Late yesterday, the DOE announced that it is investing another $106 million in six projects to demonstrate the feasibility of employing CO2 in a useful, productive way. This announcement comes on the heels of a somewhat similar announcement of CO2 utilization funding made July 7.

There are two major differences, however, between these announcements. The first announcement amounted to only about $4.4 million in DOE money and the recipients are directly or indirectly based in academia. This newer announce supplies about 25 times more DOE money and is targeted at private sector projects. The DOE says its $106 million will leverage another $156 million in private cost-sharing.

The context of this is that most of the CO2 discussions have focused on sequestration and storage. Unfortunately, there are significant risks involved in most of the sequestration proposals. The obvious alternative route is to determine if there are cost-effective and less energy-intensive ways to use CO2 as a raw material for useful products and purposes. Here’s what the DOE says in its release:

“Converting captured CO2 into products such as chemicals, carbonates, plastics, fuels, building materials and other commodities is an important aspect of carbon capture and storage technology. Converting CO2 into other useful forms can help reduce carbon emissions in areas where long-term storage of CO2 is not practical. It is anticipated that large volumes of CO2 will be available as fossil fuel-based power plants and other CO2-emitting industries are equipped with CO2 emissions control technologies to comply with regulatory requirements.”

So, here are the six winning demonstration projects:

Company DOE Share
Project Description
Alcoa Inc. $12.0 To demonstrate the high efficiency conversion of flue gas CO2 into soluble bicarbonate and carbonate using an in-duct scrubber system featuring an enzyme catalyst. The product can be sequestered as solid mineral carbonates after reacting with alkaline clay, a by-product of aluminum refining, and used as construction fill material, soil amendments and green fertilizer.
Novomer Inc. $18.4 To demonstrate a process for CO2 into polycarbonate products (plastics) for use in the packaging industry. Novomer’s novel catalyst technology enables CO2 to react with petrochemical epoxides to create a family of thermoplastic polymers that are up to 50 percent by weight CO2. The product can be used in the manufacture of bottles, films, laminates, coatings on food and beverage cans, and in other wood and metal surface applications.
Touchstone Research Lab
$6.2 To demonstrate an open-pond algae production technology that can capture at least 60 percent of flue gas CO2 from an industrial coal-fired source to produce biofuel and other high value co-products. A novel phase-change material will cover the algae pond surface to regulate daily temperature, reduce evaporation and control the infiltration of invasive species. Lipids extracted from harvested algae will be converted to a bio-fuel, and an anaerobic digestion process will be developed and tested for converting residual biomass into methane.
Phycal LLC $24.2 To demonstrate the production of liquid biocrude fuel from microalgae cultivated with captured CO2. The algal biocrude can be blended with other fuels for power generation or processed into a variety of renewable drop-in replacement fuels such as jet fuel and biodiesel.
Skyonic Corp. $25.0 To demonstrate a mineralization technology scrubber process  that transforms CO2 into solid carbonate and/or bicarbonate materials while also removing sulfur oxides, nitrogen dioxide, mercury and other heavy metals from flue gas streams of industrial processes.
Calera Corp. $19.9 To demonstrate a process that directly mineralizes CO2 in flue gas to carbonates that can be converted into useful construction materials, such as carbonate-containing aggregates suitable as construction fill or partial feedstock for use at cement production facilities.

It should be noted that this is actually a second round of funding for these companies. These six projects were among 12 projects selected for phase-one funding in October 2009.