U.S. Department of Energy Provides $106 Million to Six Projects that Focus on Converting Carbon Dioxide into Products

U.S. Department of EnergyThe U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that it has provided $106 illion to six projects that are working to find ways of converting captured carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial sources into products such as fuel, plastics, cement, and fertilizers.  This DOE funding has been matched with $156 million in private sector funding.

The projects were previously selected for a first phase funding in October 2009. Since their initial funding, grantees have performed experiments on concepts and produced preliminary designs for pilot plants to study the feasibility of capturing and using CO2 generated from industrial processes.  The projects will now undertake a second phase in which researchers design, construct, and operate their innovations at pilot-scale and evaluate the technical and economic feasibility of applying them commercially.

"These innovative projects convert carbon pollution from a climate threat to an economic resource," said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "This is part of our broad commitment to unleash the American innovation machine and build the thriving, clean energy economy of the future."

The selected projects are:

Alcoa, Inc. (Alcoa Center, PA)
Alcoa's pilot-scale process will demonstrate the high efficiency conversion of flue gas CO2 into soluble bicarbonate and carbonate using an in-duct scrubber system featuring an enzyme catalyst.  The bicarbonate/carbonate scrubber blow down can be sequestered as solid mineral carbonates after reacting with alkaline clay, a by-product of aluminum refining.  The carbonate product can be utilized as construction fill material, soil amendments, and green fertilizer. Alcoa will demonstrate and optimize the process at their Point Comfort, Texas aluminum refining plant. (DOE Share: $11,999,359)

Novomer Inc. (Ithaca, NY)
Teaming with Albemarle Corporation and the Eastman Kodak Co., Novomer will develop a process for converting waste CO2 into a number of polycarbonate products (plastics) for use in the packaging industry.  Novomer's novel catalyst technology enables CO2 to react with petrochemical epoxides to create a family of thermoplastic polymers that are up to 50 percent by weight CO2.  The project has the potential to convert CO2 from an industrial waste stream into a lasting material that can be used in the manufacture of bottles, films, laminates, coatings on food and beverage cans, and in other wood and metal surface applications. Novomer has secured site commitments in Rochester, NY, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Orangeburg, SC and Ithaca, NY where Phase 2 work will be performed. (DOE Share: $18,417,989)

Touchstone Research Laboratory Ltd. (Triadelphia, WV)
This project will pilot-test an open-pond algae production technology that can capture at least 60 percent of flue gas CO2 from an industrial coal-fired source to produce biofuel and other high value co-products.  A novel phase change material incorporated in Touchstone's technology will cover the algae pond surface to regulate daily temperature, reduce evaporation, and control the infiltration of invasive species.  Lipids extracted from harvested algae will be converted to a bio-fuel, and an anaerobic digestion process will be developed and tested for converting residual biomass into methane.  The host site for the pilot project is Cedar Lane Farms in Wooster, Ohio. (DOE Share: $6,239,542)

Phycal, LLC (Highland Heights, OH)
Phycal will complete development of an integrated system designed to produce liquid biocrude fuel from microalgae cultivated with captured CO2.  The algal biocrude can be blended with other fuels for power generation or processed into a variety of renewable drop-in replacement fuels such as jet fuel and biodiesel.  Phycal will design, build, and operate a CO2-to-algae-to-biofuels facility at a nominal thirty acre site in Central O'ahu (near Wahiawa and Kapolei), Hawaii.  Hawaii Electric Company will qualify the biocrude for boiler use, and Tesoro will supply CO2 and evaluate fuel products. (DOE Share:  $24,243,509)

Skyonic Corporation (Austin, TX)
Skyonic Corporation will continue the development of SkyMine� mineralization technology-a potential replacement for existing scrubber technology.  The SkyMine process transforms CO2 into solid carbonate and/or bicarbonate materials while also removing sulfur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and other heavy metals from flue gas streams of industrial processes.  Solid carbonates are ideal for long-term, safe aboveground storage without pipelines, subterranean injection, or concern about CO2 re-release to the atmosphere.  The project team plans to process CO2-laden flue gas from a Capital Aggregates, Ltd. cement manufacturing plant in San Antonio, Texas. (DOE Share:  $25,000,000)

