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Lake Erie Algae Biochar Agricultural Application

Award Information
Agency: Department of Energy
Branch: N/A
Contract: DE-SC0022594
Agency Tracking Number: 0000266451
Amount: $199,899.00
Phase: Phase I
Program: SBIR
Solicitation Topic Code: C54-07a
Solicitation Number: N/A
Solicitation Year: 2022
Award Year: 2022
Award Start Date (Proposal Award Date): 2022-06-27
Award End Date (Contract End Date): 2023-06-26
Small Business Information
20 New England Business Center
Andover, MA 01810
United States
DUNS: 073800062
HUBZone Owned: No
Woman Owned: No
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged: No
Principal Investigator
 Michael Behrens
 (978) 738-8179
Business Contact
 William Marinelli
Phone: (978) 738-8226
Research Institution

Statement of the problem or situation that is being addressed in your application. Lake Erie’s
western basin has harmful algal blooms and frequent “dead zones” (areas of low oxygen level). The
annual algal blooms threaten water quality of Lake Erie and surrounding communities have seen
contaminated drinking water, closed beaches, and damage to fishing and tourism industries. In one
study, the algal blooms impose an equivalent annual cost equal to $272M due to the algae’s impact.
The algae grows out of control when excessive phosphorus enters the lake. The phosphorus comes
from agricultural fertilizers, wastewater, and septic systems up-stream of the lake.
• General statement of how this problem is being addressed. This small business proposes to work
with local organizations to enable the economic collection of algae and produce a valuable product
(bio-char) through pyrolysis, resulting in net negative emissions, carbon sequestration, and
phosphorus reduction. This small business has developed a small-scale, innovative bio-gas
(evaporated bio-oils and syngas) burner that provides heat necessary for pyrolysis. PSI will use these
community driven design specifications to adapt its small-scale pyrolysis technology to a larger pilot
plant to convert algae to bio-char. Algal turf scrubber products already exist for harvesting algae from
fresh water, but the technology developed in this program will incentivize the use of algal turf
scrubber or other harvesting methods in water streams leading to Lake Erie. This will transform local
sources of biomass to biochar and prevent harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Biochar will be used as
fertilizer for surrounding communities and farms, displacing conventional fertilizers and thereby
reducing the amount of new phosphorus added to the ecosystem.
• What is to be done in Phase I? During Phase I, this small business will: (1) engage communities
with assistance from a local organizations to discuss process requirements, such as debris, separation
of materials, size requirements, algae throughput, location, drying options, and convert these process
requirements into design requirements, (2) use community-driven design requirements to modify
existing lab-scale self-sustaining pyrolysis technology for prototype design, (3) perform proof-ofconcept
testing and demonstrate the production of biochar from algae using biogas combustion,
(4) create design specifications related to community needs, and (5) conduct techno-economic
analysis of the process to guide the Phase II program.
• Commercial Applications and Other Benefits. The proposed approach will demonstrate an
economically viable process to produce low-cost biochar for soil amendment applications and reduce
the damage to surrounding communities due to algal blooms.

* Information listed above is at the time of submission. *

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