Cantwell Applauds 2 DOE Grants for PNNL-Sequim to Accelerate Production of Macroalgae for Energy

ARPA-E Awards $22 Million Nationwide to Help Establish United States as a Leader in Marine Biomass Production

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell applauded two Department of Energy grants totaling more than $2.5 million to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at the Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim that will help Washington state lead the nation in the development of Marine Biomass Production.

The grants are funded through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and will help develop the tools to produce macroalgae, or seaweed, helping to improve U.S. energy security and economic competitiveness. Macroalgae can be utilized as a feedstock for domestic transportation fuels, chemicals and other commercial products without competing with food crops for land and water.

“These grants are a critical part of our efforts to advance 21st century energy solutions and bolster the research done at PNNL-Sequim,” said Cantwell. “By taking the long view of research investments in breakthrough energy and environmental sciences, we will ultimately make energy more affordable. We must continue to invest in research that matters and support the kinds of innovations brought to market by programs like ARPA-E.”

Today, nearly all domestic biomass produced for electricity generation and liquid fuels occurs on land. While macroalgae production has increased substantially over the past quarter-century, it is not currently capable of achieving the scale, cost, and efficiency needed for an impactful seaweed-to-fuels process. Achieving this heightened productivity requires a technology-driven approach focusing on transformative, systems-level improvements and engineering, including advanced research in farm design and autonomous operation.

The two grants for PNNL-Sequim include:

Multi-resolution, Multi-scale Modeling for Scalable Macroalgae Production - $2,025,986

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory team at the Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, will develop a set of integrated modeling tools capable of simulating multiple factors simultaneously. The team will use the best available regional and global modeling products to understand macroalgae farm structure-hydrodynamics interactions, load response calculations, and nutrient flux to provide consistent and accurate simulations of seaweed growth and biomass yields. The effort will perform a hydrodynamic load analysis for different farm designs across different regions of U.S. coastal and open waters, which is expected to reduce the risk and cost of farm deployment and improve farm siting.

Nautical Offshore Macroalgal Autonomous Device - $500,000

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory team at the Marine Sciences Laboratory in Sequim, Washington, will develop a free-floating, carbon fiber seaweed longline to be released far offshore and collected after a six-month, 1,500 km path along nutrient-rich ocean currents. The floating cultivation system, called NOMAD, does not require capital for anchors or moorings and will operate without direct human intervention. The recycled carbon fiber line will be equipped with GPS buoys to track position, while other sensors will be used to estimate harvest readiness in real time. Fully automated, high-speed seeding and harvesting machines will be designed and deployed to minimize labor costs. The team will use state-of-the-art hydrodynamic modeling for device design and placement.

The full list of MARINER projects can be found HERE.