Calera Corporation (Los Gatos, CA)
Calera Corporation is developing a process that directly mineralizes CO2 in flue gas to carbonates that can be converted into useful construction materials.  An existing CO2 absorption facility for the project is operational at Moss Landing, Calif., for capture and mineralization.  The project team will complete the detailed design, construction, and operation of a building material production system that at smaller scales has produced carbonate-containing aggregates suitable as construction fill or partial feedstock for use at cement production facilities.  The building material production system will ultimately be integrated with the absorption facility to demonstrate viable process operation at a significant scale. (DOE Share:  $19,895,553)

For more information:

Environmental Business Cluster Presents “Meet with DOE” on February 23 (Discount Available)

U.S. Department of Energy

On February 23, the Environmental Business Cluster (EBC) will provide an opportunity to attend a presentation from Peter Roerhig, Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.  This presentation will aim to address questions such as:

  • What investments is the DOE making to address climate change?
  • What funding opportunities does the DOE offer?
  • What are the latest Recovery & Reinvestment Act success stories?

This event will take place from 6:00 – 7:30 pm at Nixon Peabody LLP, One Embarcadero Center, Suite 1800, San Francisco, CA 94013. Thanks to our friends at EBC, readers of Green VC can obtain discounted tickets when registering in advance by following these steps:

  • Go to the online event registration page
  • Select your tickets from the “Presenation Partner Price” section of the page
  • Enter “Green VC” [without the quotes] in the portion of the page where “Please indicate partner organization” is indicated.

Early pre-registration is recommended for this event (there will be no on-site registration).  For more information:

Mascoma Receives $49.5 Million from the U.S Department of Energy and the State of Michigan


Mascoma Corporation, a Boston, Massachusetts-based company involved in the development and deployment of cellulosic ethanol technologies, announced ealier this week that it received a $49.5 million — $26 million from the U.S. Department of Energy and $23.5 million from the State of Michigan.  The funds will be used for the development of a cellulosic fuel production facility in Kinross in Chippewa County, Michigan that uses non-food biomass to convert woodchips into fuel. Mascoma investors General Motors Corporation and Marathon Oil Corporation are also providing support for this project.

Mascoma will be working on this project with Marquette, Michigan-based JM Longyear.  This partnership will involve the creation of a new company, Frontier Renewable Resources, which will own the project. Mascoma will also be working with Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University to adapt Mascoma’s technology and supply chain options for the Michigan feedstocks used in production.  The Kinross facility will use sustainably harvested mixed hardwood chips and other non-food biomass materials as the raw material for the production of cellulosic fuel.  The facility is expected to eventually produce 40 million gallons of ethanol and other fuel products annually.

"Michigan is proud to partner with Mascoma as a part of our commitment to lead the nation in alternative energy production," said Governor Granholm. "This company, and their partners, will create jobs in Michigan as they develop the next generation of cellulosic ethanol that will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and make fuel more affordable for our families."

"We’ve targeted industries like alternative energy to diversify Michigan’s economy and create new jobs," Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO James C. Epolito said. "Innovative tools combined with effective partnerships are enabling us to attract high-tech companies like Mascoma and accelerate Michigan’s transformation."

"Mascoma is pleased and honored to receive this important funding from the DOE and the State of Michigan," said Bruce A. Jamerson, Chairman and CEO of Mascoma Corporation. "This funding will allow us to accelerate commercial production of low cost, low carbon fuel that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote energy independence," Jamerson continued.

"I applaud the decision by the Department of Energy and the state of Michigan to provide the incentives Mascoma needed to scale up the technology and accelerate construction of this facility here in Michigan," said Senator Carl Levin. "This investment in cutting-edge biofuel technology will create jobs in Michigan, and the incredible natural resources of the Upper Peninsula will help Mascoma to efficiently produce the next generation of fuels."

