Chemical firms awarded US breakthrough energy grants

26 October 2009 22:10  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--DuPont, Nalco and ConocoPhillips were among 37 entities named on Monday to share $151m (€101m) in research and development (R&D) grants from the federal government to pursue breakthrough energy technologies.

Those three firms, along with 19 other corporations and 15 university research centres, were selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) from among some 3,500 applicants that submitted research proposals to the department in July.

The grant awards were announced by the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency - Energy, known as ARPA-E.

The agency was established by Congress to identify and fund paradigm-changing research and scientific applications that could bring major advances in energy generation, use or conservation.

ARPA-E issued an invitation earlier this year for proposals that would pose “transformational” energy concepts.

“Transformational technologies” are defined by APRA-E as those that “disrupt the status quo” and are so significantly better than current technology as to trigger a paradigm shift in conventional operations and practice.

DuPont’s Bio Architecture Lab was given a $9m grant - among the largest awarded - to pursue research toward production of bio-butanol from seaweed. The agency noted that “seaweed is a potentially sustainable and scalable new source of biomass that doesn’t require arable land or potable water”.

Nalco was awarded $2.2m for further work on its electrochemical process for capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) using resin-wafer eletrodeionisation. If successful, the process could remove CO2 from flue gas without energy intensive and costly conventional carbon-capture processes.

ConocoPhillips, along with research partners Archer Daniels Midland and Albemarle, was awarded $3.1m to advance a single-step biomass energy project.

According to ARPA-E, ConocoPhillips is developing a catalytic biomass pyrolysis process with a high carbon conversion efficiency to produce a stable bio-crude oil with low oxygen content.

“The approach combines pyrolysis oil production, stabilisation and upgrading into one process,” ARPA-E said of the project.

Each R&D project funded in this first round of ARPA-E grants is to be completed within 36 months, preferably within two years, according to the agency.

The agency has invited public comment on what areas ARPA-E should explore for further research. Congress gave ARPA-E a total of $400m to stimulate breakthrough technologies.

($1 = €0.67)

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By: Joe Kamalick
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