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KRuMBS: Kyphosid Ruminant Microbial Biodigestion of Seaweeds

Ocean Era
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$3,341,892
Location: 
Kailua-Kona, HI
Project Term: 
08/07/2019 to 08/06/2022
Project Status: 
ACTIVE
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 

There is a growing need for biomass-based energy to achieve decarbonization. One of the biomass sources with the greatest growth potential is marine macroalgae (seaweed), which can be cultivated in the open ocean. This biomass has high water, salt, and recalcitrant polysaccharide content, and thus is a challenging feedstock for bioprocessing. Novel methods are needed for converting this biomass resource into useful energy products. Ultimately, a technology that involves minimal biomass processing is required.

Project Innovation + Advantages: 

KRuMBS will develop novel bioprocesses to degrade marine macroalgae to bioenergy products (methane, alcohols, etc.). The microorganisms used in the bioprocess will be derived from the gut of ruminant marine finfish (Kyphosidae). While there is abundant potential for expansion of macroalgae production in offshore environments, they are difficult to transform into salable products. The team will work with its partners to isolate, optimize, and deploy microbial consortia and individual microorganisms capable of rapidly digesting macroalgal biomass in a highly scalable way. This will enable macroalgae as feedstock for bioconversion to domestic liquid and gaseous bioenergy molecules, replacing imported fuels in the chemical supply chain, offering a huge marine greenhouse gas sink, and eliminating biofuel land-use changes.

Potential Impact: 

The KRuMBS concept will demonstrate the potential value of macroalgae as a compelling and sustainable bioenergy feedstock.

Security: 

The rapid development of cost-effective and scalable marine biomass bioconversion processes, would position the U. S. well to gain a leadership role in the commercial and energy use of macroalgae.

Environment: 

Using just 1% of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone marine agronomy could grow at least 500 million tons of algae per year, which could be converted into approximately 70 million metric tons of methane. This could spare 100,000 square kilometers of agricultural land and save 500 cubic km of agricultural-use freshwater while removing roughly 500 million tons of carbon dioxide from the oceans.

Economy: 

The availability of an effective macroalgal processing capability has the potential to catalyze the development of new Blue Economy clusters building on and rejuvenating U.S. working water fronts.

Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Marc von Keitz
Project Contact: 
Neil Sims
Partners
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
University of California, San Diego
University of Hawaii
University of San Diego
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Release Date: 
11/15/2018