"Mascoma Corporation’s cellulosic fuel facility is a prime example of how Michigan continues to lead the way in solving our nation’s energy crisis while creating new jobs in a green economy," said Senator Debbie Stabenow. "I am pleased to work with the rest of the delegation and the State of Michigan to support Mascoma in their mission to develop low-carbon biofuels and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

"Mascoma and the Department of Energy recognize the potential northern Michigan and our workforce hold for developing alternative energy sources," Congressman Bart Stupak said. "Mascoma’s proposed cellulosic fuels facility will be the first of its kind in the nation to produce ethanol from timber. This important federal-state-private partnership will put northern Michigan on the forefront of this developing technology, create hundreds of jobs in our community and the potential for many more. I am pleased to have played a role in helping to bring this significant investment to Chippewa County."

Masoma was founded in 2005 and has received approximately $100 million in equity investments thusfar.  Investors include Flagship Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Atlas Venture, General Catalyst Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Pinnacle Ventures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, General Motors, and Marathon Oil.

For more information:

U.S. Department of Energy to Provide up to $40 Million for Small-Scale Biorefinery Projects in Wisconsin and Louisiana

U.S. Department of Energy

On Monday, July 14, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced the selection of two small-scale cellulosic biorefinery projects in Park Falls, Wisconsin and Jennings, Louisiana for federal funding of up to $40 million over five years.

Cellulosic ethanol is an alternative fuel made from a wide variety of plant materials or non-food based feedstocks, including agricultural wastes such as corn stover; forest wastes such as saw dust and forest thinnings; and energy crops, such as switchgrass. In studies conducted by scientist at DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory, compared with conventional gasoline, ethanol produced from cellulosic materials requires as much as 90 percent less fossil energy to produce and has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 86 percent over the lifecycle.

Negotiations between the following companies and DOE will begin immediately to determine final project plans and funding levels:

Flambeau River Biofuels (FRB), LLC (Park Falls, Wisconsin)
The proposed biorefinery will be installed in an existing pulp and paper mill in Park Falls, Wis., and will produce liquid fuels from abundant and renewable cellulosic (wood) biomass. The biorefinery will not be dependent on any food-based feedstock materials, but rather on by-product or residuals from forest and agricultural sources. When completed, the facility will produce at least 1 trillion BTUs of renewable energy for the host mill and 6 million gallons of transportation (sulfur-free diesel) fuels per year.

FRB participants/investors include: ANL Consultants, Auburn University, Brigham Young University, Citigroup Global Markets, CleanTech Partners, Emerging Fuels Technology, Flambeau River Papers, Johnson Timber, National Renewable Energy Lab, Michigan Technological University, NC State University, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, ThermoChem Recovery International, University of Wisconsin, and the USDA Forest Products Laboratory.

Verenium Biofuels Corporation (Jennings, Louisiana)
Construction of Verenium’s 1.5 million gallon per year demonstration-scale cellulosic ethanol facility is underway and is scheduled to be complete in late 2008.  The project is moving rapidly to commercialize its proprietary technology for the production of ethanol from a wide array of biomass feedstocks, including sugarcane bagasse, agricultural byproducts, waste wood products, and other non-food based energy crops. 

The Jennings, Louisiana demonstration plant is operated by Verenium Corporation, which was formed in 2007 through a merger of Celunol Corp, and Diversa Corporation.

These two projects are the final round of selections for DOE’s competitive small-scale biorefinery solicitation.  A total of nine projects have been selected by DOE to receive up to a total of $240 million in DOE funding over the next five fiscal years, subject to appropriations.  Including industry cost share, more than $735 million will be invested in these projects over the next four to five years.

