By Stella Davis
Current-Argus Staff Writer
January 18, 2010 - Carlsbad, NM
— New Mexico State University researchers are part of a consortium of universities and research institutions that has been awarded $44 million to commercialize algae into biofuel.
NMSU will use a portion of its grant to continue current research related to algae biofuel at its Agriculture Science Center in north Eddy County.
Carlsbad's Center of Excellence for Hazardous Material Management, in collaboration with NMSU, has successfully cultivated and harvested a wild strain of algae to produce feedstock that can be converted to biofuel. The center has demonstration ponds at the college's agriculture facility
"When NMSU applied for the grant, we were imbedded in the grant as one of their test-bed facilities," said Doug Lynn, Center of Excellence director.
The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the stimulus funds to the National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts, led by the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, Mo.
NMSU researchers say an algae-based fuel would not affect a major U.S. food source - unlike ethanol, which is produced mainly from corn.
NMSU College of Business assistant professor Meghan Starbuck said part of the university's role will focus on sustainability. She said that's one of the project's overriding themes.
The university's research will include demonstration, characterizing fuels, resource management and economic analysis.
Lynn said he foresees the Center of Excellence's biofuel refinery fully operational over the course of the next three years. "Right now we are in the demonstration stage," Lynn explained. "We have one demonstration model site at NMSU's Agriculture Science Center, and our full commercial demonstration model will be constructed at Harroun Farms in conjunction with Southwest Salt. The commercial demonstrations will be on about 100 acres."