Exxon funding drying up and difficulty finding other backers, the biotech firm laid off 60% of its staff on Dec. 27, according to Viridos executives. The biotech company said it is still moving forward with algae research.
Exxon confirmed that it’s pulling back on funding for algae in favor of other technologies now being worked on by its Low Carbon Solutions division. “At this point we have other programs that are ready for deployment,” said Vijay Swarup, Exxon’s senior director of technology who ran algae research. “We need to get on the deployment curve for carbon capture, for hydrogen, for biofuels. Algae still needs some more work.”
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