This news is part of more than $1 billion in investments that DOE has announced for multi-year biofuels research and development projects; these other announcements include:

For more information on the July 14th announcement:

U.S. Department of Energy’s “L Prize” to Award Up to $20 Million for Innovations in Lighting

L Prize

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced details on the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize competition (the "L Prize").  The L Prize is the first government-sponsored technology competition designed to encourage the development of high quality, high efficiency solid-state lighting products to replace the common light bulb. The competition will award up to $20 million in total cash prizes in three competition categories and may lead to other benefits for the winning products such as federal purchasing agreements.

The Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 authorizes DOE to establish the Bright Tomorrow Lighting Prize competition and defines three categories of prizes.  An excerpt from the legislation that defines these categories follows:


The Secretary shall award a 60-Watt Incandescent Replacement Lamp Prize to an entrant that produces a solid-state light package simultaneously capable of—
(A) producing a luminous flux greater than 900 lumens;
(B) consuming less than or equal to 10 watts;
(C) having an efficiency greater than 90 lumens per watt;
(D) having a color rendering index greater than 90;
(E) having a correlated color temperature of not less than 2,750, and not more than 3,000, degrees Kelvin;
(F) having 70 percent of the lumen value under subparagraph (A) exceeding 25,000 hours under typical conditions expected in residential use;
(G) having a light distribution pattern similar to a soft 60-watt incandescent A19 bulb;
(H) having a size and shape that fits within the maximum dimensions of an A19 bulb in accordance with American National Standards Institute standard C78.20–2003, figure C78.20–211;
(I) using a single contact medium screw socket; and
(J) mass production for a competitive sales commercial market satisfied by producing commercially accepted quality control lots of such units equal to or exceeding the criteria described in subparagraphs (A) through (I).

The Secretary shall award a Parabolic Aluminized Reflector Type 38 Halogen Replacement Lamp Prize (referred to in this section as the ‘‘PAR Type 38 Halogen Replacement Lamp Prize’’) to an entrant that produces a solid-state-light package simultaneously capable of—
(A) producing a luminous flux greater than or equal to 1,350 lumens;
(B) consuming less than or equal to 11 watts;
(C) having an efficiency greater than 123 lumens per watt;
(D) having a color rendering index greater than or equal to 90;
(E) having a correlated color coordinate temperature of not less than 2,750, and not more than 3,000, degrees Kelvin;
(F) having 70 percent of the lumen value under subparagraph (A) exceeding 25,000 hours under typical conditions expected in residential use;
(G) having a light distribution pattern similar to a PAR 38 halogen lamp;
(H) having a size and shape that fits within the maximum dimensions of a PAR 38 halogen lamp in accordance with American National Standards Institute standard C78–21–2003, figure C78.21–238;
(I) using a single contact medium screw socket; and
(J) mass production for a competitive sales commercial market satisfied by producing commercially accepted quality control lots of such units equal to or exceeding the criteria described in subparagraphs (A) through (I).

The Secretary shall award a Twenty-First Century Lamp Prize to an entrant that produces a solid-state-light-light capable of—
(A) producing a light output greater than 1,200 lumens;
(B) having an efficiency greater than 150 lumens per watt;
(C) having a color rendering index greater than 90;
(D) having a color coordinate temperature between 2,800 and 3,000 degrees Kelvin; and
(E) having a lifetime exceeding 25,000 hours.

DOE has now provided the specific technical requirements for the first two prize categories. Further information on the third prize category (21st Century Lamp) will be provided by DOE at a later date.

The EISA legislation authorizes up to $20 million in total cash prizes for the three categories.  The exact amount of the cash prize for each category will be determined based on DOE Congressional appropriations and supplemental contributions from foundations and utilities. DOE will contribute up to $1 million to the cash prize purse, subject to enactment of the FY 2009 appropriation. In addition, potential opportunities for future federal purchasing agreements, utility programs, and other incentives for winning products may far exceed the value of the cash prize.

Proposals for the competition will be accepted for each product category until a winner is declared in each category, or until 24 months have elapsed since the first award in a given category, whichever comes first. In each category, all prizes will be awarded to the winner, the first entrant to successfully meet the full competition requirements. Up to two additional qualifiers may be determined to have met or exceeded the L Prize criteria, and may be eligible for program partner promotions.

