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ARPA-E to Fund $44M for Natural Gas, Algae Biofuels R&D

President Obama tours  the University of Miami Industrial Assessment Center in Miami, Florida, 23 Feb. 2012 (

President Obama tours the University of Miami Industrial Assessment Center in Miami, Florida, 23 Feb. 2012 (

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) will devote $44 million to fund new research in natural gas for transportation and biofuels from algae. The new programs were announced by President Obama yesterday in a speech at University of Miami in Florida.

Some $30 million of the ARPA-E funds will support research on innovations to make natural gas more feasible as a fuel in passenger vehicles. The program, known as Methane Opportunities For Vehicular Energy (MOVE), will support projects to ease at-home fueling of natural gas-powered vehicles with, for example, lower cost gas compressors. The MOVE project will also fund R&D on lighter storage tanks and absorbing materials to hold and release natural gas in fuel tanks, which can lower the pressure needed to fuel passenger vehicles.

Another $14 million for the Advancements in Sustainable Algal Production (ASAP) program will fund ARPA-E research into transportation biofuels from algae. The Energy Department already supports more than 30 algae-based biofuels projects totaling $85 million.

According to DoE, algae has the potential to replace up to 17 percent of the U.S.’s imported oil for transportation. Algae can also be grown in ponds near industrial facilities, and feed off the carbon emissions from power plants or digest nitrogen and phosphorous from municipal waste water.

The new algae projects aim to establish research test-beds for algal biofuels that encourage development and production, and find ways to minimize the water and nutrients needed to mass produce algae for commercial biofuels. Small businesses, universities, and national laboratories will be asked to submit proposals for these facilities.

Concept papers for MOVE projects are due to ARPA-E by 26 March 2012. Full ASAP bid proposals are due by 18 April 2012.

Read more: DoE Science Review Boosts Transport, Grid, Quicker Payoffs

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