A science-meets-business collaboration between Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego and Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has been recognized for its innovative approach to developing a sustainable solution to capture pollution at the industrial source while simultaneously yielding a sustainable byproduct.
Point Loma Nazarene University’s (PLNU) Fermanian Business and Economic Institute bestowed a 2013 “Dealmaker of the Year” award to Scripps/UC San Diego and SoCalGas for entering a collaboration to study currently available technologies and recommend designs for novel systems in which algae consume carbon dioxide emissions from natural gas combustion sources and power plants. Such systems would convert emissions into valuable by-products such as biomethane, biodiesel, and animal feed.
The award, selected in the Collaborative Dealmaker category, honors “collaborations that exemplify creativity, innovation, and ethical practices that create long-term value for the business community in the San Diego region.”
“The PLNU business school award recognizes that the business and education communities of the San Diego region are valuing the importance of innovative partnerships between science-based research institutions such as Scripps, and major local industries such as SoCalGas, for exploring solutions to socially relevant problems facing the region in particular, and the environment at-large,” said Dominick Mendola, a senior development engineer at Scripps and collaborator on the SoCalGas project.
Mendola works inside the laboratory of Greg Mitchell, a Scripps research biologist and leader in the exploration of marine algae as a potential renewable biofuel energy source that can one day replace fossil fuels and become a source of animal feed that does not require fresh water. Mitchell and Scripps have been early leaders in the San Diego Center for Algae Biotechnology, a collaboration of UC San Diego, The Scripps Research Institute, and collaborators in private industry.
“It was a surprise and an honor to receive the award,” said Ron Kent, technical development manager of Emerging Technologies for SoCalGas, who works closely with the Scripps team. “We are grateful to the university and the Fermanian Business and Economic Institute for recognizing our collaboration."
“We are delighted and honored to be recognized for this project,” added Jeff Reed, director of Emerging Technologies for SoCalGas. “The award honors our colleagues at Scripps Institution of Oceanography and spotlights SoCalGas as an innovator in creating solutions that enhance the benefits of natural gas in providing clean, renewable energy for our customers and communities.”
In addition to the SoCalGas collaboration, Scripps is pursuing similar relationships across multiple industries, including biotechnology/pharmaceuticals and new technologies for undersea oil and gas exploration, said Wendy Hunter Barker, director of institutional initiatives at Scripps (sio.ucsd.edu/business).
Mitchell and Mendola’s research extends a robust algae research history at Scripps that goes back to the early beginnings of the institution. From giant kelp forests to tiny algal organisms, Scripps researchers study the ecological, biomedical, and environmental aspects of algae that are vital for science and society.
“It is very important to explore time and space efficiency in human industry to increase our energy and food supply while also reducing our impact on biodiversity, fresh water, natural ecosystems, and climate,” said Mitchell. “Algae are the ‘perfect storm’ that can create biomass for biofuel or feed at very high efficiency in time and space while growing on sea water and remediating waste nutrients from agriculture and municipalities, and CO2 from power generation. The efforts of many in research and development for algae are defining ways to bring the costs down to make algae industrial biotechnology an economically viable part of the solution for sustainable energy and animal feed.”
-- Mario C. Aguilera