For more information:

U.S. Department of Energy Awards Up to $2.4 Million to New Group of “Solar America Cities”

Solar America Cities

U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Samuel W. Bodman announced at the New Frontiers in Energy Summit on March 28 that DOE will provide up to $2.4 million to 12 cities ($200,000 each) as part of the Solar America Cities program.  The program is an activity of the Solar America Initiative and is designed to provide support to cities that are ready to take a comprehensive, systemic, city-wide approach to solar technology that facilitates mainstream adoption and provides a model for other cities.

Cities selected in the Solar America Cities program receive financial and technical assistance to develop a city-wide solar implementation plan to:

  • Integrate solar technologies into city energy planning, zoning and facilities
  • Streamline city-level regulations and practices that affect solar adoption by residents and local businesses (e.g. permitting, inspections, local codes)
  • Promote solar technology among residents and local businesses (e.g., outreach, curriculum development and/or implementation, incentive programs, etc.)

The newly selected cities are listed below. Profiles of these cities are available in the report 2008 Solar America Cities Selection (PDF).

  • Denver, Colorado
  • Houston, Texas
  • Knoxville, Tennessee
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Minneapolis & St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Sacramento, California
  • San Antonio, Texas
  • San Jose, California
  • Santa Rosa, California
  • Seattle, Washington

In addition to receiving $2.4 million in financial assistance, these cities will receive technical assistance estimated at $3 million (subject to Congressional appropriation).  Combined with industry cost share and funding from each city, the total investment in the 12 cities is approximately $12.1 million. 

The 12 newly selected cities join an initial group of 13 cities (listed below) that were selected in 2007 (click for profile of each city):

For more information:

U.S. Department of Energy to Invest up to $33.8 Million to Support Development of Biofuels

U.S. Department of Energy

Last week, U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Andy Karsner announced that DOE will invest up to $33.8 million over four years for four projects (listed below) that will focus on addressing key technical hurdles associated with mass production of clean, renewable fuels, such as cellulosic ethanol.  Specifically, these projects will work on developing improved enzyme systems to convert cellulosic material into sugars suitable for production of biofuels.

Cellulosic ethanol is a renewable fuel made from a wide variety of non-food materials, including agricultural wastes such as corn stover and cereal straws, industrial plant waste like saw dust and paper pulp, and energy crops such as switchgrass, specifically for fuel production.  By relying on a variety of feedstocks, cellulosic ethanol can be produced in nearly every region of the country, using material grown locally.  Though it requires a more complex refining process, cellulosic ethanol contains more net energy and results in lower greenhouse emissions than traditional corn-based ethanol.

In addition to the DOE funding for these projects (which is subject to Congressional appropriation) there will be also be a minimum 50% cost share from industry.  Including the industry cost share, the total funding for these projects will be up to $70 million.  The selected companies and projects are:

DSM Innovation Center Inc.
Development of a Commercial Enzymes System for Lignocellulosic Biomass Saccharification
This project will employ DSM’s internal, proprietary fungal systems to develop new approaches to improve enzymes for the conversion of pre-treated lignocellulosic biomass into sugars suitable for fermentation into cellulosic ethanol.  Team members — Abengoa Bioenergy New Technologies (Nebraska); and DOE’s Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories (New Mexico).

Genencor – a Division of Danisco, USA, Inc.
Enhancing Cellulase Commercial Performance for the Lignocellulosic Biomass Industry
This project plans to reduce the enzyme-dose level required for biomass saccharification by improving the specific performance of the Trichoderma Reesei mix of fungal-based cellulases to facilitate production of cellulosic ethanol from sugars produced by the saccharification process. Team members – DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado)

Novozymes, Inc.
Project Decrease – Development of a Commercial-Ready Enzyme Application System for Ethanol
This project aims to improve performance of Novozymes’ most advanced enzyme system by decreasing the dosage of enzyme required to hydrolyze biomass into fermentable sugars suitable for cellulosic ethanol production.  Team Members: Novozymes North America (North Carolina); Novozymes A/S (Denmark); Novozymes (China) Investment Co. Ltd; DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Washington) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Colorado); the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique University (France); and Cornell University (New York).

Verenium Corporation
Commercialization of Customized Cellulase Solutions for Biomass Saccharification
This project will leverage Verenium’s advanced enzyme development capabilities to commercialize a cellulase enzyme system to produce a more cost-effective enzyme solution for biomass saccharification processes that will also tolerate conditions that enable more efficient process economics in producing ethanol from cellulosics.

In commenting on this announcement, DOE Assistant Secretary Karsner said:

Success of these projects will play a pivotal role in the rapid development and deployment of renewable fuels to reduce emissions and dependence on foreign oil, and fundamentally change how we power our vehicles … In the interest of the environment, and energy, economic and national security, biofuels must continue to play a significant role as we work to diversify our nation’s energy sources and provide a balanced portfolio of science and technology solutions to help meet the rapidly growing demand for energy worldwide.

This news is part of over $1 billion that DOE has announced within the last year for multi-year biofuels research and development projects; these other announcements include:

For more information:

Three Venture Capital Firms Selected for U.S. Department of Energy “Entrepreneur in Residence” Program

U.S. Department of Energy

On February 27, 2008,  U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner announced the selection of three venture capital firms to participate in the pilot of DOE’s new Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program

The EIR pilot program will place three entrepreneurs (one selected and sponsored by each of the three participating venture capital firms) into three DOE National Laboratories to help bring promising new clean energy technologies developed by these laboratories to market.  Among their activities, the entrepreneurs will conduct technology assessments, evaluate market opportunities, and develop business cases.  The DOE is providing up to $100,000 for each entrepreneur to help defray salary and other expenses and each participating VC firm will match the DOE funding and may contribute additional funds to support its entrepreneur’s work.

Once a laboratory-developed technology is identified for commercialization, the entrepreneurs and their VC sponsors will negotiate with the DOE to license the technology.  It is intended that the VC sponsors will eventually form and finance a start-up company to commercialize the licensed clean energy technologies.

The three VC firms selected to participate in the EIR pilot program (and the associated DOE National Laboratory that their entreprenuer will work with) are as follows:

For more information:

Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative Launched

Earlier this week U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner and Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy.  This agreement created the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, a partnership that is intended to make Hawaii a clean energy model for the United States.

The overarching purpose and key goals of this partnership are outlined in Section II of the MOU:

The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is to establish a long-term partnership between the State of Hawaii and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that will result in a fundamental and sustained transformation in the way in which renewable energy efficiency resources are planned and used in the State. Successful development and execution of the objectives contemplated in this partnership will provide a replicable global model for achieving similar results.

The DOE-Hawaii Partnership will build upon the dynamic, ongoing work of public and private organizations at the State, county, and grassroots levels in order to achieve several key goals:

  • To define the structural transformation that will need to occur to transition the State to a clean energy dominated economy
  • To demonstrate and foster innovation in the use of clean energy technologies, financing methodologies, and enabling policies designed to accelerate social, economic and political acceptance of a clean energy dominated economy
  • To create opportunity at all levels of society that ensures wide-spread distribution of the benefits resulting from the transition to a clean, sustainable energy State
  • To establish an “open source” learning model for others seeking to achieve similar goals
  • To build the workforce with crosscutting skills to enable and support a clean energy economy.

Under the MOU, Hawaii will explore a variety of renewable energy technologies including solar, oceanic, geothermal, and wind. The state will also pioneer financial, policy, and business models that the DOE and the State of Hawaii hope can be replicated throughout the US.

Hawaii, which currently imports fossil fuels for 90% of its energy, is hoping to have renewable sources provide at least 70% of the state’s energy needs by 2030.

For more information: